Ladakh


Location :

West of J&K

Avg. Altitude :

3500 m

Area :

96,701 Sq.Kms bounded by the great Himalayas and Karakoram Range

STD Code :

01982

Language :

Ladakhi

Best time to visit :

July-October

About Ladakh

A mystical land with rugged terrains, snow capped peaks, chanting monks, chiming monastery bells and colourful costumes. In Tibet, Ladakh is commonly called La- Tag and Maryul "Red Land". It was called Kho-Chan-Pa "Snow land" by the old Chinese traveler Fa-Hien. Ladakh has been the dream of adventure lovers and those in search af peace and solitude. For this reason, travelers call it 'Little Tibet'. Situated between 30 degree to 36 degree east latitude and 76 degree to 79 degree north longitude, with altitudes ranging from 2750 m at Kargil to 7672 m at Sasar Kangri in the Karakoram, Ladakh is spread over an area of 96,701 Sq.Kms bounded by the great Himalayas and Karokoram Range. Ladakh remains closed between November and June every year as Srinagar-Ladakh and Ladakh-Manali highways receive heavy snowfall.

Earlier, Ladakh was one of the provinces of Tibetan kingdom, governed by an independent prince and its spiritual head was the Kum Lama or chief pontiff of Lhasa, where Emperor Asoka about 250 BC established Buddhism. Earliest authentic historical observations of Ladakh reach as far back as the beginning of Christian era in AD 399-400 when Fa-Hian traveled to Ladakh. In 10th century, the empire of Great Tibet broke up into several districts headed by chiefs, which were formed as independent kingdoms. Purang was occupied by Tashi-Degon and Ladakh by Palgyi-Gon. Thus Ladakh was an independent kingdom ruled by a Gyalpo (King). From AD 1080 till AD 1110 was the reign of Lhachon Utpalo, during which the Alchi monastery was built. King Trashigon of Gu-ge ruled between AD 1200 and 1230. Lotroichagden ruled Ladakh from AD 1440 till 1470. During this period, rulers of Kashmir sent their army many times to invade the region. This continued during the reign of Bhagen Namgyal AD 1470- 1500. This was followed by Mongolian raids from the north, Tashi Namgyal gained victory over Mongolians in AD 1517. In AD 1532,Abu Sayed Mirza Khan of Kashghar gained power with support of Emperor Sikander of Kashmir.

From AD 1555 to AD 1580, Chevang Namgyal, a descendent of the first king of Tibet, Khri-Tsampa, reconsolidated power in Ladakh. He was succeeded by his brother Jamyang Namgyal AD 1595. While marching to Puril district, King Jamyang's troops dispersed due to violent storm, they were attacked by rebels and sent to Skardo as prisoners along with the king. Ali Mir, a Muslim ruler of Skardu took advantage, marched upon Ladakh with large forces and took possession of the whole land in 17th century. During this period, many historical monuments and records were destroyed. Ali Mir marched back to Skardu completing arrangements for forming his government of Ladakh. On reaching back he released Jamyang from the prison and got one of his daughters married to him. People asked Jamyang to restore temple & images of Buddha and secure new copies of sacred books from Lhasa. Singge Namgyal succeeded Jamyang in AD 1610 and heroically conquered Purang, Guge, Zanskar, Spiti, Puril, Mayal, Sidee. During his reign, he ordered the building of Hemis, Chemre, Temisgan, and other monastaries.

Succeeded by his son Deldan Namgyal in AD 1670, who emulated his father and installed huge statues of Buddha, plated with copper and gold, in Shey. During his reign, Tartars from Baltistan invaded Ladakh, Deldan escaped to Kashmir and sought military aid from Ibrahim Khan, governor of Emperor Aurangzeb. Mughal forces pushed out Tat-tars from Ladakh. Deldan embraced Islam and built mosque in Leh.

Islam got a foothold during Deldan's rule though he himself reverted to Buddhism. His son Delek Namgyal ruled Ladakh from AD 1705 to 1740, conquered Spiti, Murad and other areas. Mir of Balti invaded Ladakh and conqured in AD 1750. From this date to AD 834, Ladakh faced a repetition of wars.

Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh after conquering Kishtawar sent troops leadership of the great General Zorawar Singh to Ladakh through Suru Valleyon 16 August 1834. Opposed by the Balti leaders many times, Dogra troops under the command of Basti Ram finaliy with the usage of artilleries captured the fort. Gyalpo in this stalemate collected farces from other chiefs and pushed out the General. Zarawar Singh managed to stay in the areas nearby for few month and finally conquered Ladakh and then later on invaded Baltistan too.

Having consolidated huge force, Zorawar Singh invaded Yarkand far its Pashmina wool trade and rich monastries.Entire area came under Ladakhis and Dogras. The government of Lhasa took this invasion seriously and at the same time Chinese forces on 7th November 1841 moved towards Zorawar. Singh and occupied Leh and other areas. Shot during the battle after fighting fearlessly, General Zorawar Singh breathed his last.

