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Shimla

Shimla (Hindi: शिमला; Punjabi: ਸ਼ਿਮਲਾ; English pronunciation: /ˈʃɪmlə/; Hindi: [ˈʃɪmlaː] ( listen)), also known as Simla, is the capital and largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is also a district which is bounded by Mandi and Kullu in the north, Kinnaur in the east, the state of Uttarakhand in the south-east, and Solan and Sirmaur. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of the hilly regions of the state. As of 2011, the city had 171,817 permanent residents, and was one of the least populous capital cities in India.

Small hamlets were recorded prior to 1815 when the English forces took control of the area. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of Himalayas. As the summer capital, Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945. After independence, the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being in 1948 as a result of integration of 28 princely states. Even after independence, the city remained an important political centre, hosting the Simla Agreement of 1972. After the reorganisation, the Mahasu district and its major portion were merged with Shimla. Its name is derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali[citation needed]. As of 2011 Shimla comprises 19 hill states, namely Baghal, Baghat, Balsan, Bashahr, Bhajji, Bija, Darkoti, Dhami, Jubbal, Keonthal, Kumharsain, Kunihar, Kuthar, Mahlog, Mangal, Nalagarh (Hindur), Sangri and Tharoch.

Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural beauty of the city attract a large number of tourists. The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge, which together form the city centre. The Kalka–Shimla Railway line built by the British, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a major tourist attraction. Owing to its steep terrain, Shimla hosts the mountain biking race MTB Himalaya, which started in 2005 and is regarded as the biggest event of its kind in South Asia. Shimla also has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia. The ice skating season usually begins in the start of December and goes on till the end of February. Apart from being a tourism centre, the city is also an educational hub with a number of colleges and research institutions. The city also has sporting venues like the Indira Gandhi Rajya Khel Parisar, the main sports complex and the Naldehra Golf Club.

History

The vast majority of the area occupied by the present-day Shimla city was dense forest during the 18th century. The only civilisation consisted of the Jakhoo temple and a few scattered houses. The area was called 'Shimla', named after a Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali.

The area of present-day Shimla was invaded and captured by Bhimsen Thapa of Nepal in 1806. The British East India Company took control of the territory as per the Sugauli Treaty after the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16). The Gurkha leaders were quelled by storming the fort of Malaun under the command of David Ochterlony in May 1815. In a diary entry dated 30 August 1817, the Gerard brothers, who surveyed the area, describe Shimla as "a middling-sized village where a fakir is situated to give water to the travellers". In 1819, Lieutenant Ross, the Assistant Political Agent in the Hill States, set up a wood cottage in Shimla. Three years later, his successor and the Scottish civil servant Charles Pratt Kennedy built the first pucca house in the area in 1822, near what is now the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly building. The accounts of the Britain-like climate started attracting several British officers to the area during the hot Indian summers. By 1826, some officers had started spending their entire vacation in Shimla. In 1827, Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal, visited Shimla and stayed in the Kennedy House. A year later, Lord Combermere, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, stayed at the same residence. During his stay, a three-mile road and a bridge were constructed near Jakhu. In 1830, the British acquired the surrounding land from the chiefs of Keonthal and Patiala in exchange for the Rawin pargana and a portion of the Bharauli pargana. The settlement grew rapidly after this, from 30 houses in 1830 to 1,141 houses in 1881.

In 1832, Shimla saw its first political meeting: between the Governor-General William Bentinck and the emissaries of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In a letter to Colonel Churchill, he wrote:

“Shimla is only four days march from Loodianah (Ludhiana), is easy of access, and proves a very agreeable refuge from the burning plains of Hindoostaun (Hindustan). ”
Combermere's successor Earl Dalhousie visited Shimla in the same year. After this, the town saw regular visits from the Governor Generals and Commanders-in-Chief of British India. A number of young British officers started visiting the area to socialise with the higher-ups; they were followed by ladies looking for marriage alliances for their relatives. Shimla thus became a hill station famous for balls, parties and other festivities. Subsequently, residential schools for pupils from upper-class families were established nearby. By the late 1830s, the city also became a centre for theatre and art exhibitions. As the population increased, a number of bungalows were built and a big bazaar was established in the town. The Indian businessmen, mainly from Sood and Parsi communities, arrived in the area to cater to the needs of the growing European population. On 9 September 1844 the foundation of the Christ Church was laid. Subsequently, several roads were widened and the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road with a 560-feet tunnel was taken up in 1851–52. This tunnel, now known as the Dhalli Tunnel, was started by a Major Briggs in 1850 and completed in the winter of 1851–52. The 1857 uprising caused a panic among the European residents of the town, but Shimla remained largely unaffected by the rebellion.

In 1863, the Viceroy of India, John Lawrence, decided to shift the summer capital of the British Raj to Shimla. He took the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and this separate centre over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876–1880) made efforts to plan the town from 1876, when he first stayed in a rented house, but began plans for a Viceregal Lodge, later built on Observatory Hill. A fire cleared much of the area where the native Indian population lived (the "Upper Bazaar" nowadays known as the Ridge), and the planning of the eastern end to become the centre of the European town forced them to live in the Middle and Lower Bazaars on the lower terraces descending the steep slopes from the Ridge. The Upper Bazaar was cleared for a town hall, with many facilities such as library and theatre, as well as offices for police and military volunteers as well as municipal administration.

During the "Hot Weather", Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, India, the head of the Indian Army, and many Departments of the Government. The summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab moved from Murree, in modern-day Pakistan, to Shimla in 1876. They were joined by many of the British wives and daughters of the men who remained on the plains. Together these formed Shimla Society, which, according to Charles Allen, "was as close as British India ever came to having an upper crust." This may have been helped by the fact that it was very expensive, having an ideal climate and thus being desirable, as well as having limited accommodation. British soldiers, merchants and civil servants moved here each year to escape from the heat during summer in the Indo-Gangetic plain. The presence of many bachelors and unattached men, as well as the many women passing the hot weather there, gave Shimla a reputation for adultery, and at least gossip about adultery: as Rudyard Kipling said in a letter cited by Allen, it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".

The 500-foot (150 m) Lower Bazaar tunnel was built in 1905 and christened Khachhar Surang. The Elysium tunnel (now known as the Auckland Tunnel), about 120 feet (37 m) in length, was also built in 1905.

The Kalka–Shimla railway line, constructed in 1906, added to Shimla's accessibility and popularity. The railway route from Kalka to Shimla, with more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels, was touted as an engineering feat and came to be known as the "British Jewel of the Orient". In 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. In addition, Shimla was the capital of the undivided state of Punjab in 1871, and remained so until the construction of the new city of Chandigarh (the present-day capital of the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana). Upon the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Shimla was named its capital.

