Ladakh or the ‘Land of High Passes’ is a barren yet beautiful region located in the north Indian state of Sharing its east border with Tibet, Ladakh has to its south and the Kashmir valley to the west. Strategically placed on ancient trade routes, Ladakh lies between the Kunlun Mountains in the north and the Himalayas in the south. The region originally comprised the Baltistan valley, the Indus Valley, , Lahaul, Spiti, Aksai Chin and Ngari. Ladakh is a mountainous region in the disputed northwest area in north and in the area known as the Trans-Himalaya, (the lands beyond the Himalaya . It’s slightly smaller than the settled population live between 2700m and 4500m, and nomadic encampments even higher, and it’s the largest and the least populated region of The people are a mixture of Buddhist and Muslim 50% of each. Buddhists are the majority in the east close to the Chinese border and a slight majority overall while Muslims have the majority in the north and west. Travellers are likely to see more of the Buddhists as the majority of the tourist attractions are in the east and directly related to Tibetan Buddhist culture.
Ladakh was an independent kingdom for nine centuries, but it was very strongly influenced by Tibet and the neighbouring Muslim region. Linguistically Ladakhi is very closely related to Tibet has always been where Ladakhi Buddhists would go for higher religious education, which since the incorporation of Tibet into China has meant the Ladakhis have made the much shorter trip to the Tibetan monasteries in India. The architecture of Ladakh is almost identical to that of Tibet, both of residential buildings and of the monasteries. The class structure, or more precisely the lack of a sharply defined class structure, is common to Tibet and Ladakh, and is in sharp contrast to the rest of India. Related to this is the relatively high status, freedom and outspokenness of Buddhist women in Ladakh and Tibet.Importantly, a set of cultural practices that keep the population from growing to be more than the land can support, and to prevent a farm from being divided up and thus being unable to support a family, is common to both cultures Monasteries: these would take large numbers of the monks and nuns and thus keep the population at a stable level.Polyandry: a practice where one woman marries all the brothers of a family to prevent the family’s land from being divided, was common in both Ladakh and Tibet until well into the 20th century.
Primogeniture: a system where the inheritance after a man’s death (primarily the land) would pass to his oldest son in order to keep farms large enough to support a family.Khangbu: the little house to which the father and mother would retire once their eldest son married and took over the management of the farm, inheriting the main house along with it.However, Tibet was far from the only influence on Ladakh. Where Tibet was largely closed off to outside influence, Ladakh was a nation where the caravan trade played an important role. Traders from the neighbouring Muslim lands (both Kashmir and East Turkistan, now the Xinjiang province of China) were a common sight in Leh’s bazaar until the 20th century. The folk music is based on the styles of the Muslim parts of the Western Himalayas; likewise polo was imported from these lands and enjoys popularity to this day with Ladakhis regardless of faith.
Over the last couple of decades the relationship between Buddhists and Muslims in Ladakh has deteriorated – possibly due to the complex roles of the communities as minorities relative to each other. Muslims are a minority in Leh, a majority in J&K, a minority in India; Buddhists a majority in Leh, a minority in J&K to Muslims and, in India, to Hindus. Possibly due to the importation of identity politics from the rest of India. Whatever the reason, it has never erupted into the kind of violence seen elsewhere in India at times, but it still may take the sheen out of a place that seems remarkably idyllic, when a new friend says something that’s hard not to hear as racist.