Maharaja Gulab Singh overcame generals death after a long time and Sent his forces. Chinese rule was just 6 weeks old when Dogra forces captured Ladakh and Baltistan once again. In 1846, Basti Ram was in control of the region. Dogras after systematic wars annexed Ladakh Baltistan with their kingdom of Jammu a Kashmir and ruled for more than 1000 years.

The history of Ladakh and Baltistan up to 1947 remained the same till Maharaja Hari Singh chose join with Indian Dominion. The partition af India resulted in the invasion of some parts af Ladakh and Baltistan by China. For their original lineage from Dards – an lndo-Aryan race fram Indus, people Ladakh have features and attire similar that of Tibetans and Central Asian peopler a Known for their soft attitude, Ladakhis are very gentle in nature,just opposite to their geographical conditions.

just apposite Ladakh is divided into two districts,Leh and Kargil.

Getting there

By Air: Indian Airlines operates regular scheduled flights to Leh from Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi. Jet Airways operates daily flights from Delhi to Leh. Recently the low airline Deccan airways has started flights on this air route.

Travelers get a panoramic view of snow capped ranges and can see some famous pinnacles onboard

By Road (Srinagar to Leh): The approach to Ladakh is from the Kashmir Valley through the 434-km Srinagar-Leh, now a national highway, which follows the historic trade route, also known as the 'Treaty Road'. It is open for traffic from early June to mid-November. J&K State Transport Corporation (SRTC) opeartes regular Deluxe and ordinary bus service from Srinagar to Leh and Kargil charging Srinagar-Leh Rs. 620 for deluxe coach and Rs. 490 for semi-deluxe coach.

Private taxis (Cars and Jeep type vehicles)are available from many Taxi Stands in Srinagar particularly from TRC taxi stand.These light vehicle have made the two day journey possible in just one day in 14-16 hours subject to the conditions of the road.

From Srinagar a smooth journey up to Sonamarg (86 km) is like the dessert before the main course. The uphill drive to Zoji-la Pass at an altitude of 3505 m. will thrill you in the first instance.Drass, the first township over the pass, inhabited by a popuation of mainly Dard origin, Drass is perfect stopover for a tea break.Heading towards Kargil town, the road plunges into the ridges of the Zanskar Range. Kargil is usually a night stopover for late arriving travelers.

Crossing through Pashkyum area, passes through several villages before entering Mulbek which is the transition point from Muslim to Buddhist Ladakh. Namika-la (3,719 m) and Fotu-la(4,094 m) Passes follow the exit out of Mulbek valley. The twisting road passes through the spectacular 'moonland' of _Lamayuru, then dawn towards Khalatse a of almost 1,219 m, in about 32 kms, which is again a stopover for tea or for tasting some fresh apricots.

From here the road follows the Indus river and one crosses through the villages of Saspol and Nimmo, then at last Leh is visible, dominated by the presence of a 17th century palace.

By Road (Manali to Leh): The alternative route to Ladakh is Manali to Leh (473 km), operational since 1989 and is open for traffic from mid-June to October. The road traverses many high passes, the first being Rohtang 3978m in Pir Panjal range. Then the road crosses through Taglang-la Pass, world's second highest motoroble pass at an altitude of 5325 m. JKSRTC and HPSRTC operate deluxe and ordinary buses. Apart from that, many private mini coaches and taxis are available at Manali. The journey takes almost 19 hrs covered in two days with night stopover at Serchu (222 km from Manali), a favourite tea break stopover for travelers. The road follows Gya river to the Indus at Uphsi from where the plains area starts. Traveling through Thikse, Stakna and Shey, the road passes Tibetan village at Choglamsar and Dalai Lama's prayer ground and then finally leads into Leh.

Distances from Srinagar

Sonmarg 84km 3000m
Zojila 110 3859m
Mataya                      127           
Drass                    147            3732m
Kharbu                  180   
Kargil                     204 3000m
Mulbekh                 244  
Namikila                 259             4072m
Bodh habru                274   
Fatula                    295             4493m(highest point on road)
Lamayuru               310  
Khalse                     337  
Saspol                     372  
Nimmo                     398  
Leh                          434 3833m

Fairs and Festivals of Ladakh

In the gompa courtyards, Lamas attired in colourful robes anti masks, perform mimes, dances and dramas symbolizing aspects of the religion and godwill of the people. Mesmerising performances are on during fairs and festivals in Ladakh attended by a large gathering of local people and the tourists with equal enthusiasm. The biggest and most famous monastic festival is of Hemis, (late June or early July). Other monasteries, which have summer feslivals, are Lamayuru (early july), Phyang (late July /early August), Tak-thok (after Phyang) and Karsha in Zanskar (after Phyang). The Phyang festival involves the unveiling of a gigantic tangkha, though here it is done every third year Spituk, Stok, Thikse,Chemrey and Matho have their festivals in winter between November and March. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) time their festivals to coincide with Dosmochhe, the festival of the scapegoat, which is celebrated at Leh in late February. Dosmochhe is one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar, which falls around the time of the winter solstice. Ladakh Festival is organised by Tourism authorities in September with much fanfare and gaiety.