Entrance of the Crow Brough Rest House built in 1921.
After independence the Chief Commissioner's Province of H.P. came into being on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudatory princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya, known in full as the Shimla Hills States & four Punjab southern hill states by issue of the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 & 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged in the Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954. Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lt. Governor was appointed. Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a Union Territory on 1 November 1956. Following area of Punjab State namely Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Tehsil of Pathankot District; were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Thus Himachal emerged as the eighteenth state of the Indian Union.

Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the former Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Christ Church, Gorton Castle, Shimla Town Hall and the Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. The original Peterhoff, another Viceregal residence, burned down in 1981. British Shimla extended about a mile and a half along the ridge between Jakhoo Hill and Prospect Hill. The central spine was the Mall, which ran along the length of the ridge, with a Mall Extension southwards, closed to all carriages except those of the Viceroy and his wife.

Geography

Simla and Jutogh, 1911 map

Skating at Simla, c. 1905
Shimla lies in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas at 31.61°N 77.10°E. It has an average altitude of 2,206 metres (7,238 ft) above mean sea level and extends along a ridge with seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) from east to west.[17] Shimla was built on top of a total of seven different hills namely: Inverarm Hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill. The highest point in Shimla is the Jakhoo hill, which is at a height of 2,454 metres (8,051 ft).

The city is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India. Weak construction techniques and an increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no bodies of water near the main city and the closest river, the Sutlej, is about 21 km (13 mi) away. Other rivers that flow through the Shimla district, although further from the city, are the Giri, and Pabbar (both tributaries of Yamuna).

The green belt in the Shimla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1,020 acres). The main forests in and around the city are of pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Shimla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region are the frequent number of landslides that often take place after heavy rains.

Climate[edit]
Shimla features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under the Köppen climate classification. The climate in Shimla is predominantly cool during winters and moderately warm during summer.
Temperatures typically range from −4 °C (25 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) over the course of a year.[25] The average temperature during summer is between 19 and 28 °C (66 and 82 °F), and between −1 and 10 °C (30 and 50 °F) in winter. Monthly precipitation varies between 15 millimetres (0.59 in) in November and 434 millimetres (17.1 in) in August. It is typically around 45 millimetres (1.8 in) per month during winter and spring, and around 175 millimetres (6.9 in) in June as the monsoon approaches. The average total annual precipitation is 1,575 millimetres (62 in), which is much less than most other hill stations but still much heavier than on the plains. Snowfall in the region, which historically has taken place in the month of December, has lately (over the last fifteen years) been happening in January or early February every year. The maximum snowfall received in recent times was 38.6 centimetres (15.2 in) on 18 January 2013. On two consecutive days (17 and 18 January 2013), the town received 63.6 centimetres (25.0 in) of snow.

Climate data for Shimla (1971–2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.4
(70.5) 22.6
(72.7) 25.8
(78.4) 29.6
(85.3) 32.4
(90.3) 31.5
(88.7) 28.9
(84) 27.8
(82) 28.6
(83.5) 25.6
(78.1) 23.5
(74.3) 20.5
(68.9) 32.4
(90.3)
Average high °C (°F) 9.3
(48.7) 10.3
(50.5) 14.5
(58.1) 19.8
(67.6) 23.0
(73.4) 23.8
(74.8) 21.3
(70.3) 20.5
(68.9) 20.4
(68.7) 18.9
(66) 15.4
(59.7) 11.9
(53.4) 17.5
(63.5)
Average low °C (°F) 1.7
(35.1) 2.4
(36.3) 6.1
(43) 10.8
(51.4) 13.6
(56.5) 15.1
(59.2) 14.6
(58.3) 14.2
(57.6) 12.9
(55.2) 10.5
(50.9) 7.0
(44.6) 4.0
(39.2) 9.5
(49.1)
Record low °C (°F) −10.6
(12.9) −8.5
(16.7) −6.1
(21) −1.3
(29.7) 1.4
(34.5) 7.8
(46) 9.4
(48.9) 10.6
(51.1) 5.0
(41) 0.2
(32.4) −1.1
(30) −12.2
(10) −12.2
(10)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 53.0
(2.087) 63.8
(2.512) 68.9
(2.713) 61.3
(2.413) 83.8
(3.299) 185.3
(7.295) 333.0
(13.11) 296.7
(11.681) 148.7
(5.854) 36.3
(1.429) 22.5
(0.886) 21.4
(0.843) 1,374.6
(54.118)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 42
(16.5) 43
(16.9) 7
(2.8) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 7
(2.8) 99
(39)
Average rainy days 4.5 5.3 5.9 4.6 6.3 10.1 17.2 16.2 8.8 2.2 1.5 1.8 84.5
Average snowy days 4.2 4.2 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.3 11.2
Source: India Meteorological Department (record high and low up to 2010, snow, 1990–2010)

Economy

Employment is largely driven by the government and tourism sectors. Education sector and horticultural produce processing comprise most of the remainder. Recently a Model Career Centre has been set-up at US Club Shimla under the National Career Service, India flagship of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Govt. of India to help connect job-seekers with employers.

In addition to being the local hub of transport and trade, Shimla is the area's healthcare centre, hosting a medical college and four major hospitals:[32] Indira Gandhi Hospital (Snowdown Hospital,) Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (formerly called Ripon Hospital), Kamla Nehru Hospital and Indus Hospital. The city's development plan aims make Shimla an attractive health tourism spot.

The hotel industry is one of the major source of income generation for the city. Shimla leads the list of Indian cities with the highest ranked hotels.

National Academy of Audits and Accounts, Yarrows.
Shimla had always been famous for its quality of education and lots of important schools have been imparting quality education throughout the state. Along with schools of higher education, several institutes are also present namely Himachal Pradesh University and Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Recruitment to the IAAS is through the joint competitive examinations (the Civil Services Examination) and through promotion from the subordinate cadre. Once recruited to IAAS, the directly recruited officers are trained mainly at the National Academy of Audit and Accounts, Shimla. Students from across India prefer to study in Shimla because of its climate and Queen of Hill Stations status. These has been adding to the economy of the district as well as the State.

Government is trying to promote technology and IT sector as the new area for growth and promotion[35] although not many companies have yet settled in Shimla. There are many new startups in and around Shimla. There are over 6 different call centre's in Shimla. Some major call centres are Alturist Technologies, 31 Parallel. Two notable companies that are registered in Shimla are Netgen IT Solutions, an international website development startup with partner offices in USA and Australia, and Himachal Media, a company that deals with content and media publishing.

