Julley! Welcome to Ladakh
Ladakh is popularly known as 'Last Shangri-La', as it remained landlocked and hidden from man's roving eyes for centuries. Ladakh literally means 'the land of many passes' and is also called 'Little Tibet' as it is one of the last remaining sanctuaries where Tibetan Buddhism is found as a living and thriving religion.
Ladakh is totally distinct in its culture and topography from rest of the India as the faces and physique of the Ladakhi, and the clothes they wear, are more akin to those of Tibet and Central Asia than of India. Opened to tourist in 1974 the region is predominantly Buddhist with centuries old monasteries and Stupas dominating the region, which is treasure house of fascinating frescos paintings and statues of Tantric deities embodying deep philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism. To explore the Tibetan-Buddhism cultural heritage in its original form Ladakh is the place where one has to be. Ladakh has rich cultural and religious heritage which they never lost despite a tumultuous history of external aggression.
Besides this, the landscape of Ladakh is glorious but stark and the surrounding mountains are painted in colors that only nature could choose, and is unique on their own, it should not be compared with other hill stations of the world. For adventure and nature lovers Ladakh have lots to provide including experiencing age old Tibetan Buddhism culture, rafting on Indus and Zanskar rivers, trekking and hiking options in the remotest villages of Ladakh and the High passes, to explore high altitude flora and fauna. However, Ladakh isn't a place that can be explored easily and in a short time, so if you wish to go behind the superficial sightseeing, please give us a chance to arrange your tours in Ladakh.
According to historical evidence, Ladakh was a part of the Kushan Empire in early 1st century. In 8th century pious prince of Tibetan descending king Nyima-gon migrated to Ladakh after the collapses and disintegration Tibetan empire and established the first independent Buddhist kingdom in Ladakh. Its Political fortunes ebbed and flowed over the centuries. The kingdom was at its greatest in the early 17th century under the famous king Sengge Namgyal, whose rule extended across Spiti and Western Tibet up to the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar. He managed to rebel many external aggression from neighboring kingdoms. He built the palace in Leh Town, which is the biggest palace in the Ladakh, which still dominated the Leh town.
Leh Town for centuries trade centre for pashmina wool (once worth its weight in gold) yak and pony caravans brought in pashmina from Tibet, turquoise, coral and silver from Yarkand and Kashgar, silk and porcelain cups from China, spices, fabrics from India and Leh town was busy entrepot, thronged with caravan merchants from far countries of central Asia, exchanging their goods and ideas. During the reign of King Daldan Namgyal in 17thcentury Tibet-Mongol Army invaded Ladakh. King Deldan Namgyal sought the help of Moghul Empire of Kashmir to rebel the invasion. Moghul troops reached Ladakh from Kashmir and inked peace treaty with 5th Dalai Lama's representatives and the entire Guge and Purang of Ladakh went to the Tibetans and Ladakh's eastern frontier was fixed ever since.
The main Sunni mosque in Leh Town was constructed in the latter half of the 17th century as part of an agreement with the Mughul Empire Aurungzeb and King Daldan Namgyal. However, King Deldan Namgyal managed to maintained independent and peace in Ladakh both politically and religiously. By the beginning of the 19th century, Ladakh had been weakened by the series of inadequate kings. In 1834 J&K king Raja Gulab Singh sent his Commander-in-Chief Zorawar Singh to invade Ladakh, after years of war king of Ladakh was defeated and King Tshepal Namgyal was dethroned and Ladakh came under the Dogra rule and it was incorporated into the Kingdom of J&K in 1846. However, Ladakh was allowed to maintain considerable autonomy and to keep its links with Tibet. In 1947, India got independent, and together with J&K, Ladakh also became a part of Democratic Republic of India.
Ladakh is 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. The mountain ranges in this region were formed over a period of 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. 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, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).
Ladakh comprises three main regions. The first is Leh and Upper Indus Valley. This is the cultural heartland of Ladakh where many monasteries and palaces reflect the deep Buddhist heritage of the region. Leh has been the center of Tibetan-Buddhist culture since ages. The Zanskar Valley is the second region. It's a comparatively isolated valley to the south of Indus Valley and its high culture is also Buddhism. The third main region of Ladakh includes Kargil & Suru Valley, west of Leh down the Indus Valley. It supports an Islamic culture that can be traced back to the 15th century.
The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns - Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang are situated close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh is the only part of this river in India , which is also greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
The earliest inhabitant of Ladakh was mix of nomadic from Tibetan plateau and small group of early Buddhist refugees from northern India called the Mons. Later in 5th and 6th century, these groups were frequently accompanied by Indo-Aryan race origin known as the Dards. They migrated Southeast alongside the Indus valley, bringing with them the idea of irrigation and settled agriculture. With the passage of time, Mons, Dards, Tibetan and other races too met and inter-mingled. It ultimately forms a new community with its own characteristics.
Tibetan-Buddhism in Leh and Zansker, and Islam in Kargil are the dominant religion. However, some other religions like Christianity and Hindu are also present in small number. The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. 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.
Ladakhi culture is quite similar to Tibetan culture so the Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being Thukpa, Momo, noodle soup; and Tsampa, known in Ladakhi as Ngampe, roasted barley flour. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is Skyu, and Chhutagi both like a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables and mutton. As Ladakh moves towards less sustainable, cash based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. Like in any other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong black tea butter and salt.