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History | People | Culture | Festival

 History

 In the ancient times the present Leh district was a part of Greater Ladakh spread over from Kailash Mansarover to Swaat (Dardistan). The Greater ladakh was neither under the Domain of Tibet or its influence. Not much information is available about the ancient History of Ladakh. However, reference about the place and its neighbourhood in Arab, Chinese and Mongolian histories gives an idea that in the 7th Century A.D fierce wars were fought by Tibet and China in Baltistan area of the Greater Ladakh in which deserts and barren mountains of Ladakh was turned into battle fields for the warring armies.

Leh Palace

In the 8th century A.D Arabs also jumped into these wars and changed their sides between China and Tibet. Around this period, the ruler of Kashmir, Laltadita conquered Ladakh. In the 8th Century A.D itself, The Arabs conquered Kashghar and established their control over Central asia which embraced Islam in the 9th century A.d and thus a buffer state came into being between Tibet and China, terminating the hostilities between the two warring countries. The greater Ladakh also fell into peices.

The ancient inhabitants of Ladakh were Dards, and Indo-Aryan race from down the Indus. But immigration from Tibetmore than a thousand years ago largly overwhelmedthe culture of the Dards and moped up their racial characters. IN eastern and central Ladakh, todays population seems to be mostly of Tibet origin. Budhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh. The area was the stronghold of Budhism before Islam reached Ladakh.
A thousand years ago before the contol of Tibets rule, Raja Skitde Nemagon, ruled over Ladakh which was known as Muryul (Red Country), as most of the mountains and the soil in Ladakh wears a red tinge. In the 10th Century A.D Skitday Nemagon, along with a couple of hundred men, invaded Ladakh where there was no central authority. The Land was divided in small principalities, which were at war with each other. Nemagon defeated all of them and established a strong central authority. Those days Shey, was the capital of Ladakh became to be known as Nariskorsoom, a country of three provinces. The present Ladakh was divided into two provinces while the third comprised western Tibet. The area of western Tibet slipped away from the kingdom but was reunited in 16th Century A.D. by the famous Ladakhi ruler Sengge Namgyal. Ladakh was an independent country since the middle of 10th century.

In the post-partition senario, Pakistan and China illegally occupied 78,114 sq. km and 37,555 sq.km of the state, respectively while the remaining part of the state acceeded to India. Pakistan also illegally gifted 5180 sq.kms of this area to China. Ladakh, comprising the areas of present Leh and Kargil districts, became one of the seven districts of the State. In 1979 when the reorganisation of the districts was carries out, the Ladakh district was divided into two full fledged of Leh and Kargil.


 People

The land of Ladakh, apart from being one of the remotest corners of India, is also quite different from the other regions of India. Just like the geographical features of the area, the people of Leh Ladakh are also quite dissimilar from the rest of the country. Not only their culture, but also their physical appearance comes as very distinct. Despite being an integral part of India, they look more like the people of Tibet and Central Asia.

Leh People Originally, Ladakh people consisted of the Dards, an Indo-Aryan race from the Indus and the Gilgit area. However, because of the large-scale immigration of the Tibet people to the Leh Ladakh area, the Dards got overshadowed. Slowly and gradually, Ladakhi people started acquiring the racial characteristics of the Tibetans only. Thus, in eastern and central Ladakh, you will find people with mostly a Tibetan origin.

As you move left, in and around Kargil, the Tibetan influence will lead to a mixed origin. One community in Ladakh stands out from the majority of the people, that of Arghons. It is a Muslim community of Leh that took birth from the marriages between local women and Kashmiri or Central Asian merchants. The people of this community look more like the Indo-Aryans, but, their cultural traits are similar to that of the other Ladakhis.


 Culture

Ladakhis are known for their cheerful disposition and most of their festivals fall in winters, which serve as an excuse for social and convivial gatherings. In summers, archery competitions and native version of polo are quite common and especially among the Buddhists, these competitions are often a local ball where folk songs and dances add to the jovial atmosphere and 'Chang', the local barley beer is amply used. The rich collection of oral literature of the region is full of occasion-special songs and poems and includes the localized versions of the Tibetan epic, 'Kesar Saga'.

Traditions & Rituals
The folk musical instruments 'Surna' (oboe) and 'Daman' (drum) accompany the ceremonies and public events. These instruments originally introduced into the region by Muslims hailing from Baltistan but are now exclusively played by 'Mons' (Buddhist musicians). A newly born child gets a warm welcome full of festivity and merriment, with functions on his 15th day in the world, after one month of the birth of a child and his/her first birthday. The family invites all the friends, relatives and neighbors and serves them with tea, 'Tsampa' (a local delicacy), butter and sugar.

Leh Culture Weddings in Ladakh are full of music, dance, merriment and feasting. The boys are generally promised or married at an age of 16 and girls by the age of 12. The relatives of the groom take 'Chang', tea, butter and other presents along with the ring to the bride's home. If the gifts are accepted then marriage takes place a few months later. On the first day, a grand feast ensues at the bride's house and on the second day, at the groom's place. After marriage, bride lives with her husband and her parents offer clothes, animals and land to the couple as dowry or 'Raqtqaq', depending on their economic status.