Civic administration

The administrative responsibilities of the city of Shimla and the surrounding planning areas of Dhalli, Totu and New Shimla reside with the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). All three areas were taken under SMC in 2006–07. Established in 1851, the Shimla Municipal Corporation is an elected body comprising 27 councillors, three of whom are nominated by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. The nominations are based on prominence in the fields of social service, academics and other activities. Thirty-three percent of seats are reserved for women. The elections take place every five years and the mayor and deputy mayor are elected by and amongst the councillors themselves. Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Singh Panwar of CPI(M) are the present Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively. The two major political parties are the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress with third party Communist Party of India (Marxist) being an emerging one. The administrative head of the corporation is the commissioner who is appointed by the state government. The city contributes one seat to the state assembly (Vidhan Sabha), and one seat to the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). Law and order in the city is collectively maintained by the police force, Vigilance Department, enforcement directorate, forensics, fire brigade, prisons service and Home Guard. There are five police stations and three fire stations in Shimla.[39] The Superintendent of Police, Shimla heads the police force. The First Armed Police Battalion, one of the four armed police battalions in the state, is also available for assistance to the local police for assistance. There are eleven courts in the district including a fast-track court.

Demographics

According to 2011 census, Shimla city spread over an area of 35.34 km2. had a population of 169,578 with 93,152 males and 76,426 females. Shimla urban agglomeration had a population of 171,817 as per provisional data of 2011 census, out of which males were 94,797 and females were 77,020. The literacy rate of city was 93.63 percent[3] and that of urban agglomeration was 94.14 per cent.

The city area has increased considerably along with passage of time. It has stretched from Hiranagar to Dhalli from one side & from Tara Devi to Malyana in the other. As per the 2001 India Census,[43] the city has a population of 142,161 spread over an area of 19.55 km². A floating population of 75,000 is attributed to service industries such as tourism. The largest demographic, 55%, is 16–45 years of age. A further 28% of the population are younger than 15 years. The low sex ratio – 930 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 – is cause for concern, and much lower than the 974 versus 1,000 for Himachal Pradesh state as a whole.

The unemployment rate in the city has come down from 36% in 1992 to 22.6% in 2006. This drop is attributed to recent industrialisation, the growth of service industries, and knowledge development.[45] 84% of the population of Shimla city is literate, compared to 80% in Shimla district and 83.87% in the entire state. The majority of Shimla's population consists of natives of Himachal Pradesh.

Hindi is the Lingua franca of the city, it is the principal spoken language of the city and also the most commonly used language for the official purposes. English is also spoken by a sizeable population, and is the second official language of the city. Other than Hindi, Pahari languages is spoken by the ethnic Pahari people, who form a major part of the population in the city. Punjabi language is prevalent among the ethnic Punjabi migrant population of the city, most of whom are refugees from West Punjab, who settled in the city after the Partition of India in 1947. According to 2011 census, the majority religion of city is Hinduism practised by 93.5% of the population, followed by Islam (2.29%), Sikhism (1.95%), Buddhism (1.33%) and Christianity (0.62%). Muslim migration has visibly increased in the year 2015, especially from Uttar Pradesh.

Culture

he people of Shimla are informally called Shimlaites. With largely cosmopolitan crowds, a variety of festivals are celebrated here. The Shimla Summer Festival, held every year during peak tourist season, and lasting 3–4 days, is celebrated on the Ridge. The highlights of this event include performances by popular singers from all over the country.

Shimla has a number of places to visit. Local hangouts like the Mall and the Ridge are in the heart of the city. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original 'Tudorbethan' architecture. The former Viceregal Lodge, which now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and Wildflower Hall, now a luxury hotel, are some of the famous ones. A collection of paintings, jewellery and textiles of the region can be found at the State Museum (built in 1974).

Foggy morning at Tattapani

Lakkar Bazaar, a market extending off the Ridge, is famous for souvenirs and crafts made of wood. Tatta Pani, 55 kilometres (34.2 mi) from the main city, is the name of hot sulphur springs that are believed to have medicinal value located on the banks of the River Satluj. Shimla is also home to South Asia's only natural ice skating rink. State and national level competitions are often held at this venue. Shimla Ice Skating Club, which manages the rink, hosts a carnival every year in January, which includes a fancy dress competition and figure skating events. Due to effects of global warming and increasing urban development in and around Shimla, the number of sessions on ice every winter have been decreasing in the past few years.

Places of interest

The Mall: The Mall is the main shopping street of Shimla. It has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, post offices and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is situated there.
Christ Church: Situated on the Ridge, Christ Church is the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a very majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.
Jakhu Hill: 2 km from Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, Jakhu Hill is the highest peak and offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the hill is an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is the home of countless playful monkeys waiting to be fed by all visitors. A 108 feet (33 metre) statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity, at 8,500 feet (2,591 metres) above sea level, is single statue to stand at the highest altitude among several other masterpieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[55]
Jutogh: Located 8 km from the city centre, this army cantonment is near Totu, an important suburb of Shimla city.
Shimla State Museum: The museum, which was opened in 1974, has tried to protect hill-out and the cultural wealth of the state. There is a collection of miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and also costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study: This institute is housed at the former Viceregal Lodge, built in 1884–88.
Summer Hill: Situated at a distance of 5 km from the Ridge is the lovely township of Summer Hill, at a height of 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is situated here.
Annandale: Developed as the racecourse of Shimla, Annandale is 2–4 km from the Ridge at a height of 6,117 ft. It is a very big beautiful ground, now used by the Indian Army.
Tara Devi: 11 km from the Shimla bus-stand. Tara Devi Hill has a temple dedicated to the goddess of stars on top of the hill. There is a military Dairy Town here as well as the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides.
Sankat Mochan: A very famous Lord Hanuman temple is located here.
Junga: Junga is near Tehsi, 26 km from Shimla. Its original name (with diacritics) is Jūnga and is a former royal retreat of the princely state of Keonthal. It is known as the Keonthal Estate.
Anand Vilas: Midway between Shimla and Junga. "Sarva Dharma Mandir", Temple of all faiths, is a spiritual group dedicated to Mother Nature. Thousands of visitors and devotees come here every year. There is an "Art is Values" school with pupils from all over India. Classes are provided free of cost.
Totu: A major developing suburb of Shimla on NH-88. Houses Jutogh railway station & HimFed under Govt. of Himachal Pradesh.
Mashobra: 13 km from Shimla, site of the annual Sipi fair in June.
Kufri: 16 km from Shimla at a height of 8,600 ft, Kufri is the local winter sports centre, and has a small zoo.
Chharabra: 13 km from Shimla on route to Kufri.
Naldehra: 22 km from Shimla, with a nine-hole Naldehra Golf Club. The annual Sipi fair in June is held in Naldehra.
Chail: Chail was built as summer retreat by the Maharaja of Patiala during the British Raj, it is known for its cricket pitch, the highest in the world.
Tattapani: Location of sulphur springs which are found near the Tatapani mandir (holy temple)
Sanjauli: The main suburb of Shimla.

