Ladakh ( , Ladakhi , , , ;
"land of high passes") is a region of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of the Republic of
India. It lies between the Kunlun mountain
range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.
It is one of the most
sparsely populated regions in Kashmir.
Historically, the region included the
Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys, the Indus Valley, the remote Zangskar,
Lahaul and Spiti to the south,
Chin and Ngari, including the Rudok
region and Guge, in the
east, and the Nubra
valleys to the north. Contemporary Ladakh
borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of
Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the trans–Kunlun
territory of East Turkistan to the
Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty
and culture. It is sometimes called "Little Tibet" as it has been
strongly influenced by Tibetan
. In the past Ladakh gained importance from its
strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes, but
since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and
Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except
for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India
encouraged tourism in Ladakh
Since Ladakh is a part of the Kashmir
, the Indian military
maintains strong presence in the region.
largest town in Ladakh is Leh.
majority of Ladakhis are Tibetan
and the rest are mostly Shia
Muslims. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for
Ladakh to be constituted as a union
because of its religious and cultural differences
with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.
Phyang Gompa, Ladakh, Kashmir
Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh showing that the area
has been inhabited from Neolithic
Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan
population of Mons
, who find mention in the works of
, and the geographical lists of the Puranas
. Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of
empire. Buddhism spread into
western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern
Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion
. The 7th century Buddhist traveler
also describes the region in his
In the 8th century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between
Tibetan expansion pressing from the East and Chinese influence
exerted from Central Asia through the passes. Suzerainty
over Ladakh frequently changed hands
between China and Tibet. In 842 Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal
representative annexed Ladakh for himself after the break-up of the
Tibetan empire, and founded a separate Ladakh dynasty. During this
period Ladakh acquired a predominantly Tibetan population. The
dynasty spearheaded the "Second Spreading of Buddhism" importing
religious ideas from north-west India, particularly from
Faced with the Islamic
conquest of South Asia
in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to
seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet.
two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and
invasions from neighbouring Muslim states, which led to the partial
conversion of Ladakhis to Islam and due to Hindu Massacre in valley
they took refuge in capital of India they are
known as Kashmiri Pandit
reunited and strengthened Ladakh
and founded the Namgyal dynasty
which survives even today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian
raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal, in
the face of concerted attempts to convert the region to Islam and
destroy Buddhist artifacts. In the early 17th century efforts were
made to restore destroyed artifacts and gompas, and the kingdom
expanded into Zanskar
. Ladakh was, however defeated by the Mughals
, who had already annexed Kashmir and
Baltistan, but it retained its independence.
late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its
dispute with Tibet, which resulted in an invasion by Tibet.
restored Ladakhi rule on the condition of that a mosque be built in
Leh and that the Ladakhi king convert to Islam.
The Treaty of Temisgam in 1684 settled
the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh, but severely restricted
Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogras
under Zorawar Singh
, a general
of Ranjit Singh
invaded and annexed
Ladakh. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was
incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal
family was given the jagir
which it nominally retains to this day. Starting from the 1850s,
European influence increased in Ladakh — geologists, sportsmen and
tourists started exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the
headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church
At the time of the partition of
in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja
was undecided whether to
accede to the Indian Union or Pakistan. Eventually, the ruler
signed the Instrument of
to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and
military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime
conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army
engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the
pass. The advance continued and Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated
and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.
China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes.
China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through
this area. It also built the Karakoram
highway jointly with Pakistan.
India built the
this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar to Leh from
16 days to two. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir
continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India on the one
hand and Pakistan and China on the other.
Kargil was an area of conflict
in the wars of 1947
and the focal point of a
potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil
The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed 'Operation Vijay' by the Indian Army
, saw infiltration by Pakistani
troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh
, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking
key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations
were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with
considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were
evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian Government ordered was to be
respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops Indian
Government was criticized by Indian public because India respects
geographical co-ordinates more, than India's counters
(Pakistan and China).
glacier area in the north-east corner of Ladakh is the
venue of a continuing military
standoff since 1984 between India and Pakistan and the highest
battleground in the world.
The dispute arose because on
non-demarcation of the boundary in the 1972 Simla Agreement
beyond a point NJ 9842
. Oropolitics by
Pakistan and cartographic
aggression by the United States Defense
Mapping Agency in 1957 was eventually followed by a race to
occupy the heights of the Saltoro
Ridge which borders the Siachen glacier.
