Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2750m)
at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. It
is sometimes called "Little Tibet" as it has been strongly influenced by
Tibetan culture. Since 1974 the Indian Government has encouraged tourism
History of Ladakh
Ladakh was continuously pestered by the periodical attacks of
the Kashmiri Muslims in the 16th century until it was finally annexed to
their state in the mid 19th century.
One can see distinct influences of the different visitors to the place
in the Ladakhi culture. Indo-Aryan Mons coming from across the Himalayas
brought with them the North-Indian Buddhism to the Ladakhi highlands,
Darads hailing from the remote western parts of the Himalayas and Baltis
of the lower Indus Valley introduced the concept of farming in the
region while the wandering nomads from Tibet brought the skills of
herding to Ladakh.
The kingdom attained its greatest geographical extent and glory in the
early 17th century under the famous king Singge Namgyal, whose domain
extended across Spiti and western Tibet right up to the Mayum-la, beyond
the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.
The golden era of Ladakh came in the early 17th century, when its trade
flourished under the wise rule of the famous king Sengge Namgyal. His
empire stretched across Spiti and western Tibet all the way to the
Mayumla situated beyond Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar. During this
period Ladakh became recognized as the best trade route between the
Punjab and Central Asia . The merchants traveling through these routes
frequently dealt in textiles, spices, raw silks, carpets, dyed stuffs
and narcotics and Leh, served as halfway rest house for them.
The popular means of transport was on foot or on horsebacks. The modern
vehicles are only in use since the 1960s when the Srinagar- Leh
motor-road was finally constructed. The famous pashmina (better known as
cashmere) also came down from the high-altitude plateaux of eastern
Ladakh and western Tibet, through Leh, to Srinagar, where skilled
artisans transformed it into shawls known the world over for their
softness and warmth. The irony is that it is this very trade that
attracted the greedy eyes of Gulab Singh, Jammu's ruler to this
independent kingdom resulting in a decade long war and turmoil. There
followed a decade of war and turmoil, which ended with the emergence of
the British as the paramount power in north India. Ladakh, together with
the neighbouring province of Baltistan, was incorporated into the newly
created state of Jammu & Kashmir.
After the partition in 1947, Baltistan moved over to the territories of
Pakistan while Ladakh is still in India as an integral part of the J&K
Capital of Ladakh - Leh
With an area of 45110 Sq Km. and Altitude Range of 2,500 To
4,500m, Leh is the the largest town of Ladakh. The Population of Leh is
1,17 lacs . Climate remains dry cold during winter and dry hot during
summer. Light woollens are required during summers. Barley( Sattu)
is the Staple food and Gurgur Tea is the Delicious soft drink. Best time
to visit Leh is June To End September.
Leh is the largest town in Ladakh. A majority of Ladakhis are
Tibetan Buddhists and the majority of the remainder are Shia Muslims.
Ladakhis have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a
union territory because of its religious and cultural differences with
predominantly Muslim Kashmir
The region is watered by the Zanskar River, which flows into the Indus
River just below.The district is bounded by Pakistan occupied Kashmir in
the West, China in the north and eastern part, and Lahul Spiti of
Himachal Pradesh in South East.
Leh is a beautiful destination with so many attractions and is the
center of Tibeto-Buddhist Culture for ages. Its colorful gompas have
attracted the devout Buddhists from all over the globe. Besides, it is
also a favorite hiking locale and is known for some of the best hikes in
People & Religion
The people of Ladakh are generally quite different from those of
the rest of India. They bore much resemblance to Tibetans and Central
Asians with their round faces, short stubby noses and small 'chinki'
eyes with pronounced cheekbones. Today's population seems to be mostly
of Tibetan origin, in eastern and central Ladakh. Further west, in and
around Kargil, the people's appearance suggests a mixed origin. Ladakh
was believed to be inhabited by the Indo-Aryan race of Dards, who
originated somewhere down the River Indus, the regular influx of Tibetan
people has resulted in the disappearance of racial characteristics of 'Dards'
here . Most of the population of eastern and central Ladakh wears
Tibetan facial features.
The main religion in Ladakh is Buddhism. The ancient Buddhist
inscriptions and frock engravings are found all over Ladakh including
the now Muslim-majority areas of Drass and lower Suru valleys. The
divide between Muslim and Buddhist Ladakh passes through Mulbekh (on the
Kargil-Leh road) and between the villages of Parkachik and Rangdum in
the Suru Valley, though there are pockets of Muslim population further
east, in Padum (Zanskar), in Nubra Valley and in and around Leh.
The 'Mani' walls mark the beginning of the Buddhist villages and Gompas
or monasteries can abundantly be seen here ranging from a tiny hermitage
to the large temple complexes of the monks.
