Best Season : March to
Temperatures (Average) : 10 to 30 degrees cent. Low Temperatures in
Clothing : Light/Medium wollens in summers to Heavy wollens in winter
Languages : Kashmiri,Urdu,Hindi,English
Food: Every sort of vegetarian and non vegetarian food is available
in multiple cuisines to suit every budget. Restaurants of all hues and
shades are available all along the Boulevard road. and other major spots.
Foods suits all budgets and tastes.
Ladakh the land of high passes markes the boundary between the peaks of the
wesern Himalaya and the vast Tibetan Plateau.
Ladakh the far flung eastern corner
of troubled Jammu and Kashmir state is India's most remote and sparsely
populated region, a high altitude desert cradled by the Karakoram and Great
Himalayas ranges. For tourists, this barren and breathless land offers a
window on a unique Himalayan landscape and culture that until as recently as
1974, had only been glimpsed by a few intrepid Western travelers.
Variously described a "Little
Tibet" or "the last Shangri - La", La Dags "land of height mountain
passed" is one of the last enclaves of Mahayana Buddhism Ladakh's principal
religion for nearly a thousand years, now brutally suppressed by the Chinese
in its native Tibet, Except near that Kashmiri border, the outwards symbols
of Buddhism are everywhere : strings of multicolored prayer flags
flutter fro the rooftops of houses, while bright prayer wheels and
Two main "highways" connect with the rest of India. Due to the unrest in
Kashmir, the legendary Srinagar - Leh road now sees far less tourist traffic
that the route up from Manali, almost 500 km south , these two plus the
track from Kargil to Padum in Zanskar also link the majority of Ladakh's
larger set elements with the capital.
Bus Services : - Along the main
Indus valley highway are frequent and reliable but grow less so the
away you get from Leh. To reach off track side valleys and villages within a
single day it it much easier to splash out on a Jeep taxi either a Gypsy or
a Tata Sumo available in Kargil and Leh. the alternative and more
traditional way to get around the region of course, is on foot Popular.
Unless you fly direct
to leh (the
world’s highest airport at 3505m), the decision of when to visit
ladakh is largely made for you: the passes into the region are only open
between late June and late October, when the sun is at its strongest and the
weather pleasantly warm. Even then Night can be chilly, so take sleeping
bag. From November onwards, temperatures drop fast, often plummeting to
minus 400C between December and February, when the only way in
and out of zanskar is along the frozen surface of the river. Another reason
to come in summer is to make arguably the most spectacular road journey in
the world. The hour-long flight over the Himalayas may be memorable, but is
no substitute for the two-day-plus trip from manali (see p.522) – a crash
course in just how remote and extraordinary this lonely mountain kingdom
The first inhabitants of ladakh
are thought to have been mixture of nomadic herdsmen
From the Tibetan plateau and a
small contingent of early Buddhist refugees from northern India called the mons. Some time in the fourth or fifth century, these two groups were joined
by the Dards, a tribe of indo-Aryan origin who migrated southeast
along the Indus valley, brining with them irrigation and settled
The first independent kingdom
in the region was established in the ninth century by the maverick nobleman
Nyima Gon, taking advantage of the chaos after the collapse of the Guge
empire of western Tibet. Buddhism, meanwhile, had also found its way
across the Himalayas from India. Disseminated by the wandering sage-apostles
such as padmasambhava (alias “Guru Rinpoche”) dharma gradually displaced the
pantheistic shamanism of the Bon cult (which still holds sway in remote
villages north of khalsi, near Lamayuru). The east –ward expansion of the
faith towards the Tibetan plateau continued in the tenth and eleventh
centuries – the period later dubbed the “Second Spreading”. Among its
key proselytizers was the “Great Translator” Rinchen Zangpo,
a scholar and missionary associated with foundation of numerous monasteries
in ladakh and in neighbouring spiti (see p.519).
