Leh Ladakh Hotels
Leh Ladakh Hotels
Leh Ladakh Hotels
Leh Ladakh Tour Packages

About Ladakh


Leh - Ladakh is the largest province within the North Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, covering approximately 60,000 square miles (100,000 sq. km). It is surrounded and bisected by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Running in a generally northwest to southeast direction through Ladakh, the great Himalayan Range separates the Vale of Kashmir from Ladakh. We have various Tour Packages for your ready reference, though we believe on Tailor Made Itineraries for your scheduled trip to Ladakh and kashmir.


Ladakh Geography

Ladakh is the largest province within the North Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, covering approximately 60,000 square miles (100,000 sq. km). It is surrounded and bisected by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world.

Running in a generally northwest to southeast direction through Ladakh, the great Himalayan Range separates the Vale of Kashmir from Ladakh. Further east, and running in the same direction, the Zanskar Mountains enclose the Zanskar River Valley. Still further east is the Ladakh Range, forming the Indus River Valley, while to the northeast the Karakorum Mountains for the eastern boundary of Nubra Valley. The height of these ranges prevents rain clouds from crossing into Ladakh and as a result, Ladakh receives only about 2 inches (5 cm) of rain per year. The aridity of the area is immediately apparent to the visitor, with Ladakh's long vistas of mountains without vegetation and valleys with only a few oases of green. The Indus River runs through Ladakh and the 30-mile (50 km) stretch of the Indus River Valley between Spitok gompa (near Leh airport) and Hemis gompa is the heartland of Ladakh. Here are scattered some of the finest gompas in the region and here also is the town of Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The valley lies at an altitude of about 11,350 feet (3,500 m) and some of the surrounding peaks reach heights of 22,500 feet (7,000 m).


Ladakh History

Very little is known for certain about Ladakh prior to the 7th century. In the 7th and 8th centuries Tibetanisation of Ladakh began. Still existent chronicles refer to the area of Ladakh as part of Tibet. Ladakh was also influenced by Kashmir, at the time a Buddhist region. Kashmiri artistic influence can still be seen in the wood carvings of the early monasteries at Lamayuru and Alchi, and early Kashmiri Buddhist bronze statues are found in several Ladakh monasteries.

At the end of the 9th century, central Tibetan culture began to heavily influence the history, culture and religious development of Ladakh. Thus, in order to understand Ladakh's development, it is necessary to first review the events occurring in Tibet. Beginning in the 7th century and continuing into the 9th, Tibet became an increasingly important military power in Central Asia. The rulers of Tibet, known as the Yarlung Dynasty, steadily expanded Tibet's borders, being strong enough to place a puppet emperor on the Chinese throne in 768 AD. Only when the Islamic kingdom to Tibet's west allied itself with China was Tibet forced to stop its military expansionism. Increasing tension developed between the followers of Buddhism and those of Tibet's earlier religious belief - Bon or Bon-Shamanism. Ralpacan, a strong king and devout Buddhist, initiated measures to support Buddhism, such as levying special taxes to support Buddhist institutions. His assassination in 836 led to his brother, Lang Darma, becoming king. Although Lang Darma was anti-Buddhist, Buddhism had already gained a large following in Tibet. Lang Darma was himself assassinated in 842 by a Buddhist monk, but Buddhism subsequently declined as a state sponsored religion concurrently with the decline of a strong central monarchy in Tibet. With the decline of Tibet's central government, Ladakh became an independent kingdom under local rulers of whom little is known.


Ladakh Religion

The predominant religion in Ladakh is the Tibetan form of Buddhism, although Islamic influences are found from the Kashmir Valley as far as Kargil, and there are some Christian families in Leh.

The Tibetan influence in Ladakh is manifest: all religious books and prayers are in the Tibetan language, the monastic orders in the gompas are those developed in Tibet and the gompa artwork is clearly Tibetan in origin. Even the architectural design of Leh Palace is very similar to that of Lhasa's Potala Palace. Tibetan Buddhism is built on an earlier Tibetan religion - Bon or Bon-Shamanism - and it incorporated many of Bon's demons and gods. It similarly incorporated many of the gods in the Hindu pantheon, transforming them into Bodhisattavas or different incarnations or manifestations of various personalities. The walls of Ladakh's gompas are covered with illustrations of the Lord Buddha, his manifestations and followers, and the incorporated Bon and Hindu guardian deities in their various incarnations. It all makes for colourful and varied wall murals in every Ladakh gompa. The monasteries follow each of the two main sects of Buddhism that developed in Tibet: the Karyu pa or red-hat sect and the Gelug pa or yellow-hat sect. The Dalai Lama, believed to be a reincarnation of the Boddhisattva Avalokitesvara, is the head of the Gelug-pa sect. The gompas represent the monastic side of Buddhism, or lamaism. The lamaist side of Buddhism, requiring lon tation, contrasts with the everyday practice of Buddhism by Ladakhi lay people. For Ladakhis, religion is a daily affair with visible rituals that are frequently observed. These include spinning prayer wheels, making pilgrimages to gompas, chortens, mani walls and holy tombs, chanting mantras and reciting prayers in the area of the home set aside as a chapel.


Ladakh People

Ladakhis are Tibetan-Mongoloid in appearance although traces of Kashmiri Moslem influence can also be seen. It is most likely that early in its history, Ladakh was settled by the Mon and Dard groups of people.

The Mon, a term applied by Tibetan-speaking peoples to valley-dwellers, are probably the builders of many of the castles found in Ladakh, particularly those in the Zanskar Valley. The Mon were early Buddhists who derived their religion directly from India; thus, their form of Buddhism does not show the Chinese or Tibetan Tantric influences so prevalent in the later monasteries of Ladakh. Today the Mon are musicians in many Ladakhi villages, providing musical accompaniment to secular occasions such as social gatherings, parties or marriage ceremonies. The Dards, also agriculturists like the Mon, similarly arrived in Ladakh sometime before the 7th century and settled primarily in the Dras Valley. Having converted to Islam in the 17th century, little remains of their prior religious practices. Traditionally, the men's dress is a goncha, a long maroon or brown gown of heavy wool tied with a bright pink sash slightly below the waist, although any men now wear western clothes. Women do not wear western dress as frequently; their goncha is slightly more fitted than the men's version, gathered into small pleats near the waist and worn with a brocade or goatskin cape (fur side turned towards the wearer) on the back. Alternatively, women wear a buckoo, a sleeveless wrap-around dress, although this is more typical of Tibetans than Ladakhis. Women usually wear their hair in two long braids and a Kantop, a sort of top hat with part of the front cut out. The Dard women of Baltistan wear distinctive head-dresses of orange ribbons curled to look like flowers, while Ladakhi women wear peroks - head-dresses with brown fur side flaps and a large band decorated with turquoise and coral reaching from their forehead to part way down their back.


Ladakh Funerals

Ladakhis practice cremation of their dead except in a few instances such as children or persons who died of smallpox. After a ceremony in the home of the deceased, the corpse is carried to a type of walled oven where, with many prayers by attending lamas, it is cremated.

The ashes are then scattered in a holy river, but persons of high standing will have their ashes placed in a chorten. The ashes of a high lama will often be mixed with clay and formed into a miniature chorten only a few inches high. This will be placed in another chorten, which may be a highly decorated and bejeweled chorten located inside a gompa, or plain chorten like so many which dot the Ladakhi landscape. Children below the age of seven or eight are never cremated. Instead, a lama will decide the most auspicious method to use in disposing of the body. The various methods include embalming the body and leaving it on a mountainside, placing it in a river or embalming and burial.