Why You Should Not Visit Leh- Ladakh?

tanglang la pass in leh

Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery – John Ruskin

Ladakh or land of high passes is a beautiful region in the North Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has Tibet in the East, Lahaul and Spiti to its South and Kashmir valley to the West.

Ladakh can be called Small Paradise with its snow capped peaks, clear blue skies and vistas of barren mountains. Ladakh is also known as little Tibet because of its similarity to the Tibetan culture. Tibetan Buddhists  form major part of population, the main inhabitants of region are of Indo Aryan and Tibetan descent. Shia Muslims are other inhabitants of this area. Ladakh situated at the lap of Himalayas is one of the coldest region in the world. For about six months every year it remains cut off from the world due to heavy snowfall.

ladakh tibetan prayer flags

The barren beautiful landscapes of Ladakh has attracted growing number of tourists in the past few decades and its still continue to do so. Its glorious mountains, still and amazing lakes, ancient beautiful Monasteries attracts tourists from all over the world.

History

Various rock carvings and Inscriptions found on the walls of  various monasteries and mountains of  Ladakh states  that the history of Ladakh dates back to Neolithic  period.The Indo Aryans are first inhabitants of this place. Around first century Ladakh was part of Kusha empire. Buddhism crept in the place around second century. In 1842 ,Nyima – Gon,Tibetan prince founded separate Ladakhi dynasty. Buddhism soon became the dominant Religion. Muslim armies began to invade Ladakh from the west.

In the 16th century province fell into the hands of Ali Mir of Balistan but in the 17th century under the the famous king Sengge Namgyal Buddhism bounced back. who established new capital at Leh. Ladakh finally came under the kingdom of Dogra Rajas of Jammu in 1846. Since than Ladakh has been ruled as sub district of Jammu and Kashmir.

Culture of Ladakh

festivals in leh ladakh

Image source- Incredible Rural India

Religion

The people of Ladakh region profess 3 Religions namely Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. The Leh district being predominantly Buddhists and the Kargil district predominantly Shia Muslims. Sikhs and Christians too occupy small space in Ladakh.

Festivals

Ladakhi  festivals are all about traditional dancing, singing and colorful masks. The strong influence of Buddhism can be seen in its fairs and festivals. People who are curious about  Ladakh’s culture and way of life, it is great opportunity to be part of these festivals and experience the rich and unique culture of Ladakh. Most of these festivals take place in winters. They usually take place in forms of dance and drama. Lamas robed in colorful garments and wearing masks performs Mimes representing various aspects of Buddhist Religion.

Losar Festival

losar festival in leh ladakh

image source

In Tibet Losar means New Year. Losar is one of the important and beautiful festival in Ladakh. This festival is celebrated for 15 days in which first 3 days are the main days. In this festival people engage in singing, dancing and feasting in Monastery. It is also known as New year festival. It is usually celebrated in 3rd week of December. During this festival the Ladakhi Buddhists makes religious offering before the deities in the domestic Shrines in Gompas.

Ladakh festival

ladakh festival in leh city

Image source- Nature track lovers

Ladakh festival was one of the popular festival. The annual festival of Ladakh is held in the first two weeks of September. People participate in colorful dancing, sports and ceremonies with great enthusiasm. Exhibitions are held throughout Ladakh. The first day starts with march of Ladakhi people, monks in yellow and orange robes, polo and archery troupes etc through the main street of the Leh. People also indulge in other activities like mask dancing, archery and polo competitions.

Hemis Tsechu festival

Hemis Tsechu festival, Hemis monastery, Ladakh

Hemis festival is held in Hemis Monastery. It is celebrated in the month of July. The Hemis festival is celebrated on the  10th day {Tse Chu} of the Tibetan lunar month as the birthday of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. It attracts tourists and local people from all over Ladakh and other parts of the world. The Hemis Monasteries has many big and small temples dedicated to Buddhist divinities. The Lamas of Monastery perform sacred monastic dance drama  and end with sacrificial offering on last day.

Sindhu Darshan

ladakh indus river festival

Image source – Michelle Rousell

Sindhu Darshan festival is held at Leh in Ladakh district. its a 3 day festival from 1st to 3rd June. celebrated in Leh on banks  of Indus river. It is held every year on Full Moon day ( Guru Purnima ) It is celebrated to endorse the Indus river (Sindhu river) as a icon of communal harmony and unity of India. This festival also remembers and pay respect to the brave Indian soldiers who endangered their lives to protect us and maintain peace and harmony in the state.