Since then strategic points on the glacier
are occupied by both sides, with the Indians having a clear
The Ladakh region was bifurcated into Kargil and Leh districts in
1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and
Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the
Kashmiri dominated state government,
Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in 1993.Most of
Hindu-Muslim and Buddhist-Muslim riots were initiated by
aggressive speech of Benazir Bhutto
against Hindus and Buddhist,She asked local Muslims to attack and make
Hindus and Buddhist
Ladakh region has high altitude.
the highest plateau of the Indian state of
Kashmir with much of
it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft). It spans the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley.
Historically, the region included the
Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys, the Indus Valley, the remote Zangskar,
Lahaul and Spiti to the south,
Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east,
Chin in the east, and Nubra valley to the north over Khardung La in the Ladakh mountain range. Contemporary Ladakh
borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti to the south, the Vale of
Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to
the west, and the trans–Kunlun territory of East Turkistan in Central Asia on the other side of the Kunlun
range across the Karakoram
Pass in the far north. Running southwest to
northeast, the Altyn Tagh converges with the Kunlun range in
Kashmir which runs southeast to northwest forming a "V" shape which
converges at Pulu.
Landscape in Ladakh
geographical divide between Ladakh in the highlands of Kashmir and
the Tibetan Plateau commences in the vicinity of Pulu and continues
southwards along the intricate maze of ridges situated east of
, wherein are situated Aling Kangri and
Mavang Kangri and culminates in the vicinity of Mayum La.
partition, Baltistan (now under Pakistani control) was a district in Ladakh.
Skardu was the
winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer
The mountain ranges in this region were formed over a period of 45
million years by the folding of the Indian
into the more stationary Eurasian Plate
. The drift continues, causing
frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region. The peaks in the
Ladakh range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft), and
increase towards south-east, reaching a climax in the twin summits
of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).
The Suru and Zangskar valleys form a great trough enclosed by the
Himalayas and the Zangskar range
Rangdum is the highest inhabited region in the Suru valley,
after which the valley rises to 4,400 m (14,436 ft) at
Pensi-la, the gateway to Zangskar.
Kargil, the only
town in the Suru valley, is the second most important town in
Ladakh. It was an important staging post on the
routes of the trade caravan
before 1947, being more or less equidistant, at about 230
kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu, and
The Zangskar valley lies in the troughs of
the Stod and the Lungnak rivers. The region experiences heavy
snowfall; the Pensi-la is open only between June and mid-October.
Dras and the
Mushkoh Valley form the western
extremity of Ladakh.
The Indus river is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical
and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo, and
Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are situated close to the Indus
After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of
the Indus flowing through Ladakh is the only part of this river,
which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, which
still flows through India.
Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the
Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border.
The Karakoram range forms a great watershed that separates China
from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third
Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to
the west and the main Karakoram range to the east. At 70 km
long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest
in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753
m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col
(pass) on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,875 ft) at its
snout. The passes and some dominating heights on the Saltoro ridge,
which has a crestline having heights from 5,450 to 7,720 m (17,880
to 25,330 feet) are occupied by troops on both sides.
Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the
easternmost subrange of the Karakoram range in India, Saser Kangri
I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).
Monthly average temperature in
The Ladakh range
has no major peaks;
its average height is a little less than 6,000 m
(19,700 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m
(16,400 ft). The Pangong
range runs parallel to the Ladakh range about 100 km
northwest from Chushul, along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake.
Its highest range is 6,700 m
(22,000 ft), and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated.
The region comprising the valley of Shayok and Nubra rivers is
known as Nubra. The Karakoram range in Ladakh is not as mighty as
in Baltistan. North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between
Leh and eastern Central Asia, there is a triple barrier — Ladakh
range, Karakoram range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was
established between Leh and Yarkand.
Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow
, denying entry to monsoon clouds.
The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains.
Recent flooding of the Indus river in the region has been
attributed either to abnormal rain patterns, or the retreating of
glaciers, both of which might be linked to global warming. The
Leh Nutrition Project
by Chewang Norphel
, also known as
the 'Glacier Man', currently creates artificial glaciers as one
solution for this problem.
The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru
valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain
virtually cut off from the rest of the country for several months
in the year. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow
crops in the lower reaches of the Suru valley. The summer weather
is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from -3 to 30
in summer and from -20 to
in winter. There is little
moisture to temper the effects of rarefied air. Ladakh lies in the
Very High Damage Risk
Flora and fauna
The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka
, an Austrian
, who carried out a
massive expedition in the region in the 1870s. Vegetation is
extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on
high slopes, and in irrigated places.
