Ladakh means “land of high passes”. Is a region in India totally isolated from the modern world? A land of varying landscapes, from white deserts to blue lakes, ice-capped mountains to lush valleys, Ladakh, like a dream captured in a snow globe, is a wildly beautiful milieu set between the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas. Located in a valley just north of the Indus River is Leh, the capital of Ladakh, a region often referred to as ‘Little Tibet’.
The centuries-old culture of this picturesque capital city finds expression in its monuments, monasteries, oral literature, art forms, fairs and festivals. An authentic land, it is faithful to ancestral customs where life is characterized by intense spirituality. Ladakh lies at an altitude from 9000 ft. to 25170 feet that currently extends from the Karakorum mountain range in the north to the main great Himalayas to the south,
Until the coming of the aircraft, the only access into this remote, high Trans- Himalayan kingdom was across several high pass crossings. Being in a complete rain shadow region, cut off from the monsoon clouds by the Great Himalayas and a host of subsidiary ranges, it is a cold high altitude desert where the wind, water from the minimal winter snows, and chemical reactions within the rocks themselves, have carved a fantastic, sometimes grotesque, landscape.
The Suru and Zanskar valleys form a great trough enclosed by the Himalayas and the Zanskar Range. Rangdum is the highest inhabited region in the suru valley, after which the valley rises to 4,400m (14,400ft) at Pensi-La, the gateway to Zanskar. Kargil, the only town in the Suru valley, is the second most important town in Ladakh. It was an important staging post on the routes of the trade caravans before 1947, being more or less equidistant, at about 230 kilometers from Srinagar, Leh skardu and Padum.
The Zaskar valley lies in the troughs of the Stod and the Lungnak rivers. The region experiences heavy snowfall; the Pensi-la is open only between June and mid-October. Drass and Mushkon valley from the western extremity of Ladakh.
Ladakh’s earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards, who emigrated from areas to the south of the Himalayas thousands of years ago. Around the 1st century; Ladakh was a part of the Kushanan Empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practicing the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang also describes the region in his accounts.
In the 8th century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between Tibetan expansion pressing from the East and Chinese influence exerted from Central Asia through the passes. Suzerainty over Ladakh frequently changed hands between China and Tibet. In 842 Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal representative annexed Ladakh for himself after the break-up of the Tibetan empire, and founded a separate Ladakhi dynasty. During this period Ladakh acquired a predominantly Tibetan population. The dynasty spearheaded the second spreading of Buddhism, importing religious ideas from northwest India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper. Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet.
Leh with an area of 45110 Sq Km makes it largest district in the country in terms of area. It lies between 32 to 36 degree North latitude and 75 degree to 80 degree East longitude.