Transport

Local transport in Shimla is by bus or private vehicles. Buses ply frequently on the circular road surrounding the city centre. Heavy local transport can be seen between Shimla and its major suburbs which include Sanjauli, Kasumpti, Summer Hill, Totu and New Shimla. Tourist taxis are also an option for out of town trips. Locals typically traverse the city on foot. Private vehicles are prohibited on the Mall, Ridge and nearby markets. Due to narrow roads and steep slopes, the auto rickshaws common in other Indian cities are largely absent.

Road

Shimla is well-connected by road network to all major cities in north India. National Highway 22 (NH 22) connects Shimla to the nearest big city of Chandigarh. HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) runs 24 daily bus services between Shimla to Delhi. HRTC Volvo buses are also available on Shimla-Haridwar via Dehradoon, Shimla-Katra via Chandigarh-Pathankot-Jammu and Shimla-Manali routes. Buses from Shimla to Chandigarh[56] are available round the clock. Distance between major towns and Shimla:

National Highway 22 connects Shimla to the city of Chandigarh.
Distance between major towns and Shimla:

Kalka: 90 km
Chandigarh: 120 km
Ambala: 152 km
Patiala: 172 km
Bathinda: 330 km
Amritsar: 342 km
Delhi: 380 km
Dehradun: 227 km
Jammu: 482 km
Agra: 568 km
Jaipur: 629 km
Haridwar: 278 km
Srinagar: 787 km
Pithoragarh: 703 km
Kolkata: 1460 km
Mumbai: 1742 km

Air

Shimla Airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 kilometres (14 mi) from the city. Currently, there are no regular commercial flights to the city. The nearest major airport is Chandigarh Airport in Chandigarh about 116 km away.
Kanya Kumari: 2500;km

Rail

The scenic Kalka Shimla Railway, a narrow gauge track, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the steepest rise in altitude in a distance of 96 km.[58] Kalka, the plains rail terminus, has daily departures to major Indian cities. The city boasts a total of three railway stations with Shimla the main station and two others located at Summer Hill and Totu (Jutogh) respectively. It was built to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the Indian rail system. The route is famous for its scenery and improbable construction.

In 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property. For about a week starting on 11 September 2007, an expert team from UNESCO visited the railway to review and inspect it for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On 8 July 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway became part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.[60] alongside Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
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Ladakh

Ladakh ("land of high passes") (Ladakhi: ལ་དྭགས la'dwags; Hindi: लद्दाख़; Urdu: لَدّاخ‎) is a region in the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range[3] to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4][5] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India.[6] It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[8] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh's cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

In terms of pronunciation, the use of

"Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

History

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[12] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[14] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[b] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[c] Ptolemy,[d] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[15] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts.[e]

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 north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred Stein,[16]

"... Then further west, The Tibetans encountered a distinctly foreign nation — Shangshung, with its capital at Khyunglung. Mt. Kailāśa (Tise) and Lake Manasarovar formed part of this country, whose language has come down to us through early documents. Though still unidentified, it seems to be Indo-European. ... Geographically the country was certainly open to India, both through Nepal and by way of Kashmir and Ladakh. Kailāśa is a holy place for the Indians, who make pilgrimages to it. No one knows how long they have done so, but the cult may well go back to the times when Shangshung was still independent of Tibet.
How far Zhangzhung stretched to the north, east and west is a mystery ... We have already had an occasion to remark that Shangshung, embracing Kailāśa sacred Mount of the Hindus, may once have had a religion largely borrowed from Hinduism. The situation may even have lasted for quite a long time. In fact, about 950, the Hindu King of Kabul had a statue of Vişņu, of the Kashmiri type (with three heads), which he claimed had been given him by the king of the Bhota (Tibetans) who, in turn had obtained it from Kailāśa."

A chronicle of Ladakh compiled in the 17th century called the La dvags royal rabs, meaning the Royal Chronicle of the Kings of Ladakh recorded that this boundary was traditional and well-known. The first part of the Chronicle was written in the years 1610–1640 and the second half towards the end of the 17th century. The work has been translated into English by A. H. Francke and published in 1926 in Calcutta titled the Antiquities of Indian Tibet. In volume 2, the Ladakhi Chronicle describes the partition by King Skyid-lde-ngima-gon of his kingdom between his three sons, and then the chronicle described the extent of territory secured by that son. The following quotation is from page 94 of this book:

He gave to each of his sons a separate kingdom, viz., to the eldest Dpal-gyi-gon, Maryul of Mngah-ris, the inhabitants using black bows; ru-thogs of the east and the Gold-mine of Hgog; nearer this way Lde-mchog-dkar-po; at the frontier ra-ba-dmar-po; Wam-le, to the top of the pass of the Yi-mig rock ...

From a perusal of the aforesaid work, It is evident that Rudokh was an integral part of Ladakh. Even after the family partition, Rudok continued to be part of Ladakh. Maryul meaning lowlands was a name given to a part of Ladakh. Even at that time, i.e. in the 10th century, Rudok was an integral part of Ladakh and Lde-mchog-dkar-po, i.e., Demchok was an integral part of Ladakh.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states. Some of the Ladakhis converted to Islam during this period.

Between 1380s and early 1510s, many Islamic missionaries propagated Islam and proselytised the Ladakhi people. Sayyid Ali Hamdani, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh and Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi were three important Sufi missionaries who propagated Islam to the locals. Mir Sayyid Ali was the first one to make Muslim converts in Ladakh after his second visit to Kashmir when he passed through it in 1394 AD on his way to Kashgar. He is often described as the founder of Islam in Ladakh. He built several mosques in Ladakh during this time,including one at Padum and one at Shey, the capital of Ladakh. His principal disciple, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh also propagated Islam to Ladakhis and the Balti people rapidly converted to Islam. Noorbakshia Islam is named after him and his followers are only found in Baltistan and Ladakh. During his youth, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin expelled the mystic Sheikh Zain Shahwalli for showing disrespect to him. The sheikh then went to Ladakh and proselytised many people to Islam. In 1505, Shamsuddin Iraqi, a noted Shia scholar, visited Kashmir and Baltistan. He helped in spreading Shia Islam in Kashmir and converted the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Baltistan to his school of thought.

It is unclear what happened to Islam after this period and it seems to have received a setback. Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat who invaded and briefly coquered Ladakh in 1532, 1545 and 1548, does not record any presence of Islam in Leh during his invasion although Shia Islam and Noorbakshi Islam continued to flourish in other regions of Ladakh.


Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means "victorious" in several Tibetan languages.) which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[12] During the Balti invasion led by Raja Ali Sher Khan Anchan, many Buddhist and artifacts were damaged. According to some accounts after the Namgyals were defeated, Jamyang gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the victorious Ali. Ali took the king and his soldiers as captives. Jamyang was later restored to the throne by Ali and was then given the hand of a Muslim princess in marriage whose name was Gyal Khatun or Argyal Khatoom upon the condition that she would be the first queen and her son will become the next ruler. Historical accounts differ upon who her father was. Some identify Ali's ally and Raja of Khaplu Yabgo Shey Gilazi as her father, while others identify Ali himself as the father. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gonpas by Sengge Namgyal, the son of Jamyang and Gyal and the kingdom expanded into Zangskar and Spiti. However, despite a defeat of Ladakh by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, it retained its independence.