During the festival artists from different parts of country perform traditional dances and people of all Religion, caste and regions participate.

Read: Complete guide to Spiti Valley

Monasteries in Ladakh

Thikse Monastery - Thikse monastery or gompa is situated on the top of a hill in "Thikse " village , which is 20 km east in leh , Ladakh region of "Jammu and kashmir " at an altitude of 3600 metres in "Indus valley " . This Gompa is also noted fir its resemblance to the "Potala palace" which is in "lahasa " , Tibet .

Ladakh is mostly inspired by Buddhist culture and Religion. Ladakh is full of beautiful and spectacular Monasteries with rich architecture and history. Monasteries are also called Gompas. There are more than 100 Gompas in Ladakh. Some of them are The Phugtal Monastery, Hemis Monastery, Matho Monastery, Rangdum Monastery, Alchi Monastery, Phyang Monastery etc .

 

Food of Ladakh

thupka in leh ladakh

image source- Dharmshala

Thukpa is the most favorite dish of Ladakhi people. This delicious dish is a noodle soup with boiled vegetables, chunks of chicken, pork etc. Butter tea was one of the signature dish of Ladakh. This pink color tea has unique taste and fragrance. It is made up of tea leaves, butter, salt and water. Momos are yummiest food of Ladakh. Momos are made with a simple flour and water dough. Minced meat, vegetables or cheese are stuffed in flour dough’s and dumplings are made. In Momos we can stuff any ingredients of our choice. Momos can be veg or non veg depending on our preference. After stuffing Momos can be steamed or fried.

 

Music and dance

dance festival ladakh

Image source – Ladakh

Folk dances are part of culture of Ladakh. These dances are colorful, majestic and full of life. Some of the famous dances are Jabro dance, zoshan dance and yak dance etc. The Religious dance performed by the Lamas in the courtyard of Gompas are called Chhams and is related to Monastic festivals. Traditional music includes instruments like Surna and daman (shehnai and drums).

Flora and Fauna

flora fauna in ladakh

 

Ladakh is heaven for people who have passion for birds. Here one can find large diversity of birds. A total of 225 species have  been recorded. Many birds migrate from the warm parts of India to spend summer in Ladakh. Mammals of Ladakh include blue sheep’s, musk deer, snow leopards etc. Vegetation in Ladakh is very sparse due to extreme cold and dry climate.

Read: Top 10 villages to visit in Himachal Pradesh

Top Places to Visit In Ladakh

Leh

lakakh tibetan market

Leh is the capital of Ladakh. It is the largest district of Jammu and Kashmir. Leh is well connected by roads and also airways. Manali Leh and Srinagar Leh highways are most frequent routes by tourists during summer. Leh is crowded with tourists and local people in summer. The bazaar and roadside shops add charm to this place. They sell precious and semi precious stones, dry fruits, daily wears, sheep wool etc. Leh has nine storey palace and Buddhist Temples. Gompas and ecological centers are other attractions. It is also famous for trekking routes and water rafting in the Indus river.

PangongTso

Pangong Tso also called Pangong lake is a beautiful and colorful lake of Himalayas.The color of the lake is awesome, one can also see 3 to 4 colors at different time. The lake has sparse vegetation but one can find numerous ducks and gulls here. After the tiresome journey, visiting this lake can be very refreshing and soothing to the soul.

Diskit Monastery

diskit monastry leh ladakh

Diskit is largest and oldest Monastery in Nubra valley. Nearby there is Huge statue of Maitrey Buddha.

Gurudwara Pathar Sahib

Gurudwara Pathar Saheb is dedicated to Guru Nanak, founder of Sikhism. It is a small but beautiful Gurudwara. This place is maintained by Indian Army.

Photography credit Saket Sankhyan. Saket Sankhyan is an extreme traveler who has been traveling in the Himalayas for the past 10 years. Currently he owns a cottage and cafe in Jibhi a hidden jewel in the Himalayas. So its my personal suggestion if you ever visit Jibhi do stay with IFEELHIMALAYAS

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