Ladakh, the region of mountain
passes, a piece of broken moon land- a perfect place to witness the unmatched
beauty of nature. Ladakh is the highest plateau of the Indian state of Kashmir
with much of it being over 3,000m. It lies between 32 to 36 degree north
latitude and 75 to 80 degree east longitude. The total area of 45110sq km makes
Ladakh the largest district in India. Ladakh region is bifurcated in Kargil and
Leh districts. Kargil lies at an altitude of 2750m and Leh at 3505m. The largest
town in Ladakh is Leh.
Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain
beauty and culture. It spans the Great Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges
and the upper Indus River Valley. The district bordered Pakistan occupied
Kashmir in the west and China in the north and Eastern part and Lahul Spiti of
Himachal Pradesh in the South east. Ladakh’s ethnic composition consisted of
Mongoloid and a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards. It is sometimes
called little Tibet due to strong cultural and geographical similarities with
Tibet. The approach to Ladakh is invariably marked with many long walls running
2-3 kms, decorated with engraved stones bearing the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hun”
and Chortens which symbolizes Buddha’s mind.
Around the first century, Ladakh was a
part of the Kushana Empire. Buddhism came to western Ladakh via Kashmir in the
2nd century. Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Leh District’s
population. The most attractive features of the Landscape of Leh are the
Buddhists Gompas ( Monastries). The Gompas are situated on the highest points of
the mountain spurs or sprawl over cliffsides, located in vicinity of villages
and provide focus for the faith of Buddhists. Gompas have a wreath of artifacts.
There are also some religious places of Muslims which constitute slightly more
than 15% of the district’s population.
Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the
Himalayas create a rain shadow thus prohibiting the entry of monsoon clouds. The
main source of water here remains the winter snowfall on the mountains that
forms the glaciers. Like in the rest of the parts of the country where people
pray for rain, here Ladakhis pray for the glaciers or snows to melt for
irrigation and drinking purposes. Surprisingly though, the thin air makes the
heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes. Only in Ladakh can a
man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke n
frostbite at the same time.