It appears that the Balti conquest of Laddakh took place in about 1594 AD which was the era of Namgyal dynasty by Balti king Ali Sher Khan Anchan. Legends show that the Balti army obsessed with success advanced as far as Purang, in the valley of Mansarwar Lake, and won the admiration of their enemies and friends. The Raja of Ladakh sued for peace and, since Ali Sher Khan's intention was not to annex Laddakh, he agreed subject to the condition that the village of Ganokh and Gagra Nullah should be ceded to Skardu and he (the Laddakhi Raja) should pay annual tribute. This tribute was paid through the Gonpa (monastery) of Lama Yuru till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh. Hashmatullah records that the Head Lama of the said Gonpa had admitted before him the payment of yearly tribute to Skardu Darbar till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh.

Islam begin to take root in the Leh area in the beginning of 17th century after the Balti invasion and the marriage of Gyal to Jamyang. A large group of Muslim servants and musicians were sent along with Gyal to Ladakh and private mosques were built where they could pray. The Muslim musicians later settled in Leh. Several hundred Baltis migrated to the kingdom and according to oral tradition many Muslim traders were granted land to settle. Many other Muslims were invited over the following years for various purposes.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684. Kashmiri historians assert that the king converted to Islam in return for the assistance by Mughal Empire after this however Ladakhi chronicles do not mention such a thing. The king agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for defending the kingdom.[30][31] The Mughals however withdrew after being paid off by the 5th Dalai Lama. With the help of reinforcements from Galdan Boshugtu Khan, Khan of the Zungar Empire, the Tibetans attacked again in 1684. The Tibetans were victorious and concluded a treaty with Ladakh then they retreated back to Lhasa on December of 1684. The Treaty of Tingmosgang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the province of Jammu and Kashmir was transferred to Gulab Singh, to be ruled under British suzerainty as a Princely-State. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. European influence began in Ladakh in the 1850s and increased. Geologists, sportsmen and tourists began exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued. Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar and Leh from 16 days to two. The route, however, remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. Construction of a 6.5 km tunnel across Zoji La pass is under consideration to make the route functional throughout the year. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China.[citation needed] Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed "Operation Vijay" by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops. The Indian government was criticized by the Indian public because India respected geographical co-ordinates more than India's opponents: Pakistan and China.

In 1984 the Siachen Glacier area in the northernmost corner of Ladakh became the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan in the highest battleground in the world. The boundary here was not demarcated in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point named NJ9842. In 1984 India occupied the entire Siachen Glacier and by 1987 the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the glacier to the west, with Pakistan troops in the glacial valleys and on the ridges just west of the Saltoro Ridge crest. This status has remained much the same since, and a ceasefire was established in 2003.

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into the Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in the 1990s. Leh and Kargil Districts now each have their own locally elected Hill Councils with some control over local policy and development funds. In 1991, a Peace Pagoda was erected in Leh by Nipponzan Myohoji.

There is a heavy presence of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Ladakh. These forces and People's Liberation Army forces from China have, since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had frequent stand-offs along the Lakakh portion of the Line of Actual Control. The stand-off involving the most troops was in September 2014 in the disputed Chumar region when 800 to 1,000 Indian troops and 1,500 Chinese troops came into close proximity to each other.

Geography

Ladakh is the highest plateau of state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[10] It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun[39] Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistani Kashmir), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast, and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. The historic but imprecise divide between Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the north in the intricate maze of ridges east of Rudok including Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri, and continues southeastward toward northwestern Nepal. Before partition, Baltistan, now under Pakistani control, was a district in Ladakh. Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[f][40] The peaks in the Ladakh Range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft) and increase toward southeast, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

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 4,400 m (14,400 ft) 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 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu and Padum. The Zangskar 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. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh became the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, that still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram Range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,880 ft) at its snout. Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram Range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).


Monthly average temperature in Leh
The Ladakh Range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The Pangong Range runs parallel to the Ladakh Range for about 100 km northwest from Chushul along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest point is about 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of the Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram Range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas Group (highest point 7,245 m; 23,770 ft) the Rimo Muztagh (highest point 7,385 m; 24,229 ft) and the Teram Kangri Group (highest point 7,464 m; 24,488 ft) together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m; 24,692 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,202 m; 23,629 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia there is a triple barrier — the Ladakh Range, Karakoram Range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, generally denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding in the region (e.g., the 2010 floods) has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns and retreating glaciers, both of which have been found to be linked to global climate change. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the "Glacier Man", creates artificial glaciers as one solution for retreating glaciers.

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain cut off from the rest of the region for several months in the year, as the whole region remains cut off by road from the rest of the country. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from 3 to 35 °C in summer and minimums range from -20 to -35 °C in winter.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[45] The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s.

The fauna of Ladakh has much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the black redstart), and the hoopoe are common in summer. The brown-headed gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the brahminy duck also known as the ruddy sheldrake and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock, and chukar. The lammergeier and the golden eagle are common raptors here specially in Changthang region.

Wild animals of Ladakh
Ibex ( Photo by Tashi Lonchey)

The endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bharal or blue sheep is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region, although it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas. The Asiatic ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in the western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakhi Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is declining, however, and there are not more than 3000 individuals left in Ladakh. The urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: the Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by it. Its population declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators. The endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru in Indian English, or Ladakhi tsos, has traditionally been hunted for its wool (shahtoosh) which is a natural fiber of the finest quality and thus valued for its light weight and warmth and as a status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.


Kiang or Tibetan wild ass
The kiang, or Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who hold the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation.[51] There are about 200 snow leopards in Ladakh of an estimated 7,000 worldwide. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan sand fox has been discovered in this region. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common.

Scant precipitation makes Ladakh a high-altitude desert with extremely scarce vegetation over most of its area. Natural vegetation mainly occurs along water courses and on high altitude areas that receive more snow and cooler summer temperatures. Human settlements, however, are richly vegetated due to irrigation.

Natural vegetation commonly seen along water courses includes seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.), wild roses of pink or yellow varieties, tamarisk (Myricaria spp.), caraway, stinging nettles, mint, Physochlaina praealta, and various grasses.

Natural vegetation in unirrigated desert around Leh includes capers (Capparis spinosa), Nepeta floccosa, globe thistle (Echinops cornigerus), Ephedra gerardiana, rhubarb, Tanacetum spp., several artemisias, Peganum harmala, and several other succulents. Juniper trees grow wild in some locations and are usually considered sacred by Buddhists.