The fauna of Ladakh have much in common with that of Central Asia
in general and that of the Tibetan
Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of
which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in
Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of
birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of
finches, robins, redstarts (like the Black Redstart
), and the Hoopoe
are common in summer. The Brown-headed Gull
is seen in summer on the
river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang
. Resident water-birds include the
Brahminy duck also known as the Ruddy
and the Bar-headed
. The Black-necked
, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau,
is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the Raven
, Tibetan Snowcock
. The Lammergeier
and the Golden Eagle
are common raptors here.
or "blue sheep" is the most
abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region. However it is not
found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas.. The Asiatic Ibex
is a very elegant mountain goat
that is distributed in western part of Ladakh. It is the second
most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of
about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it
easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakh Urial is another unique
mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The
population is however declining, and presently there are not more
3000 individuals left in Ladakh. Urial is endemic to Ladakh, where
it is distributed only along two major river valleys: Indus and
Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are
allegedly damaged by the animal. The population of this animal
declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate
shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan
argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5
to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm.
It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains
encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small
population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open
and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into
steep cliffs, to escape from predators.. The endangered Tibetan Antelope
, (Commonly known as
, or Ladakhi tsos
) has traditionally been
hunted for its wool , shahtoosh
, which is
the finest natural fiber and thus valued for its light weight and
warmth status symbol
. The fiber is
smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri
workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan Gazelle, which inhabits
the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.
, or Tibetan Wild Ass, is common in the
grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These
animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who
held the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation . There are
about 200 Snow Leopards
in Ladakh (of
an estimated 7,000 worldwide). The Hemis High
Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is especially a good habitat for
this predator as it has abundant prey populations.
, is another rare cat
that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in
Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar . The Pallas's cat, which looks
somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is
known about the species. The Tibetan Wolf, which sometimes preys on
the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the
predators . There are also a few brown
in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan Sand Fox
has recently been
discovered in this region . Among smaller animals, marmots
, and several types
Government and politics
district was a
district of the Jammu and
Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was
divided into Leh district and Kargil
Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill
Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the
Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were
created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people
to make Leh a union territory.
In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government
agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous
Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh
Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came
into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on August
28, 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on
September 3, 1995. Kargil followed Leh's footsteps in July 2003,
when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council - Kargil was
established. The council works with village panchayats
to take decisions on economic
development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local
governance which are further reviewed at the Block Headquarters in
the presence of the Chief Executive Councilor and Executive
Councilors. The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and
order, judicial system, communications and the higher education in
Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament
the Lok Sabha
. The current MP from Ladakh in the
[current Lok Sabha] is Ghulam Hassan
of the National
Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh,
religion has tended to get politicized in the last few decades. As
early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha
led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation
of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist
majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question
into fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly
Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias
in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union
territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots
between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association
call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for
three years before being lifted in 1992. The Ladakh Union Territory Front
(LUTF), which controls the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development
Council - Leh, demands union territory status for Ladakh. The LUTF
demands union territory status for Ladakh. A consortium of
political parties formed in 2002 decided that a regional party
shall be formed under a single flag and carry on with the struggle
for the Union territory status for Ladakh. Things changed when few
of the nominated candidates shifted sides and joined national and
Kashmiri parties. Since then the political scene in Ladakh has been
uncertain. While LUTF demands for the Union territory status of
just the Leh district, the general consensus among the people in
Kargil and Ladakh is that these districts be included in the demand
for the Union Territory status. This Party lost its image after it
indulged into narrowminded politics and also led to the suspension
of prestigious educational movements like the Opreation New Hope,
implemented jointly by Students' Educational & Cultural
Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).
Market in Leh
For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant
agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas, and
keeping livestock, especially yak
, cows, dzos
(yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats. At altitudes of 3,000 to
4,300 m (10,000 to 14,000 ft), the growing season is only
a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of
the world. Animals are scarce and water is in short supply. The
Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this
unique environment. The land is irrigated by a system of channels
which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The
principal crops are barley
and wheat. Rice
was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the
government, has now become a cheap staple.