Sindhu Darshan

The 3 day Sindhu Darshan festival has grown by leaps and baunds in just a few years.The visitors are mainly from different parts af India, some travel in coaches, some by air and new adventure loving youth travel on bikes crossing over miles of plain and rough terrain from their respective states to Leh.The festival,showcases historical importance of the biggest and famous river in the Ladakh terrain –Sindh River or Indus, celebrated during month June. Sindhu Darshan is organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, making it the only centrally sponsored festival of J&K state.

Religious Symbols

-Chortens

The cone shaped stupas generally painted white are built as a relic and to honour the Boddhisattavas or Living Bhuddha. The chortens symbolize five elements of of nature; Earth, Water, Fire and Air. The base of the chorten rectangular shaped represents earth. Circular tomb shaped is water. The conical shape signifies fire and the top crescent is the air.

-Eight Lucky Signs

The eight lucky signs af Buddhist faith represent the Eight fold path. These signs can be seen on crockery, handicrafts and other house hold items. It said that these items with lucky signs bring prosperity and happiness in the house.

-Prayer Wheels

Wheels generally made of copper with different Buddhists inscription and shapes made on them are the holy prayer wheels. Rotating these wheels is said to bring good luck and feeling of peace and tranquility. The monks usually carry the small handy wheels and chant mantras while spinning the wheel.

-Prayer Flag

The monasteries, buildings, trees and chortens are surrounded by the flags, small and large. Usually made of cloth in oblong, rectangular and triangular shapes have holy inscription and signs printed on them. White flags signify the purity of thought, long narrow and oblong represents the victory, signs are inscribed to bring goad luck, various colours signify thoughts of life and the written marks are the prayers.

Art, Craft Shopping in Ladakh

The craftsmanship in Ladakh has been mostly used far the divinity purpose in the monasteries and homes. The wood carving with dragon designs embossed on it is a craft adapted in some villages. The daily use items like jewelry boxes and others are made in attractive colours with different lucky signs of Buddhism.

Pashmina shawls are also woven in the villages where men and women card and spin the pashmina, sheared from Pashmina goat. In the village af Chiling, 19 km from Nima in Zanskar, metal work is done by the descendants of artisans brought from Nepal in mid 17th century for building statue of Buddha at Shey. The brass, silver & copper items are mostly carved with peculiar designs. There are other woolen shawls also available in colourful designs at a reasonable cost. Carpets with Tibetan design made by looping knots 'Khabtan' are made by Ladakhi men and women mainly for personal use. The locally made warm woolen cloth Pattu and robes made of this cloth are of some attraction to visitors to safeguard from the cold of Ladakh in winter.

The most sought after souvenirs of Ladakh are the Tangkha paintings, made on the thin white cloth 'Latha'. Some paintings are made of real gold water to keep its shine everlasting.The Mural paintings Gompas and monasteries depicting images related to Buddhist religion mark everlasting craftsmanship to be cherished and appreciated. Clay moulding is a special craft in Ladakh, the masters engaged in preparing the statues for monasteries. Some of the statues of Lord Buddha in the famous monasteries of Ladakh are created by these craftsmen. Masks and other objects are also made by the clay moulding craft.

You may be interested in meeting a monk-oracle or an astrologer revered by people of Ladakh for their spirit-healing and prediction on the occasions for establishing business, ploughing fields, arranging marriages or starting a journey.

Many locally made items are also available in the markets of Leh and other villages, which can be wonderful souvenirs.

Archery, Polo and Ice-skating in Ladakh

During Summer in Ladakh region, archery festivals are held with music and dance for entertainment of the villagers gathered to witness the competition. It has become popular among visitors who watch these events in traditional way with the locals. Polo is a traditional game of western Himalayan region originally brought from Baltiston to Ladakh in mid 17th century during reign of Senge Namgyal whose mother was a Balti princess. Most of the villages in Ladakh have a polo ground where tournaments are held in summer between the teams of different villages and the army men in the vicinity. Tourists Ilove to be part of the team or simply watch the thrilling game.

During freezing temperature Ladakh offers splendid opportunities as the lakes and ponds in villages are completely covered with thick layer of ice. Young boys and girls take keen interest in ice skating completions held regularly, in fact Ladakh has produced some of the champions of ice skating have brought laurels at National International level for J&K state.

