From Academic Kids

Missing image
Tikse monastery, Ladakh
Missing image
Hemis Monastery in the 1870s

Ladakh is the largest district of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, covering more than half the area of the state (of which it is the eastern part). Nevertheless Ladakh is one of the least populated districts in India. It is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Tibetan Buddhist culture; it is sometimes called "Little Tibet". The capital is Leh. Recent protests by the people of Ladakh have called to make the Kashmiri district a new Indian union territory because of its difference from predominantly Islamic Kashmir.



Ladakh was once an independent Buddhist kingdom. A breakdown in relations with Tibet in the 17th century resulted in an attempted invasion by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Kashmiri help restored Ladakhi rule at a price - the building of a mosque in Leh and the conversion of the Ladakhi king to Islam. Kashmir later went on to annex Ladakh, ending its independence and in the long run making it part of British India. The kingdom's former land is now divided between India, Pakistan, and the Aksai Chin district of the People's Republic of China.


Ladakh is the highest altitude district in India (much of it being over 3,000 m), straddling the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River valley.

An archery contest in Leh, Ladakh
An archery contest in Leh, Ladakh

Historic Ladakh consists of a number of distinct areas (mainly under Indian rule), including the fairly populous main Indus valley, the more remote Zanskar (in the south) and Nubra valleys (to the north over Khardung La in the Ladakh mountain range, the highest motorable pass in the world at 5,602 m or 18,380 ft), the almost deserted Aksai Chin (under Chinese rule) and the predominantly Shi'ite Moslem Kargil and Suru Valley areas in the west (Kargil being the second most important town in Ladakh).

The Skardu area, under Pakistani rule and entirely Moslem, is sometimes additionally loosely included in what is geographically referred to as Ladakh.


Unlike the rest of Jammu and Kashmir which is mainly Islamic, Ladakh is a predominantly Buddhist area, with most Ladakhis following the tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism, although a sizeable number follow Islam, principally among the related Balti.

This is evidenced by the high number of Buddhist monasteries including Shey, Tikse, Hemis, Alchi, Stongdey and Lamayuru (each called locally a 'gompa' meaning 'monastery'). Ladakhis mostly speak a dialect of Tibetan referred to as Ladakhi, and there are some differences in language. The most obvious one to outsiders being the use of 'Julay' instead of 'Tashi Delek' for 'hello'.

The Balti language, which is spoken mainly in Kargil, shares close affinities with Ladakhi.


With the Jammu and Kashmir crisis making the Kashmir valley a no-go area for tourists, the Indian Government encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities to the relatively unaffected areas of Buddhist eastern Ladakh. Tourism thus became a major source of income for what previously was a subsistence, agricultural economy.


The main corridor for trade and commerce in the area has also shifted from the Zoji-La pass and Kargil route from Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley, to the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The latter is open only between July and September, when snow is cleared from the road. There is one airport, situated at Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar.


  • Cunningham, Alexander. 1854. Ladak: Physical, Statistical, and Historical; with notices of the surrounding countries. Reprint: Sagar Publications, New Delhi. 1977.
  • Drew, Federic. 1877. The Northern Barrier of India: a popular account of the Jammoo and Kashmir Territories with Illustrations. 1st edition: Edward Stanford, London. Reprint: Light & Life Publishers, Jammu. 1971.
  • Francke, A. H. 1920, 1926. Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Vol. 1: Personal Narrative; Vol. 2: The Chronicles of Ladak and Minor Chronicles, texts and translations, with Notes and Maps. Reprint 1972. S. Chand & Co., New Delhi.
  • Gordon, T. E. 1876. The Roof of the World: Being the Narrative of a Journey over the high plateau of Tibet to the Russian Frontier and the Oxus sources on Pamir. Edinburgh. Edmonston and Douglas. Reprint: Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company. Tapei. 1971.
  • Knight, E. F. 1893. Where Three Empires Meet: A Narrative of Recent Travel in: Kashmir, Western Tibet, Gilgit, and the adjoining countries. Longmans, Green, and Co., London. Reprint: Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company, Taipei. 1971.
  • Moorcroft, William and Trebeck, George. 1841. Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Hindustan and the Panjab; in Ladakh and Kashmir, in Peshawar, Kabul, Kunduz, and Bokhara... from 1819 to 1825, Vol. II. Reprint: New Delhi, Sagar Publications, 1971.
  • Peissel, Michel. 1984. The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas. Harvill Press, London.

External links

de:Ladakh fr:Ladakh nl:Ladakh


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