The males are the head of the family and the eldest son has the right to property of his father, which automatically passes to the next brother after him. In case, there are no sons in the family, the father brings in husband of the eldest daughter and property gets transferred in the daughter's name and passes on to her first son, after her.

Lamas as Oracles
Lamas are believed to be the messengers between the physical and the spiritual world and often act as astrologers and oracles Leh Culturepredicting the auspicious time for starting any major enterprise. However, the monk-oracles of Matho Gompa are the most popular ones. It is very interesting to witness the feats performed hby these monk-oracles. Two monks are chosen to act as oracles in every three years by a traditional procedure and they have to undergo rigorous routine of prayer and fasting (and perhaps training) to purify themselves for the cause. When they finish, deity possess their body at the opportune time ans the feats, which they perform feats that can awe anyone including cutting themselves with knives without even wincing and sprinting along the gompa's (monastery's) topmost parapet as if they are made of rubber. Whenever possessed, they are believed to answer only the truth regarding individual and public welfare, though, the deity may also react with frenzied anger to those who are skeptical and ask questions only to test the deity.


 Festival

Major Festivals in Leh Culture

The religious philosophy of Buddhism, however, profound and subtle doesn’t preclude an immense joie-de-vivre among its Ladakh adherents, and even solemn religious enactment’s are made the occasion for joyous celebration. Many of the festivals of the gonpas take place in winter, a relatively idle time for the majority of the people. They take the form of dance-dramas in the Gonpa courtyards. Lamas, robed in colourful garments and wearing often startlingly frightful mask, perform mimes representing various aspect of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events, and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyment of the party atmosphere, with crowds of women and men, the opportunity to make new friendships and renew old ones, the general bustle and sense of occasion.

The biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals,Leh Festival frequented by tourists and locals a like, is that of Hemis, which falls in late June or the first half of July, and is dedicated to Padmasambhava.Every 12 years, the gonpa’s greatest treasure, a huge thangka - a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth- is ritually exhibited. The next unveiling is due to take place in AD 2004.Other monasteries which have summer festivals at Lamayuru( also early July), Phyang (Late July or early August), Tak-thok ( about tend days after Phyang) and Karsha in Zanskar( 11 days after Phyang). Like Hemis, the phyang festival too involves the exhibition of a gigantic thangka, though here it is done every year. Spituk, Stok, Thiksay, Chemrey Matho all have their festivals in winter, between November and March. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) time their festivals to coincide with Dosmochey, the festival of the scapegoat, which is also celebrated with favour at Leh.Falling in the second half of February, Dosmoche is one of the two New Year festivals, the other being Losar. At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is set up outside Leh. At the appointed time, offerings of stoma, ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleaned and made ready to welcome the New Year.
Losar falls about the time of the winter solstice any time between 8th and 30th December.All Ladakhi Buddhist celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in the gonpas and in their domestic shrines.


Ladakh Festival

The Department of Tourism spends a huge amount of Rs.16.00 Lacs for promotion of Tourism by way of holding a 15 days Ladakh FestivalLadakh Festival every year. The main aim of organising the same since last 7 years in the month of September is to extend the lean tourist season in the region and also to represent and prorogate the rich cultural heritage of the area. The grand success of the festival and the tremendous response from foreign tourists and home including the local people are due to the rich cultural heritage and variety of other attractive programmes like traditional Polo match and Village archery. The famous monastic dance in the monasteries including exhibitions of invaluable Thankas and other Ritual Instruments of the monasteries. The tourists have the opportunities to see the entire traditional cultural programme of the region like Traditional Folk dance and songs of the Nomads. The traditional folk songs and dance of Drokpas the pure Aryan race and many more different traditional folk dance and song of the village. The grand achievements of the Ladakh Festival are noticeable of the significant increase in the arrivals of tourists during the lean tourist season of the year.


 Leh Hotels


 Leh Tours


TOUR NAME DURATION PLACES
Discover Ladakh 03 Nights & 04 Days Leh-Hemis-Khardungla pass-Leh
Discover Ladakh

Tour Information

  • Starting Point:
  • Leh

  • Ending Point:
  • Leh

  • Duration:
  • 03 Nights / 04 Days


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Ladakh Exotica 05 Nights & 06 Days Leh–Alchi–Lamayuru–
Pangong–Leh
Ladakh Exotica

Tour Information

  • Starting Point:
  • Leh

  • Ending Point:
  • Leh

  • Duration:
  • 05 Nights / 06 Days


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Discover the Silk route 04 Nights & 05 Days Leh - Khardungla-Nubra Valley-Hemis-Leh
Discover the Silk Route

Tour Information

  • Starting Point:
  • Leh

  • Ending Point:
  • Leh

  • Duration:
  • 04 Nights / 05 Days


  • More Info >>

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