Mountaneering in Ladakh

Ladakh has gained much popularity for Great Himalayan mountain range that have been mesmerizing mountaineers world wide. The ruggedness of the region is itself a thrilling experience for every traveler; the dominating mountains challenge the avid climbers from a distant view. Mountaineers from across the world dream of scaling these peaks and feel the charisma of being on top of the world.

The ideal climbing season is mid June to September. Most climbing expeditions required to obtain prior permission from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), New Delhi. Booking fee is based on the height and popularity of the peak and a registered liaison officer/escort assigned to every climbing team.IMF maintains a proper backup support for the security and safety of the expeditions Ladakhi sherpas / guides are famous for guiding the climbers through a proper route and assist them in getting accustomed to the limate and the culture of the place.

Kang-Yantze
6180 m
Stock Kangri
6150 m
Dzo-Jongo
6125 m
Gulap Kangri
5900 m
Matho west
5950 m
Mashira Kangri
5367 m
Nun
7135 m
Kun
7087 m
Pinnacle
6930 m
White Needle
6500 m
Z-1
6400 m
D-41D
5600m

River Rafting in Ladakh

The gigantic Indus flowing with full vigor at most of the places offers splendid river rafting opportunities for the professional and amateur adventurers. The best white water stretch for professionals is between Spituk and Saspol beyond which the river gets dangerous. The Zanskar river similarly demands highly skilled professional river rafting. Stretch from Spituk to Karu River is easy to handle even for amateurs. The travel agents in Leh offer rafting packages to aIl adventurers. Over the years Ladakh has produced some of the best rafters.

High Altitude Health Precautions (HAHP)

At high altitude place like Ladakh, oxygen level is lower than what people of plains are used to. Acclimatization on arrival is very essential; one must give some (24 to 36 hrs) time to get adjusted to the change of atmosphere before indulging in any physical activity. At Leh the specialists at the hospitals are well equipped to meet any eventuality caused by the high altitude. Presence above 2700 m, i.e. 10,000 ft, can cause breathlessness,nausea, coughing, headache or any other related mountain sickness. High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPO) and High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACO) are very serious forms of acute mountain sicknesses. They are life threatening and warrant immediate medical treatment/attention. In such cases it is advisable to contact the nearest Hospital or Medical Dispensary situated in major villages. Some serious cases are even referred to be airlifted to Delhi. Please inform your travel agent/group leader or escort about your health conditions before leaving an a tour.

Climate in Ladakh

In Ladakh, temperature during summer is mostly moderate through May to September, but still rainfall can start unexpectedly after the slightest cloudy weather that lowers the temperature in day and night. You have to be well equipped in terms of clothes and adventure gear if you intend to spend more time in Ladakh. Visiting Ladakh during winter is not for the faint hearted. For Ladakh's below zero temperature even cattle like Yak have been created with protection of fur.

Average Teprature

Max.
Min.
January
0.1
-15.5
February
0.5
-12.5
March
8.5
-5.5
April
15.5
-1.1
May
18.5
0.5
June
23.5
6.5
July
27.5
10.5
August
24.5
10.5
September
21.5
6.5
October
16.5
-0.5
November
8.5
-8.5
December
3.5
-12.5

Advised Clothing

Summer (May-Sep) : Cotton wear, light woolens, sturdy walking shoes, rain proofs. Winter (Oct.April) : Heavy woolens, thermal wear, feather jackets, sturdy walking shoes.

Inner Line Permits

Entry into some areas of Ladaakh region is restricted. It is mandatory to obtain the Protected Area Permits from the Deputy Commissioner's office at Leh for visiting Khardung-La, Nubra volley, Pangong, Tsomo-riri, Tso-Kar Doh-Hanu area of Leh district. Apart from these several other preconditions like weather, road conditions, size of the group apply for some circuits. Travelers must corry 6-10 sets of photocopy of the permits for the checking points.

Do's and don'ts in Lakakh

Do's

Take complete rest upto 36 hoursafter arrival.
Move slowly and breather deeper to get used to higher oxygen levels.
While in Ladakh use water purification tablets or boiled water or fresh water bottles.
Hire a local taxi for the tours within Ladakh, no outside vehicle is allowed to move around in Ladakh.
Eat out at a descent and a clean place to avoid gastro problems.
Avoid smoking & alcohol in initial days.
Contact a doctor or hospital immediately if feel any
Refil your water bottles or cans at refill points in Leh market insteads of buying more plastic bottles.

Dont's

Do not wear short skirts/sleeveless blouses tops, in public places especially in gompas.
Do not indulge in any type of intimate activity with your partner in public.
Do not take photographs of people without, asking first nor inside any religious place without the permission of the monk or the in charge. Flash photography is harmful to ancient wall paintings and tapestry. Do not carry any plastic bags.

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