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Kargil


About 15,000 sq. Km. in area, Kargil district has an agrarian population of approximately 120,000 people, who cultivate the land, along the course of the drainage system, wherever artificial irrigation from mountain streams is possible. About 85 % are Muslims, mainly of the Shia sect, Islam having been introduced to the original Buddhist population around the middle of the 16th century by missionaries from Kashmir and Central Asia. Their descendants, locally titled Agha, are mostly religious scholars who continue to hold sway over the population, even as the age-old traditions of Buddhist and animistic origin are discernible in the culture. Many elements of the ancient supernatural belief systems, especially many traditions connected with agricultural practices, are still followed with subdued reverence. 

Administering the  Valleys of Suru , Drass, Wakha and Bodkarbu, Kargil lies midway between the alpine valleys of Kashmir and the fertile reaches of the Indus Valley and ladakh. The region is politically part of India, ethnically part of Baltistan and geographically an integral part of Ladakh.
 

Until 1947, Kargil was an important trading centre linking Ladakh with Gilgit and the lower  Indus Valley. There were also important trading link between the villages of the Suru Valley and  the Zanskar Valley and even 20 years ago it was not uncommon to see yak trains making their way for Padum all the 3way into Kargil Bazaar . Kargil next to the roaring Suru River, is the second larget town in Ladakh.


The western parts of Ladakh comprising the river valleys, which are drained and formed by the Himalayan tributaries of the high Indus, constitute Kargil district. Prominent among these are the spectacular valleys of Suru and Zanskar, which lie nestled along the northern flank of the Great Himalayan wall. The smaller lateral valleys of Drass, Wakha-Mulbek and Chiktan constitute important subsidiaries.

This region formed part of the erstwhile Kingdom of Ladakh. In fact it is believed to be the first to be inhabited by the early colonizers of Ladakh, the Indo-Aryan Mons from across the Great Himalayan range, assorted Dard immigrants from down the Indus and the Gilgit valleys and itinerant nomads from the Tibetan highlands. Also, being contiguous with Baltistan, Kashmir, Kulu etc. these valleys are believed to have served as the initial recipients of successive ethnic and cultural influences emanating from the neighboring regions. Thus, while the Mons are believed to have introduced north-Indian Buddhism to these valleys, the Dard and Balti immigrants are credited with introducing farming and the Tibetan nomads with the tradition of herding and animal husbandry.

 

Leh to Kargil
This section refers to places on , or near, the main road from Leh to Kargil. 231 km road to Kargil, You can visit several gompas on the way. For a description of the villages and places of interest between Leh and Khalsi, see Around Leh earlier in this chapter.

Kargil to Padum
The road from Kargil heads south west away from padum following the Suru Valley . It's still predominantly inhabited by Muslims, who converted to Islam in the 15th century a Muslim shrine.


What to See and Do


Kargil mainly serves as an ideal base station for adventure activities like trekking, mountaineering, camping, river rafting etc. In high Himalayan Valleys. It is also a base for taking shorter excursions to Mulbek where the chief attraction is a 9-m high rock sculpture depicting the future Buddha. Kargil also offers some interesting walks along the river bank and up the hillside. The best among these is the one leading to Goma Kargil along a 2-km long winding road which, passing through some of the most picturesque parts of the town, presents breathtaking views of the mountain stream. A stroll in the bazaar might lead to a shop selling flint and tobacco pouches, travelling hookahs and brass kettles - handcrafted items of everyday use which find their way into the mart as curios. Most shops deals in common consumer goods, but some specialize in trekking provisions. The showroom of the Government Industries Centre near the riverbank displays and sell Pashmina Shawls, local carpets and other woolen handicrafts. The apricot jam produced here serves as a rare delicacy. Kargil's dry apricot has now become a souvenir item, which can be purchased freely in the bazaar.

In and Around Kargil 

Mulbekh

Mulbek Gompa (monastery) dominates the valley. It is easy to see why in bygone times this site served as an outpost to guard the caravan route. Like all Buddhists monasteries it is adorned by frescoes and statues.

