Ladakh is a land like no other. Bounded by two of the world's mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram, it lies athwart two other, the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range.
In geological terms, this is a young land, formed only a few million years ago by the buckling and folding of the earth's crust as the Indian sub-continent pushed with irresistible force against the immovable mass of Asia. Its basic contours, uplifted by these unimaginable tectonic movements, have been modified over the millennia by the opposite process of erosion, sculpted into the form we see today by wind and water.
Ladakh lies at altitudes ranging from about 9,000 feet (2750m) at Kargil to 25,170 feet (7,672m) at Saser Kangri in the Karakoram. Thus summer temperatures rarely exceed about 27 degree celcius in the shade, while in winter they may plummet to minus 20 degree celcius even in Leh. Surprisingly, though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes; it is said that only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke and frostbite at the same time!
Ladakh is sandwiched between two vast mountain systems, the Karakoram to the north and the Himalaya to the south. Covering an area of about 60,000 sq km and ranging in elevation from 2600m to 7070 m, it is the largest and highest district in India. The Indus valley is the Ladakhi heartland, with the highest population density, and large amounts of agricultural land. Running parallel, roughly north-east south-west with it are a series of valleys and mountain ranges. North of the Indus valley is the Ladakh range, on the other side of which is the Shayok, and Nubra valleys.
Ladakh is country's coldest, highest and the driest zone. Ladakh has a cool and generally dry mountain climate. Much of Ladakh is above 11,000 feet (3,350 M). Therefore, you can expect warm to hot days in the summer and cool nights. In winter the temp may drop as low as
-35*C. There is occasional snowfall in winter caused by "Western Disturbances". Summer days are generally warm, 25-30*C. Annual rainfall does not normally exceed 10cm/3.5 in though over the past decade or so there have been occasional spells of unusually heavy rainfall.
Information on Ladakh before the birth of the kingdom (10th century) is scarce. Ladakh can hardly be considered a separate political entity before the establishment of the kingdom about 950 CE, after the collapse of the early Tibetan Empire and the border regions became independent kingdoms under independent rulers, most of who came from branches of the Tibetan royal family.
The earliest layer in the population of Ladakh was probably composed of the Dardi.Herodotus mentions twice a people called Dadikai, first along with the Gandarioi, and again in the catalogue of king Xerxes's army invading Greece. Herodotus also mentions the gold-digging ants of Central Asia, which is also later mentioned in connection with the Dardi people by Nearchus, the admiral of Alexander, and Megasthenes
The language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan dialect with written Ladakhi being the same as Tibetan. Tibetans can learn Ladakhi easily but Tibetan is difficult to speak for Ladakhis. Spoken Ladakhi is closer to the Tibetan spoken in Western Tibet. Ladakhi language is a shared culture platform which brings the Muslims and Buddhists together as one people of this Himalayan region. Ladakhis usually know Hindi and often English.
Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being: Thukpa, noodle soup; and Tsumpa, known in Ladakhi as Ngampe, roasted barley flour, eatable without cooking it makes useful, if dull trekking food.
A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu , a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables.
Flora & Fauna of Ladakh
Ladakh's flora and fauna are more similar to those of Tibet than to the main Himalaya and are a product of the dry climate, cold winters and short growing season. The animals of Ladakh have much in common with the animals of Central Asia generally, and especially those of the Tibetan Plateau.
- Zanskar (also Zangskar ) is a region in Ladakh north west India . It is famous for its stunning scenery and Tibetan-style Buddhist monasteries. It borders on Ladakh to which it is almost identical from an outsider's point of view, only being more remote and less densely populated, with less infrastructure.
- Nubra valley, north of Leh, located between the Ladakh Range and the Lofty eastern Karakoram mountains , lies Nubra, a region part green, part rocky and barren and part , rather surprisingly Desert and camels too. A region very unique in itself!
- Pangong Lake, this vast lake, 150km long and 4 km wide, stretches from the north -east of Ladakh across the border of Tibet.There are some interesting birds around the lake shore including a few pairs of the very rare endangered black -necked crane.
- Tsomoriri Lake, this high altitude lake is situated in the Rupshu region of eastern Ladakh near the border with Tibet. The mountains to the east of the Lake are crowned by two of Ladakh's highest summits, the Lungser Kangri (6666m/21,870 ft) and to its north, Chamser Kangri (6622m/21,712 ft).
- Dha hanu, downstream from Khaltse along the lower Indus , live a group of people known as Brokpas, an isolated people of the purest Aryan stock who are racially , and in some ways culturally , very different from most Ladakhis. They are the only ones to have preserved their unique form of Buddhism which is mixed with the pre Bhuddist animistic religion, Bon.
Monasteries of Ladakh
- Lamayuru Gompa
Location 125 Km from Leh
Founded in 11th century by Mahasiddhacharya Naropa
- Alchi Gompa
Location 67 Km from Leh
Founded in 1000 AD by Rinchen Zangpo1000 AD
- Likir Gompa
Location 60 Km from Leh
Founded in 9th century by Lama Duwang Chusje
Location 70 Km from Leh
Founded in 1831 AD by Lama Tsultim Nima
- Phyang Monastery
Location 26 Km from Leh
Founded in1515 by Chosje Damma Kunga
- Spituk Monastery
Location 7 Km from Leh
Founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od in 11th century
- Namgyal Tsemo
Location in Leh town Just above the leh Palace on a Hill
Founded by King Tashi Namgyal in 1430 AD
- Sankar Gompa
Location 1 Km north of Leh
- Shanti Stupa
Situated in Leh Town near Changspa
Founded by a Japaneese Monk in 1984
- Chemrey Gompa
Location: 45 Km
Founded in 17th century by Lama Tagsang Raschen
- Hemis Monastery
Location: 46 Km
Founded in 1630 by First incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso
- Stakna Monastery
Location 25 Kms from Leh
Founded by Chosje Jamyang Palkar in 16th century.
- Thiksey Gompa
Location Thicksey Village 20 Kms from Leh
Founnded in 1430 AD. By Spon Paldan Sherab, nephew of Sherab Zangpo
- Shey Palace & Gompa
Location : 14 Kms from Leh
Founded by King Deldan Namgyal in 17th century
- Stok Gompa
Location 14 kms from Leh
Lama Lhawang Lotus in 14th Century
- Diskit Gompa
Location: Nubra valley 130 Kms from Leh
Founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo in 14th century.
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