Human settlements are marked by lush fields and trees, all irrigated with water from glacial streams, springs, and rivers. Higher altitude villages grow barley, peas, and vegetables, and have one species of willow (called Drokchang in Ladakhi). Lower villages also grow wheat, alfalfa, mustard for oil, grapes, and a greater variety of vegetables. Cultivated trees in lower villages include apricots, apples, mulberries, walnuts, balsam poplars, Afghan poplars, oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and several species of willow (difficult to identify, and local names vary). Elms and white poplars are found in the Nubra Valley, and one legendary specimen of white poplar grows in Alchi in the Indus Valley. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Himalayan cypress and horse chestnut have been introduced since the 1990s.

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on 28 August 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on 3 September 1995. Kargil, later, adopted the Hill council in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council — Kargil was established.[56] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councilor and executive councilors.[57] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, the judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The MP from Ladakh in the current Lok Sabha is Thupstan Chhewang a candidate from the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).[58]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to be politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question to the fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992.

Economy

The economy of Ladakh rests on three pillars: the Indian Army, tourism, and civilian government in the form of jobs and extensive subsidies. Agriculture, the mainstay only one generation ago, is no longer a major portion of the economy, although most families still own and work their land.

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas and keeping livestock, especially yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats.

At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (9,800 to 14,100 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are the lifeline of the nomads in Tibet. They used to wander from high altitude to low altitude depending upon the climate. They sell their produce mainly yak hides,sheep hides to the merchants. Ladakh also suffers shortages of water. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment.

The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items.

Two items grown for export are apricots and pashmina. The largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as on the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal.

Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which has what are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan.


Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking.

This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[59] Today, about 100,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru - Padum - Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley.

Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, the tourism industry and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town. The Indian army is a major part of the economy by employing tens of thousands of Ladakhis as soldiers as well as purchasing goods and services locally.

Astronomy

Because of its high altitude and clear skies, Ladakh is emerging as a center for leading edge astronomy. Looking into the Ladakh climate, sky and cloud coverage etc., astronomical site survey in Ladakh region was started by Udaipur Solar Observatory and other institutions during 1984. A small 6-inch telescope with weather sensors were put at mount Nimu (along Leh-Srinagar Highway) and after four initial years of survey it was suddenly closed due to the proximity of site near Leh city and army establishments. During 1992–94, when India's future large telescope project started under leadership of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore questions raised again about world class astronomical sites where to put India's larger telescope. Then Ladakh region was again looked and a site in Changthang region was selected for detail site characterization for astronomy. This site is situated in Hanle and an isolated single peak, Digpa-rtsa-re was selected to develop Indian Astronomical Observatory and is home of the two-meter Himalayan Chandra Optical and Infrared Telescope at an altitude of 4500 m above sea level. This telescope was set up in 2000 and dedicated to the nation in 2003. The observatory is totally powered with solar power and a team of dedicated engineers and technicians are stationed always at this location. Astronomers don't need to go to Hanle: they visit CREST Facility at Hoskote town, a suburb of Bangalore city where a remote control center is set up to operate this telescope. Hanle in Ladakh and Hoskote in Bangalore are linked with satellite communication provided on Indian communication satellites.

The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is being set up in the Ladakh village of Merak near the Pangong Tso lake by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Transport

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[61] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[8] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border was sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but, as in the previous case, there is no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m; 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m; 9,020 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m; 12,100 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m; 13,500 ft). This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. The newer route is the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m; 13,051 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m; 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m; 16,598 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m; 17,470 ft) and the More plains and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.


Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh
Buses run from Leh to the villages throughout the year. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which even today provides the only link to some of the valleys, villages and high pastures. Though much of the road network in Kargil has only recently been taken up with the help of funds mostly from the central Govt. Prior to that some major roads into various villages like Drass, Hardas, Kaksar and Sodh were constructed by the Indian Army partly for transportation of defence equipment and partly as goodwill gesture.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport. While an airport meant for civilian purpose at Kargil is used by the Indian Army. The airport is a political issue for the locals who argue that the airport should serve its original purpose, i.e., should open up for civilian flights. Since past few years the Indian Air Force has been operating AN-32 air courier service to transport the locals during the winter seasons to Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh.[63][64] A private airplane company Air Mantra landed a 17-seater aircraft at the airport, in presence of dignitaries like the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, marking the first ever landing by a civilian airline company at Kargil.

Demographics

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different ethnic groups, predominantly Tibetans, Monpas and Dards. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language.

Most Ladakhis in Kargil District are Shia Muslims while in Leh District and Zangskar are Tibetan Buddhist. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Muslims in Leh District. There are some Ladakhi Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns and also Padum in Zangskar. The Balti villages in Leh District have several thousand Nurbakhshia Muslims, followers of Muslim Sufi Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani. There are a less than 40 families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. These families belong to several very small Christian churches and a boarding school as a result of mission work begun in the 19th Century by missionaries from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Saxony, now Germany.

Among non-Ladakhi residents, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a small number of followers of the Bon religion.

The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Changthang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District.

People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of the Dha-Hanu area, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards of Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are believed to be descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh, and traditionally worked as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters. The region's population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. 76.87% population of Kargil is Muslim, while that of Leh is 66.40% Buddhist as per the 2011 census.


A local woman, Ladakh
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the language of Leh is enriched with foreign words. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English; although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past, now only land records and some police records are kept in Urdu.

The total birth rate (TBR) in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The total death rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.

The sex ratio for Leh district declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district it declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of mostly male seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average annual population growth rate from 1981 to 2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.

Culture

Cuisine

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.

Architecture

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa, including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas. Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes. However, the architecture in Kargil region is highly influenced by Persian Architecture as seen in various Mosques and Imam Bargahs

Music and dance

Traditional music includes the instruments surna and daman (shenai and drum). The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of the fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former. Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats.

Sports

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice generally mid–December through mid–February.[76] Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shehnai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid–17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. However Polo is still popular among the Baltis and the sport with some support from financial bigwigs is an annual affair in Drass region of District Kargil
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Ladakh

Ladakh ("land of high passes") (Ladakhi: ལ་དྭགས la'dwags; Hindi: लद्दाख़; Urdu: لَدّاخ‎) is a region in the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range[3] to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4][5] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India.[6] It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[8] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh's cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

In terms of pronunciation, the use of

"Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

History

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[12] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[14] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[b] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[c] Ptolemy,[d] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[15] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts.[e]

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 north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred Stein,[16]

"... Then further west, The Tibetans encountered a distinctly foreign nation — Shangshung, with its capital at Khyunglung. Mt. Kailāśa (Tise) and Lake Manasarovar formed part of this country, whose language has come down to us through early documents. Though still unidentified, it seems to be Indo-European. ... Geographically the country was certainly open to India, both through Nepal and by way of Kashmir and Ladakh. Kailāśa is a holy place for the Indians, who make pilgrimages to it. No one knows how long they have done so, but the cult may well go back to the times when Shangshung was still independent of Tibet.
How far Zhangzhung stretched to the north, east and west is a mystery ... We have already had an occasion to remark that Shangshung, embracing Kailāśa sacred Mount of the Hindus, may once have had a religion largely borrowed from Hinduism. The situation may even have lasted for quite a long time. In fact, about 950, the Hindu King of Kabul had a statue of Vişņu, of the Kashmiri type (with three heads), which he claimed had been given him by the king of the Bhota (Tibetans) who, in turn had obtained it from Kailāśa."