The last sign of Buddhism, as you shortly head into the Muslim-dominated regions near Kargil and beyond. Mulbekh's main claim to fame is the impresive eight meter high Chamba statue, an image of a future Buddha, cut into the rock face, dating back to about 700 AD. There are also two gompas serdung and Gandentse, which offer great views of the valley.

Excursions

Situated 45 kms East of Kargil on the road to Leh, Mulbek (3230 m) in an area dominated by the Buddhists. It is situated along either banks of the Wakha River, which originates. Many monuments of the early Buddhists era dot the landscape and are accessible from the road.

Shergol : Another picturesque village of the Wakha River valley, Shergol is situated across the river, right of the Kargil-Leh road. The main attraction is a cave monastery which is visible from a far as a white speck against the vertically rising ochre hill from which it appears to hang out. Below this small monastery is a larger Buddhist nunnery with about a dozen incumbents. The village is accessible by the motorable road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5 km short of Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting 4-day trek across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It is also the approach base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a meditation retreat lying deep inside the mountains surrounding the Wakha River valey.

Urgyan Dzong :
This meditation retreat lies tucked away in an amazing natural mountain fortress high up in Zanskar range. Concealed within is a circular table land with a small monastic establishment at its centre. The surrounding hillside reveals several caves where high-ranking Buddhists saints meditated in seclusion. At least one such cave is associated with the visit of Padmasambhava, the patron saint of Tibetan Buddhism. The main approach is to footpath laid through the only gap available in the rocky ramparts.

Eating
Besides upmarket hotels like the Siachen, finding somewhere to eat in Kargil is a toss up betwen the small tourist oriented cafes on the lane from the park the the bazaar,  or a dhaba on the main street


 

Ladakh Places of Interest (Visit Ladakh)

Leh
Leh is nested in a side valley just to the north of the Indus Valley.  Until 1947 it had close trading relations with Central Asia yak trains would set off from the Leh Bazaar to complete the stages over the Kaakoam Pass to Yarkand and Kashgar.

Kargil

Administering the  Valleys of Suru , Drass, Wakha and Bodkarbu, Kargil lies midway between the alpine valleys of Kashmir and the fertile reaches of the Indus Valley and ladakh


Thak Thok
Thak Thok gompa shelters a cave in which the apostle Padmasambhava is said to have meditated during his epic eight-century journey to Tibet.

Dhahanu
Dhahanu is situated to the south west of Leh, around 163 Kms. passing through the beautiful villages of Kaltsey, Domkhar, Skurbuchan 


Padum
Padum is 240 km to the south of Kargil, comes as a bit of an anticlimax

Rangdum
Rangdum is an elliptical expanded plateau surrounded by colourful hills on the one side and glacier encrusted rocky mountains on the other. 


Zanskar
Walled in by the Great Himalayan Divide, Zanskar, literally " Land of White Copper" has for decades exrted the allure of Shangri La on visitours to Ladakh.

Zangla
Zangla is the nodal point on the popular Padum Strongdey Zangla Karsha Padum round trip, which covers most of the cultural sites of Zanskar.
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Valley of Ladakh

The Suru Valley
Diving two of the world's most formidable mountain ranges, the Suru Valley winds south from Kargil to the desolate Pensi La the main entry point for Zanskar. 

Nubra Valley
the Nubra valley  - nubra means green used to be on the trading route  connection Tibet with Turkistan, Also Now  as the Valley of Flowers more ...

Drass Valley
Drass (3230 m), 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar, is a small township lying in the centre of the valley of the same name . 

Shyok Valley
The Shyok River receives the waters of the Nubra and Changchenmo rivers. It rises from the Khumdang glacier, which can be approached from Shyok. 


Pangong Tso
Pangong Tso, 15km to the southeast of Leh, is one of the largest saltwater lakes in Asia, a long narrow strip of water stretching from Ladakh east into Tibet.

Tso Moriri
Tso Moriri or "Mountain Lake" is Famous for the large herds of king, or wild ass, which graze on its shores, the lake of Tso Moriri.

 
 

 

 

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