Ladakh, located in the north of India is characterized by barren lands and snow-clad mountains. The present Ladakh consists of Leh and Kargil of India whereas Skarda and Gilgit, once the parts of pre-Independence Wazarat of Ladakh, are now parts of Pakistan.
Ladakh stands on the old Central Asian trade route and the halting place, both for the trading caravans and armies. Traders from Baltistan, Kashmir, Central Asian countries, Tibet, China and Punjab, and the Flajis proceeded to Mecca for Haj through Ladakh. The region has its unique historical, cultural, political and strategic importance, right from the past to present day.
The Ladakhis have their own traditional lifestyle, customs, ethical and aesthetic values which constitute the rich fabric of India. The book highlights the different dynasties who ruled Ladakh, which primarily include the Lachhen, the Namgyal, the Dogras, Wazir Zorawar Singh, and the invasion on Ladakh by Tibet. All the text offers good comparative studies of the past and present Ladakh in the wake of paucity of authentic information on Ladakh.
The book will be very useful to the students, teachers; researchers and also to the spiritual world.
Zain-uI-Aabedin Aabedi, M.A. and M.Ed. from Kashmir University, retired as Principal, Boys Higher Secondary School, Leh. During his service he participated in many seminars and workshops and presented papers on history, religion, culture and social life of North India. He also served as Principal of the prestigious Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya for a period of five years. He has written over a hundred articles for All India Radio and Doordarshan, Leh. Several of his articles have been published in different magazines, books and national dailies. His poetry in Urdu and Ladakhi on various social, cultural, educational and religious topics is articulate, interesting and impressive. He has written one book勇mergence of Islam in Ladakh (2009, Atlantic Publishers); and translated one book History of Tibet and Great Tibet, authored by Hashmatullah. One Urdu poetry book written by him is under publication. He is also a member of IALS (International Association for Ladakh Studies); and IARF (International Association for Religious Freedom).
It gives me pleasure that Mr. Zain-ul-Aabedin Aabedi is bringing the title Ladakh Then and Now to present precisely the essential information regarding the history of Ladakh. The book covers the brief history of Lachen dynasty, Namgyal dynasty, Dogra's invasion to Ladakh and the great and unforgettable contribution of contemporary leaders of Ladakh, right from K.G. Bakula Rinpochey to present date, in the development and upliftment of Ladakhi Society.
The author has also reflected how the economic, social, cultural, spiritual, and educational changes are taking place in the region with the passage of time.
I hope this book will help to bridge the gap between the past and present Ladakh and would prove beneficial, informative and educative to the students, teachers, scholars, historians, and researchers. My best wishes are with him.
Ladakh had been an independent state from 10th century AD to 19th century under the rule of Lachen and Namgyal Kings. Lachen Spalgi Nima Gon was the first king who established the Lachen dynasty in 900 AD and ruled over Ladakh from Shay as its capital. Tsephel Tundup Namgyal was the last king who was dethroned by the Dogras. Wazir Zorawar Singh conquered both Ladakh and Baltistan at the command of Maharaja Gulab Singh, and annexed them to Jammu kingdom through a treaty of peace, signed on September 17, 1842. However, the British handed over Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1846 AD by the treaty of Amritsar, which was signed on March 16, 1846. Ladakh became an integral part of J&K State, and eventually of the Republic of India in the wake of India's Independence in 1947. After three years in 1950, the People's Republic of China brought Tibet and Xinjiang under its control, and the age-old trade relations between Ladakh and central Asia got terminated. Trade with Tibet came to an end in 1960. Thereby Ladakh lost its importance as a trade centre and ceased to receive information and trade goods from these countries. Ladakhi people depended for many things on their neighbours. Whenever trade was disrupted on account of disturbances in neighbouring states, shortage of general goods occurred in Ladakh and this led to hardships. Moreover, the region suffered a lot spiritually, because of prohibition on entry into Tibet.
Consequent upon the annexation of Ladakh to the State of J&K in 1842 during the reign of Maharaja Gulab Singh, the Dogras took steps to administer the region through an administrative head known as "Thanedar". The first such functionary was Magna Thanedar. The Thanedars enjoyed both the civil and military powers. Post-Independence Ladakh consists of the two districts of Leh and Kargil, whereas Skardo and Gilgit, which were parts of pre-Independence Wazarat of Ladakh, are now parts of Pakistan's northern area. Once Leh was the summer capital and Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh. Ladakh is surrounded by important nations of central Asia. It touches the borders of China and Pakistan. Thus, it is an important region from defence and strategic point of view as well. The town of Leh is situated at an altitude of 11,500 ft. above sea level. The highest road and highest airfield in the world are also located in Ladakh.