At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude
region is the preserve of nomadic
herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar,
salt and other items. Two items for export are apricots
Currently, the largest commercially sold agricultural product is
vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as in
the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of
small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of
migrant labourers from Nepal. Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas
) was traditionally a staple crop all over
Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of
cultivation is at Korzok, on the
Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which are
widely considered to be the highest fields in the
In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of
some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to
the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed
their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet,
Punjab, Kashmir and
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed
as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles,
between Punjab and Xinjiang
. However, since the Chinese Government
closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international
trade has completely dried up.
1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and
other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to
the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh.
Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for
50% of the region's GNP
Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure
projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped
consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to
farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, tourism industry, and
new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms
into Leh town.
Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the
turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials
to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their
annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and
specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and
This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The
Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo
, first published
in 1911. Today, about 30,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year.
popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley,
Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok
Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like
Manali to Ladakh, the Nubra valley, the Indus valley etc.
A vehicle on the Himalaya Highway 3
There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of
which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced. The majority of roads
in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation
Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia
when the Silk Road
was in use.
sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently
undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th
century. Another common route in regular use was the
Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the
administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be
reached either straight up the Indus in winter, or through either
the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the
main Lhasa road.
These traditional routes have been closed
since the Ladakh-Tibet border has been sealed by the Chinese
government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but as with the previous case, there is currently
no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.
In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are
from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m, 11,320 ft) via Dras and
Kargil (2,750 m, 9,022 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m, 12,140 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m, 13,450 ft.) This has been the
main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is
now open to traffic from April or May until November or December
every year. However, with the rise of militancy in Kashmir, the
main corridor to the area has shifted from the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh route via Zoji la
to the high altitude Manali-Leh
Highway from Himachal
Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m, 13,050 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m, 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m, 16,600 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m, 17,470 ft), and the More plains, and is open only between May and
November when snow is cleared from the road.
Buses run from Leh to the surrounding villages. The Manali-Leh-Srinagar road makes up about half of the road network, the
remainder being spurs off it.
Ladakh is criss-crossed by a
complex network of mountain trails which, even today provides the
only link to most of the valleys, villages and high pastures.
traveler with a number of months it is possible to trek from one
end of Ladakh to the other, or even from places in Himachal
The large number of trails and the limited
number of roads allows one to string together routes that have road
access often enough to restock supplies, but avoid walking on motor
roads almost entirely.
one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi on
Jet Airways, Air Deccan, and Indian, and weekly flights to Srinagar and
Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg
Oldie and Fukche for
A Ladakhi woman in a traditional dress and hat.
Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many
different races, predominantly the Tibetans, Mons and the Dards.
People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The
residents of Dha-Hanu
, known as Brokpa
, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have
preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The
Dards around Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been
strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are
descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh. They work as
musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters.
Unlike the rest of Jammu and Kashmir which is mainly Islamic, most
Ladakhis in Leh District as well as Zangskar Valley of Kargil
District are Tibetan Buddhist
while most of the people in the rest of Kargil District are Shia
Muslims. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil
District and of Shia Muslims in Leh District. There are some
Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil
towns, and also Padum in Zangskar.
There are a few families of
Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. Among
descendants of immigrants, there are followers of Hinduism
also a small number of followers of the Bon
. Most Buddhists follow the tantric
form of Buddhism known as Vajrayana Buddhism
. Shias are mostly
found among the Balti
people. Ladakhis are generally of Tibetan
descent with some Dardic and Mon admixture. The Changpa nomads who
live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans.
Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Chang Thang
nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. There are
about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh
District. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the
community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled
in Leh town. Muslim Arghons
, descendants of
Kashmiri or Central Asian merchants and Ladakhi women, mainly live
in Leh and Kargil towns. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil,
Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their
appearance and language
, and were
Buddhists until the last few hundred years.
According to the 2001 population census of India, 47.4% of the
population is Buddhist, 45.9% Muslim, 6.2% Hindu and 0.5% others.
The regions population is split roughly in half between the
districts of Leh and Kargil. Leh is 77% Buddhist and Kargil is 80%
A local woman, Ladakh.
principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi
, a Tibetan
dialect. Educated Ladakhis usually
know Hindi/Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range
of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ
markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris,
but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on
important trade routes, the racial composition as well as the
language of Leh is enriched with foreign influences. Traditionally,
Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but
recently a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan
script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and
education are carried out in English, although Urdu was used to a
great extent in the past and has been decreasing since the
The Total Birth Rate in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for
Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at
27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in
Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it
was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66.
The Total Death Rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and
Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest
was for Bodhs at 14.32.
