Ladakh / Zanskar
Ladakh literally means 'the land of many passes' . Situated in the northern most extremity of India, Ladakh lies among parallel mountain ranges running from south-east to north-west. To the north tower the stark snow clad mountains of the Karakorum and Kun Lun range separating India from Central Asia and Tibet. The stunningly awesome granite hills of the Ladakh range starts from the Indus - Shyok confluence while the drawn-out mountain maze of the Zanskar range that consists of sedimentary layered hills and aeons ago an ocean bed, stands as the dividing line between the Indus Valley and the Zanskar region. The Great Himalayan Range in its southern extremity demarcates Ladakh from the lush green Kashmir Vale and Himachal Pradesh. On its northern frontier lie the highlands of Aksai Chin and the vast Soda plains while to the west is the hauntingly beautiful Kanjit region of the Hunza valley.
Ladakh is a land that has an amazing diversity of landscapes with people residing at altitudes ranging from 2700 to 4500 metres while the nomadic Changpa roam and camp at even higher altitudes. People over the centuries have adapted comfortably to the harsh barren land and the high altitudes. The people here are predominantly Buddhists, followed by Muslims and a small population of Moravian Christians in Leh. The many ancient monasteries dotting the countryside that still function act as a unifying factor have a strong influence on the Ladakhi and his lifestyle even with modern attitudes slowly creeping in.
Leh at 3505m is the principal town of Ladakh and was once a meeting place of the ancient trade caravans traversing the high routes into the legendary Central Asian bazaars of Yarkhand, Kashgar and Kotan. Leh is like a delightful green Oasis amidst a landscape of grey, mud brown monotonous slopes and is today a popular destination and the strategic point from where most treks and other tours begin. It has restaurants serving Indian and European cuisine beside the traditional meal - a bowl of boiled noodles topped with a meat broth washed down with salted butter tea. Hotels range from budget to Luxury and offer surprisingly modern facilities.
Traveling to Zanskar is certainly not for the frail heart. Zansakar is located in the interior of Leh Ladakh region and is considered best destination for rafting, trekking and mountaineering. The snow-capped peaks are other attractions in Zanskar. Leh is the entry point to Zanskar and the most economical and convenient way to reach Leh is to take a flight to Leh.

People & Culture

LADAKH: People of Ladakh has its own culture and heritage which survived in this remote part of the Himalayas since thousands of years. Life is infact tough at this altitude, and hence the survival strategy of Ladakhis make them unique with their culture and tradition. Most of the Ladakhis are Buddhist by faith, which has also changed the way of life. Despite tourism trade fuelling the economy, agriculture is the basic source of livelihood. Many traditional innovation are made to grow their food source in a very short season of around four months.
Changpas are the nomadic community of Ladakh, inhabiting the Changthang region. Changthang is the vast eastern region, bordering Tibet and China. Due to its altitude, it is inhospitable to agriculture. Therefore, the natives are nomadic stock-herders. Another community considered to be pure Aryan, and that once flourished throughout Ladakh, is also found in pockets of West Ladakh, called Drokpa. The Drokpas of today are actually Dards who remained Buddhists but at the same time retaining their own peculiar traditions with many pantheons, of Bon-chos, a pre-Buddhist religion. Because of the peculiarity of their origin, Drokpas are world famous, especially among anthropologists. The Drokpas are also different in their body features. They have more prominent nose and blue eyes. They also wear lot of silver jewellery and natural flowers on their caps.
ZANSKAR: The travelers from India will look in vain for similarities between the land and people he has left and those he encounters in Ladakh. The faces and physique of the Ladakhis, and the clothes they wear , are more akin to those of Tibet and Central Asia than of India. The original population may have been dards, an Indo -Aryan race from down the Indus. But Immigration from Tibet, perhaps the millennium or so ago, largely overwhelmed the culture of the Dards and Obliterated their racial characteristics. In Eastern and central Ladakh, todays population seems to be mostly of Tibetan origin. Further west, in and around Kargil, there is much in the people's appearance that suggests a mixed origin. Buddhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh, and there are ancient Buddist rock engravings all over the region, even in areas like Dras and the lower Suru Valley which today are inhabited by an exclusively Muslim population. Islam too came from the west. A peaceful penetration of the Shia sect spearheaded by missionaries, its success was guaranteed by the early conversion of the sub-rulers of Dras, Kargil and the Suru Valley. The demeanor of the people is affected by their religion, especially among the women. Among the Buddhists, as also the Muslims of the Leh areas, women not only work in the house and field, but also do business and interact freely with men other than their own relations. The Natural joie -de-vivre of the Ladakhis is given free rein by the ancient traditions of the region. Monastic and other religious festivals, many of which fall in winter, provide the excuse for convivial gatherings. Summer pastimes all over the region are archery and polo. Among the Buddhists, these often develop into open air parties accompanied by dance and song, at which chang, the local brew made from fermented barley, flows freely.

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