The climate of Ladakh is severe with aridity as its essential feature and is caused by the Himalayan Wall which prevents moisture-laden clouds of the Indian monsoon from entering there. That is why the climate of the region is extremely dry. The climate of the region was not so rigorous thousands of years ago, when its substantial part was covered with lakes and the quantity of rainfall was much higher than the present three or four inches annually. Ladakh's landscape would have naturally been different then with plenty of water around, which was subsequently drained off by the geological phenomena like earthquakes and flash floods. Now we experience intense heat under direct sunshine and biting cold after the sunset. The forbidding climate, remoteness, and inaccessibility kept the region isolated except for traders for centuries, especially during winter, when due to heavy snowfall, both Zojila and Ratangla are closed for about six months.
Ladakh forms one of the most elevated areas of the world and there are human habitations ranging from 9,000 to about 15,000 feet above sea level. The great River of Ladakh is the Indus and its principal tributaries are Zanskar, Daras, Shayok, and Shigar. The Indus has given India its name. It is called "Sindhu" in India. The word `Sindhu' emerged from Sindh, then became Hindu, and finally Hindustan, which is the name of our beloved country. The source of the river is at Kailash-Mansarovar and the water of the Indus is considered sacred both for the Buddhists and the Hindus, and especially for the Sindhis. The Sindhu-Darshan, Singgay-Khababs festival is being celebrated annually at Shay Mania for the last 15 years since 1997, and besides the Ladakhis, many pilgrims and :wrists from adjoining areas attend the festival. The traditional Ladakhi belief held that the source of the river at Niansarovar is like a "lion's mouth", therefore, they call it Singgay Khabab, which means "lion's mouth". Some of the prominent lakes of Ladakh are situated in Changthang region. They are Pangong Lake, Khumdan Lake, Tsomoriri Lake, 'funamtso Lake, Hanley Lake, Kyagartso Lake, and Tsorul Lake. There is heavier snowfall around Pangong Lake because of intense humidity.
Ladakh attracts a host of expeditionists, writers, poets, saints, and scholars. Volumes of books have been devoted to highlight the uniqueness of its history and cultural heritage. Thousands of tourists from all over the world have been visiting this place for many decades. The heavy influx of visitors in summer has transformed Ladakh, especially Leh town, into a busy and crowded place. During the summer season, the local population is outnumbered in the crowd of visitors and labourers from outside Ladakh. However, some factors such as the growing influence of Western culture and changing social attitudes of the people are worrying. It would be unfortunate if in the grab of development and modernization we abandon our traditional lifestyle, customs, and ethical and aesthetic values. Hence, there is an urgent need for introspection and make the people aware of the consequences of such unhealthy trends.
My purpose of writing this book is to open to the readers the vast field of historical and political knowledge about Ladakh, and to give a brief description of the rulers of Lachen dynasty (1020-1500), Namgyal dynasty (1500-1834), Nominal kings (1835-42), Dogra rulers (1842-1966), and about the political leaders of the post-Independence period.
Ladakh has experienced tremendous changes during the last four decades. The increase in literacy rate, fast growth of employment potential, sharp rise of economic opportunities, inflow of tourists since 1974, adoption of some agriculture innovations, and growth in internal trade and business have opened up new avenues of earning. As a result, there have been profound changes in our economic and social order. Certain issues pertaining to Ladakhi culture, agriculture, society, education, ecology, politics, and religion have been discussed in this book.
Ladakh remained quite isolated in the past for centuries together, except, for a limited number of traders, due to harsh topography and climate, remoteness, and inaccessibility. Efforts have been made to write briefly on the role of eminent political personalities of the post-Independence period who were deeply associated with this region, right from Kushok Gyalrsas Bakula to the present period. Efforts have also been made to mention the socio-cultural developments and events which have occurred in the past few decades.
My thanks are due to all the well wishers and scholars who guided and helped me with their valuable suggestions. I am indebted to Mr. Vilayat Ali Abbasi for patiently and painstakingly going through the whole manuscript. I am also grateful to authors and historians whose thought and literary work helped me to accomplish the task of writing this book. It is hoped that the book will be very useful to the students and teachers of history, historians, and researchers in this field.
Healthy suggestions from historians, academicians and scholars are, however, welcome.
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