School children performing a traditional dance.
|Population of Leh and Kargil districts
- Census was not carried out in Jammu and Kashmir in 1991 due to
- Population followed by percent of change
- Sex ratio expressed as females per 1000 males
The sex ratio for Leh district has declined from 1011 females per
1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district, it
has declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the
districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers
of (mostly male) seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants.
About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average
annual population growth rate from 1981–2001 was 2.75% in Leh
District and 2.83% in Kargil district.
Ladakhi culture is similar to Tibetan
. Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food
, the most prominent foods being
, noodle soup; and
, known in Ladakhi as
, roasted barley flour. Eatable without cooking,
tsampa makes useful, if dull trekking food. A dish that is strictly
Ladakhi is skyu
, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables.
As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains
of India are becoming more common. Like in other parts of Central
Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea,
butter, and salt; it is mixed in a large churn and known as
, after the sound it
makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo
) is common now,
made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most surplus barley
produced is fermented into chang
, an alcoholic beverage
drunk especially on festive occasions.
The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences,
and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach.
Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on
every gompa (including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and
Many houses and monasteries are built on
elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of
rocks, earth and wood, but are now more often concrete frames
filled in with stones or adobes.
The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music
, often involves religious
, as an integral part of the religion.
These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in
celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without
metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low,
sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of
Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked
dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries.
dances typically narrate a story of fight between good and evil,
ending with the eventual victory of the former.Weaving is an
important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women
and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include
of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and
boots, and hats. The Ladakh Festival is held every year from 1st to
September 15. Performers adorned with gold and silver ornaments and
turquoise headgear throng the streets. Monks wear colourful masks
and dance to the rhythm of cymbals, flutes and trumpets. The Yak,
Lion and Tashispa dances depict the many legends and fables of
Ladakh. Buddhist monasteries sporting prayer flags
, display of 'thankas
', archery competitions, a mock marriage, and
horse-polo are the some highlights of this festival.
The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played
only on natural ice in January. Cricket is also very popular.
Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still
hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional
dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is
conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music
(shenai and drum). Polo, the
other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and
Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid-17th
century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti
A feature of Ladakhi society that distinguishes it from the rest of
the state is the high status and relative emancipation enjoyed by
women compared to other rural parts of India. Fraternal polyandry
and inheritance by primogeniture
were common in Ladakh until the
early 1940s when these were made illegal by the government of Jammu
and Kashmir, although they still exist in some areas. Another
custom was known as khang-bu
, or 'little house', in which
the elders of a family, as soon as the eldest son has sufficiently
matured, retire from participation in affairs, and taking only
enough of the property for their own sustenance, yield the headship
of the family to him.
Christian evangelist at Khalatse had become a father a few weeks before, and the
people of the village had made presents of "flour-ibex" to him and his wife.
He gave me one of those figures, which are made of flour and
butter, and told me that it was a custom in Tibet and Ladakh, to
make presents of "flour-ibex" on the occasion of the birth of a
This is quite interesting information.
I had often wondered why there were so many rock carvings of
ibex at places connected with the pre-Buddhist religion of
Now it appears probable that they are thank offerings after the
birth of children.
As I have tried to show in my previous article, people used to
go to the pre-Buddhist places of worship, in particular, to pray to
be blessed with children."
has been the
traditional health system of Ladakh for over a thousand years. This
school of traditional healing contains elements of Ayurveda
, combined with the philosophy and cosmology
of Tibetan Buddhism. For centuries, the
only medical system which was accessible to the people have been
the 'amchi' who are traditional doctors following the Tibetan
medical tradition. 'Amchi' medicine is still an important component
of public health to this day, especially in remote areas.
A number of programmes by the government, local and international
organisations are underway to develop and rejuvenate this
traditional system of healing. Efforts are on to preserve the
intellectual property rights of 'amchi' medicine for the people of
Ladakh. Government has also been trying to promote the Seabuckthorn
in form of juice and jam, as it is believed to possess many
medicinal properties. It is also seen as a means of providing
employment to the various self help groups in rural Ladakh.
There are many [NGO s]
which are actively working to improve the life
in Ladakh like [LEDeG]
[Leh Nutrition project]
Women's alliance etc. [LEDeG]
has been working actively since 1971 by
installing Hydraulic rams to improve the water supply in the
region. It has also been successful in setting up hydro power
projects in the otherwise energy starved region.