A chronicle of Ladakh compiled in the 17th century called the La dvags royal rabs, meaning the Royal Chronicle of the Kings of Ladakh recorded that this boundary was traditional and well-known. The first part of the Chronicle was written in the years 1610–1640 and the second half towards the end of the 17th century. The work has been translated into English by A. H. Francke and published in 1926 in Calcutta titled the Antiquities of Indian Tibet. In volume 2, the Ladakhi Chronicle describes the partition by King Skyid-lde-ngima-gon of his kingdom between his three sons, and then the chronicle described the extent of territory secured by that son. The following quotation is from page 94 of this book:

He gave to each of his sons a separate kingdom, viz., to the eldest Dpal-gyi-gon, Maryul of Mngah-ris, the inhabitants using black bows; ru-thogs of the east and the Gold-mine of Hgog; nearer this way Lde-mchog-dkar-po; at the frontier ra-ba-dmar-po; Wam-le, to the top of the pass of the Yi-mig rock ...

From a perusal of the aforesaid work, It is evident that Rudokh was an integral part of Ladakh. Even after the family partition, Rudok continued to be part of Ladakh. Maryul meaning lowlands was a name given to a part of Ladakh. Even at that time, i.e. in the 10th century, Rudok was an integral part of Ladakh and Lde-mchog-dkar-po, i.e., Demchok was an integral part of Ladakh.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states. Some of the Ladakhis converted to Islam during this period.

Between 1380s and early 1510s, many Islamic missionaries propagated Islam and proselytised the Ladakhi people. Sayyid Ali Hamdani, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh and Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi were three important Sufi missionaries who propagated Islam to the locals. Mir Sayyid Ali was the first one to make Muslim converts in Ladakh after his second visit to Kashmir when he passed through it in 1394 AD on his way to Kashgar. He is often described as the founder of Islam in Ladakh. He built several mosques in Ladakh during this time,including one at Padum and one at Shey, the capital of Ladakh. His principal disciple, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh also propagated Islam to Ladakhis and the Balti people rapidly converted to Islam. Noorbakshia Islam is named after him and his followers are only found in Baltistan and Ladakh. During his youth, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin expelled the mystic Sheikh Zain Shahwalli for showing disrespect to him. The sheikh then went to Ladakh and proselytised many people to Islam. In 1505, Shamsuddin Iraqi, a noted Shia scholar, visited Kashmir and Baltistan. He helped in spreading Shia Islam in Kashmir and converted the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Baltistan to his school of thought.

It is unclear what happened to Islam after this period and it seems to have received a setback. Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat who invaded and briefly coquered Ladakh in 1532, 1545 and 1548, does not record any presence of Islam in Leh during his invasion although Shia Islam and Noorbakshi Islam continued to flourish in other regions of Ladakh.


Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means "victorious" in several Tibetan languages.) which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[12] During the Balti invasion led by Raja Ali Sher Khan Anchan, many Buddhist and artifacts were damaged. According to some accounts after the Namgyals were defeated, Jamyang gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the victorious Ali. Ali took the king and his soldiers as captives. Jamyang was later restored to the throne by Ali and was then given the hand of a Muslim princess in marriage whose name was Gyal Khatun or Argyal Khatoom upon the condition that she would be the first queen and her son will become the next ruler. Historical accounts differ upon who her father was. Some identify Ali's ally and Raja of Khaplu Yabgo Shey Gilazi as her father, while others identify Ali himself as the father. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gonpas by Sengge Namgyal, the son of Jamyang and Gyal and the kingdom expanded into Zangskar and Spiti. However, despite a defeat of Ladakh by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, it retained its independence.

It appears that the Balti conquest of Laddakh took place in about 1594 AD which was the era of Namgyal dynasty by Balti king Ali Sher Khan Anchan. Legends show that the Balti army obsessed with success advanced as far as Purang, in the valley of Mansarwar Lake, and won the admiration of their enemies and friends. The Raja of Ladakh sued for peace and, since Ali Sher Khan's intention was not to annex Laddakh, he agreed subject to the condition that the village of Ganokh and Gagra Nullah should be ceded to Skardu and he (the Laddakhi Raja) should pay annual tribute. This tribute was paid through the Gonpa (monastery) of Lama Yuru till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh. Hashmatullah records that the Head Lama of the said Gonpa had admitted before him the payment of yearly tribute to Skardu Darbar till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh.

Islam begin to take root in the Leh area in the beginning of 17th century after the Balti invasion and the marriage of Gyal to Jamyang. A large group of Muslim servants and musicians were sent along with Gyal to Ladakh and private mosques were built where they could pray. The Muslim musicians later settled in Leh. Several hundred Baltis migrated to the kingdom and according to oral tradition many Muslim traders were granted land to settle. Many other Muslims were invited over the following years for various purposes.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684. Kashmiri historians assert that the king converted to Islam in return for the assistance by Mughal Empire after this however Ladakhi chronicles do not mention such a thing. The king agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for defending the kingdom.[30][31] The Mughals however withdrew after being paid off by the 5th Dalai Lama. With the help of reinforcements from Galdan Boshugtu Khan, Khan of the Zungar Empire, the Tibetans attacked again in 1684. The Tibetans were victorious and concluded a treaty with Ladakh then they retreated back to Lhasa on December of 1684. The Treaty of Tingmosgang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the province of Jammu and Kashmir was transferred to Gulab Singh, to be ruled under British suzerainty as a Princely-State. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. European influence began in Ladakh in the 1850s and increased. Geologists, sportsmen and tourists began exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued. Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar and Leh from 16 days to two. The route, however, remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. Construction of a 6.5 km tunnel across Zoji La pass is under consideration to make the route functional throughout the year. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China.[citation needed] Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed "Operation Vijay" by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops. The Indian government was criticized by the Indian public because India respected geographical co-ordinates more than India's opponents: Pakistan and China.

In 1984 the Siachen Glacier area in the northernmost corner of Ladakh became the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan in the highest battleground in the world. The boundary here was not demarcated in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point named NJ9842. In 1984 India occupied the entire Siachen Glacier and by 1987 the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the glacier to the west, with Pakistan troops in the glacial valleys and on the ridges just west of the Saltoro Ridge crest. This status has remained much the same since, and a ceasefire was established in 2003.