The culture and lifestyle of the people of Ladakh is deeply influence by
their religion. However, there are a number of Muslim inhabitants here
too, especially in the valleys of Drass, Kargil and Suru, mosques and
Islamic-style 'Imambaras' can often be seen. Islam too came from the
west. A peaceful penetration of mainly the Shia sect spearheaded by
Islamic missionaries, its success can be attributed to the early
conversion of the chieftains of Dras, Kargil and the Suru Valley. There
are also pockets of Sunni Muslims among which the Dards of Drass and the
Arghons of Leh are the largest groups
In Ladakh animals are scarce and water is in short supply. The
Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique
environment. The principal crop here is barley. Rice had previously been
a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but has now become cheap and staple.
Fruit is grown At lower elevations while the high altitude Rupshu
region is the preserve of nomadic herders. Two main export items are
apricots and pashmina. The staple crop all over Ladakh is Grim. It is
sowed in May and reaped in mid-July.
Flora and fauna
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.
Though it is not easy to spot
wildlife in Ladakh, yet undoubtedly there are animals who have adapted
themselves to survive in the harsh conditions such as rocky terrain,
bitter cold, poor shelter and minimal vegetation. Many of these animals
especially the large mammals have a long fur to protect them from severe
Most common animals found here are - Yak (a wild ox), the largest animal
found in Ladakh, Nyan, the largest sheep in the world, Bharal, the blue
sheep and Urial, the smallest sheep in the world. Yaks have long black
fur and curved horns and weigh a ton. They spend their winters in the
lower valleys in herds and move upwards in summers. Nyan is one of the
most magnificent sheep in the world and is also known as Great Tibetan
sheep. They hardly ever descend lower than 4,500 m and are only 200 in
number and reside mostly in eastern Ladakh. Bharals are the most common
sheep found in Ladakh and reside at altitude of 6,000 m and can be seen
grazing in Alpine meadows in herds, mainly in summers.
Ladakh was described as 'the land where snow never melts and only corn
ripens'. There are hardly any trees and vegetation in sight except for
the few narrow valleys that are fertile. Due to the high altitude of the
region, the rarefied fauna that can be found here is of Oriental and
Palearctic type. One can see a greenish patch of land, along the
riverbanks .It only near the snow line that one can see wild roses,
willow groves and some herbs. Vegetation becomes stunted and sparse due
to the rapid decrease in temperature.
Around the Town
Gompas in Ladakh
Ladakh's gompas contain the finest examples
of the religion's artistry in
metalwork, painting, sculpture and the
decorative arts. A visit to at least several gompas is necessary to
appreciate the full flowering of the region's religious beliefs and the
artistry that has gone into Ladakh's celebration of Buddhism. During a
gompa's festival, the masked dances take place. The entrance
verandah will almost always have a mural of the Guardians of the Four
Directions: yellow is for north, blue for south, white for east, and red
Off the central courtyard is the Dukhang, or main assembly hall, where
the lamas gather for prayers and meals. The Dukhang usually has a high
seat reserved for the gompa's Rimpoche (an incarnate Lama, who is the
gompa's head), two or more rows of seats for the lamas, numerous thankas
(religious paintings on cloth that are hung like a banner) decorating
the walls and pillars and statues of various figures including at least
one of the Buddha.
More About Gompas in Ladakh
Festivals of Ladakh
Weather of The Cold Desert
Summer temperatures rarely exceed about 270 C in the shade, while in
winter they may plummet to -200 C even in Leh. Maximum & Minimum
Temperature in Summer is 25 & 8 deg c and (-) 5 & (-) 20 in
How to Reach Ladakh
By Air :
is connected by regular flights to and from Delhi (daily), Chandigarh,
Jammu (twice a week) and Srinagar (once a week). Indian Airlines
www.indian-airlines.nic.in operates regular flights to Leh from Delhi
(fare USD 135), Four flights in a week from Jammu and once in a week
from Chandigarh and twice from Srinagar. Jet Airways www.jetairways.com
also operates daily flights between Leh-Delhi (fare USD 143).
By Road: The
Srinagar-Leh road with a stretch of 434 km is the most popular land
route to Ladakh and remains open only from early June to November.
The second most land route to Ladakh is the Manali-Leh road stretching
across 473 km. It has been opened recently and remains open mostly from
mid-July to mid-October. The trip on this route becomes more interesting
with the panoramic views of the snow-clad peaks of the Western Himalayas
on the way.
Internal Transport :
The cheapest way to travel within the region is by
public buses, which ply on fixed routes according to fixed time
schedules. The most comfortable and convenient though expensive mode of
travel, however, is by taxi, which are available for hire on fixed
Srinagar-Leh 434 Km
Manali-Leh 473 Km
Srinagar-Kargil 204 Km
Delhi-Leh 1047 Kms
Leh-Kargil 234 Km
Kargil-Padum (Zanskar) 240 Km
Leh-Deskit (Nubra Valley) 118 Kms.