According to the 2001 census, the overall literacy rate in Leh
District is 62% (72% for males and 50% for females), and 58% in
Kargil District (74% for males and 41% for females). Traditionally
there was little or nothing by way of formal education except in
the monasteries. Usually, one son from every family was obliged to
master the Tibetan script in order to read the holy books.
The Moravian Mission opened a school in Leh in October 1889, and
the Wazir-i Wazarat
of Baltistan and Ladakh ordered that
every family with more than one child should send one of them to
school. This order met with great resistance from the local people
who feared that the children would be forced to convert to
Christianity. The school taught Tibetan, Urdu, English, Geography,
Sciences, Nature study, Arithmetic, Geometry and Bible study. The
school is still in existence today. The first local school to
provide western education was opened by a local Society called
"Lamdon Social Welfare Society" in 1973. Later with support from HH
Dalai Lama, and some international organisations, the school has
grown to accommodate approximately two thousand pupils in several
branches. The school prides itself in preserving Ladakhi tradition
and culture. The
Druk White Lotus School, under the guidance of His Holiness
Gyalwang Drukpa, spiritual head of
the Drukpa Order (the dominant Buddhist sect
in Ladakh and traditionally, the state religion of Ladakh) located
in Shey is another
school which aims at helping to maintain the cultural traditions of
Ladakh with its Missionary approach to teaching.
Schools are well distributed throughout Ladakh, but 75% of them
provide only primary education. 65% of the children attend school,
but absenteeism of both students and teachers remains high. In both
districts the failure rate at school-leaving level (class X
) had for many years been around
85–95%, while of those managing to scrape through, barely half
succeeded in qualifying for college entrance (class XII.) Before
1993, students were taught in Urdu until they were 14, after which
the medium of instruction shifted to English.
In 1994 the Students'
Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh
'Operation New Hope' (ONH), a campaign to provide 'culturally
appropriate and locally relevant education' and make government
schools more functional and effective. The ONH works with the
government, the NGOs, the teachers and the village communities. By
2001, ONH principles were being implemented in all the government
schools of Leh District, and the matriculation exam pass rate had
risen to 50%. A government degree college has been opened in Leh,
enabling students to pursue higher education without having to
Ladakh in media
- The Kargil Number is a local newspaper of Ladakh which
is readily available from newspaper shops.
- Daily updated news of Ladakh can be accessed on
The area under
Indian administration is shown in dark pink, while additional areas
claimed by the Indian government, which were parts of the
historical Ladakh kingdom, are shown in pink.
β. This excludes Aksai Chin (37,555 km²), under Chinese
He mentions twice a people called
, first along with the Gandarioi
again in the catalogue of king Xerxes
's army invading Greece. Herodotus
also mentions the gold-digging ants of Central Asia.
In the 1st century, Pliny repeats that the
Dards were great producers of gold.
Ptolemy situates the Daradrai
upper reaches of the Indus
See Petech, Luciano. The Kingdom of Ladakh
c. 950–1842 A.D.
, Istituto Italiano per il media ed
Estremo Oriente, 1977. Hsuan-tsang
describes a journey from Ch'u-lu-to (Kuluta, Kullu) to
Lo-hu-lo (Lahul), then goes on saying
that "from there to the north, for over 2000 li, the road is very difficult, with cold
wind and flying snow"; thus one arrives in the kingdom of
Mo-lo-so, or Mar-sa, synonymous with
Mar-yul, a common name for Ladakh.
text remarks that Mo-lo-so
, also called San-po-ho
borders with Suvarnagotra
of Gold), identical with the Kingdom of Women (Strirajya
According to Tucci, the Zan-zun
kingdom, or at least its
southern districts were known by this name by the 7th century
the First Spreading of Buddhism was the one in
Namgyal means victorious in several Tibetan
The Leh district is placed in Zone V, while the
Kargil district is placed in Zone IV on the earthquake hazard
The massifs to the north and east of the
Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas group (highest point
7,245 m, 23,770 ft), the Rimo group (highest point
7,385 m, 24,230 ft) and the Teram Kangri group (highest
point 7,464 m, 24,488 ft), together with Mamostong Kangri
(7,526 m, 24691 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,751 m,
Early in the 20th century the chiru was seen
in herds numbering in the thousands, surviving on remarkably sparse
vegetation, they are very rare now.
The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand,
a process done after the animal is killed.
ιε. Wazir-i Wazarat
Joint Commissioner with a British officer.
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