Around the fourteenth
century, Ladakh passed through a dark age during which, for reason that
remain unclear, its rulers switched allegiance from Indian to Tibetan
Buddhism, a from of the faith deeply invested with esoteric practices drawn
from the tantra texts, and possibly influenced by the animated
celebration common to bon (see Contexts, p.1338). This coincided with the
rise to prominence in Tibet of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), who is
accepted as founder of the Gelug-pa or “yellow hat”school.with the
Dalai Lama at its head, gelug-pa is today the most popular school in ladakh.
Under Tashi Namgyal (1555-70), who reunified the kingdom, ladakh
became a major Himalayan power, and the ascent to the throne of the “Lion”,
Sengee Namgyal, in the seventeenth century, signalled further
territorial gains. After being routed by the moghul-balti army at Bodh Kharbu in 1639, he turned his
energies to civil and religious matters, founding a new capital and palace
at leh, as well as a string of monasteries that included Hemis, seat of the
newly arrived Brugpa sect.
Sengge’s building spree created
some fine monuments, but it also drained the kingdom’s coffers, as did the
hefty annual tribute paid to the moghuls after the Bodh Kharbu debacle.
Finances were further strained when Deldan, sengge’s successor, picked a
quarrel with his ally, Tibet. The fifth Dalai Lama dispatched an army of
Mongolian horseman to teach him a lesson, and three years of conflict only
ended after the Moghul governor of Kashmir intervened on ladakh’s behalf.
This help, however, came at a price: Aurangzeb demanded more tribute,
ordered the construction of a mosque in leh, and forced the ladakhi king to
convert to Islam.
Trade links with Tibet resumed in
the eighteenth century, but ladakh never regained its former status. Plagued
by feuds and assassinations, the kingdom teetered into terminal decline, and
was an easy target for the Dogra general Zorawar Singh, who annexed
it for the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1834. The ladakhi royal family was
banished to stok palace, where their descendants reside to this day.
Ladakh became a part of
independent India in 1948, following the first of the four indo-pak wars
fought in the region. However, both international frontier and the so-called
“Ceasefire line” that scythes through the top of Jammu and Kashmir
remain “unauthenticated”: even today, the two armies take periodic pot-shots
at each other near kargil and across the disputed Siachen Glacier in the
Karakoram, 100km north. When you consider the proximity of China, another
old foe who annexed a large chunk of ladakh in 1962, it is easy to see why
this is India’s most sensitive border zone-and why it remained off-limits to
tourist until 1974.
Today ladakh comprise
around seventy percent of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it stands. Long
dissatisfied with the state government based in Srinagar, and after years of
agitation, the ladakhis finally saw the establishment in their region of an
Autonomous Hill Development Council in September 1995, localizing-in
theory-government control. Local politicians and religious leaders of leh,
however, spent the late 1990s accusing the state government of manipulation
and the purposeful mismanagement of the AHDC, and in 2002 created a new body
called the Ladakh Union Territory Front, the goal of which is to
split from Jammu and Kashmir and gain Union Territory recognition from
Delhi. A victory sorts occurred later that year when the newly elected
government in Jammu agreed to give more internal decision-making power to
the AHDC, thus ending a six-year stand-off and paving the way for UT status.
Meanwhile, the Muslims of Kargil and Drass-heavily influenced by politics of
the Kashmir valley, seeking relations with their Balti cousins across the
border in Pakistan and demanding a hill council of their own-are vehemently
opposed to any separation of ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir.
Relations between Muslim and Buddhist in the region have declined
steadily since the1980s-fuelled by the competition for urban jobs, land
disputes and the fighting in Kashmir. The situation reached new low in July
2000 after Muslims (their exact identity remains in dispute) shot dead three
Buddhist monks outside a monastery in Rangdum in the remote region between
the Suru Valley and Zanskar. A German traveler who had the misfortune of
hitching a ride on the same truck as the terrorists, thus a witness to the
crime, was also executed. The shockwaves of the massacres were felt
throughout ladakh, with curfews imposed on leh. Such media stories-along
with the threat of nuclear exchange in the spring of 2002-has impacted the
tourist industry. The number of visitors dropped from 18,000 in 2001to a
mere 3000 the following year.