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into the Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in the 1990s. Leh and Kargil Districts now each have their own locally elected Hill Councils with some control over local policy and development funds. In 1991, a Peace Pagoda was erected in Leh by Nipponzan Myohoji.

There is a heavy presence of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Ladakh. These forces and People's Liberation Army forces from China have, since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had frequent stand-offs along the Lakakh portion of the Line of Actual Control. The stand-off involving the most troops was in September 2014 in the disputed Chumar region when 800 to 1,000 Indian troops and 1,500 Chinese troops came into close proximity to each other.

Geography

Ladakh is the highest plateau of state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[10] It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun[39] Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistani Kashmir), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast, and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. The historic but imprecise divide between Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the north in the intricate maze of ridges east of Rudok including Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri, and continues southeastward toward northwestern Nepal. Before partition, Baltistan, now under Pakistani control, was a district in Ladakh. Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[f][40] The peaks in the Ladakh Range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft) and increase toward southeast, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

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 4,400 m (14,400 ft) 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 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu and Padum. The Zangskar 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. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh became the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, that still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram Range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,880 ft) at its snout. Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram Range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).


Monthly average temperature in Leh
The Ladakh Range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The Pangong Range runs parallel to the Ladakh Range for about 100 km northwest from Chushul along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest point is about 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of the Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram Range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas Group (highest point 7,245 m; 23,770 ft) the Rimo Muztagh (highest point 7,385 m; 24,229 ft) and the Teram Kangri Group (highest point 7,464 m; 24,488 ft) together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m; 24,692 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,202 m; 23,629 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia there is a triple barrier — the Ladakh Range, Karakoram Range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, generally denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding in the region (e.g., the 2010 floods) has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns and retreating glaciers, both of which have been found to be linked to global climate change. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the "Glacier Man", creates artificial glaciers as one solution for retreating glaciers.

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain cut off from the rest of the region for several months in the year, as the whole region remains cut off by road from the rest of the country. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from 3 to 35 °C in summer and minimums range from -20 to -35 °C in winter.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[45] The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s.

The fauna of Ladakh has much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the black redstart), and the hoopoe are common in summer. The brown-headed gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the brahminy duck also known as the ruddy sheldrake and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock, and chukar. The lammergeier and the golden eagle are common raptors here specially in Changthang region.

Wild animals of Ladakh
Ibex ( Photo by Tashi Lonchey)

The endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bharal or blue sheep is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region, although it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas. The Asiatic ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in the western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakhi Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is declining, however, and there are not more than 3000 individuals left in Ladakh. The urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: the Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by it. Its population declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators. The endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru in Indian English, or Ladakhi tsos, has traditionally been hunted for its wool (shahtoosh) which is a natural fiber of the finest quality and thus valued for its light weight and warmth and as a status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.


Kiang or Tibetan wild ass
The kiang, or Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who hold the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation.[51] There are about 200 snow leopards in Ladakh of an estimated 7,000 worldwide. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan sand fox has been discovered in this region. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common.

Scant precipitation makes Ladakh a high-altitude desert with extremely scarce vegetation over most of its area. Natural vegetation mainly occurs along water courses and on high altitude areas that receive more snow and cooler summer temperatures. Human settlements, however, are richly vegetated due to irrigation.

Natural vegetation commonly seen along water courses includes seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.), wild roses of pink or yellow varieties, tamarisk (Myricaria spp.), caraway, stinging nettles, mint, Physochlaina praealta, and various grasses.

Natural vegetation in unirrigated desert around Leh includes capers (Capparis spinosa), Nepeta floccosa, globe thistle (Echinops cornigerus), Ephedra gerardiana, rhubarb, Tanacetum spp., several artemisias, Peganum harmala, and several other succulents. Juniper trees grow wild in some locations and are usually considered sacred by Buddhists.

Human settlements are marked by lush fields and trees, all irrigated with water from glacial streams, springs, and rivers. Higher altitude villages grow barley, peas, and vegetables, and have one species of willow (called Drokchang in Ladakhi). Lower villages also grow wheat, alfalfa, mustard for oil, grapes, and a greater variety of vegetables. Cultivated trees in lower villages include apricots, apples, mulberries, walnuts, balsam poplars, Afghan poplars, oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and several species of willow (difficult to identify, and local names vary). Elms and white poplars are found in the Nubra Valley, and one legendary specimen of white poplar grows in Alchi in the Indus Valley. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Himalayan cypress and horse chestnut have been introduced since the 1990s.

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on 28 August 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on 3 September 1995. Kargil, later, adopted the Hill council in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council — Kargil was established.[56] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councilor and executive councilors.[57] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, the judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The MP from Ladakh in the current Lok Sabha is Thupstan Chhewang a candidate from the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).[58]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to be politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question to the fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992.

Economy

The economy of Ladakh rests on three pillars: the Indian Army, tourism, and civilian government in the form of jobs and extensive subsidies. Agriculture, the mainstay only one generation ago, is no longer a major portion of the economy, although most families still own and work their land.

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas and keeping livestock, especially yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats.

At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (9,800 to 14,100 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are the lifeline of the nomads in Tibet. They used to wander from high altitude to low altitude depending upon the climate. They sell their produce mainly yak hides,sheep hides to the merchants. Ladakh also suffers shortages of water. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment.

The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items.

Two items grown for export are apricots and pashmina. The largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as on the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal.

Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which has what are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan.


Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking.

This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[59] Today, about 100,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru - Padum - Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley.

Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, the tourism industry and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town. The Indian army is a major part of the economy by employing tens of thousands of Ladakhis as soldiers as well as purchasing goods and services locally.

Astronomy

Because of its high altitude and clear skies, Ladakh is emerging as a center for leading edge astronomy. Looking into the Ladakh climate, sky and cloud coverage etc., astronomical site survey in Ladakh region was started by Udaipur Solar Observatory and other institutions during 1984. A small 6-inch telescope with weather sensors were put at mount Nimu (along Leh-Srinagar Highway) and after four initial years of survey it was suddenly closed due to the proximity of site near Leh city and army establishments. During 1992–94, when India's future large telescope project started under leadership of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore questions raised again about world class astronomical sites where to put India's larger telescope. Then Ladakh region was again looked and a site in Changthang region was selected for detail site characterization for astronomy. This site is situated in Hanle and an isolated single peak, Digpa-rtsa-re was selected to develop Indian Astronomical Observatory and is home of the two-meter Himalayan Chandra Optical and Infrared Telescope at an altitude of 4500 m above sea level. This telescope was set up in 2000 and dedicated to the nation in 2003. The observatory is totally powered with solar power and a team of dedicated engineers and technicians are stationed always at this location. Astronomers don't need to go to Hanle: they visit CREST Facility at Hoskote town, a suburb of Bangalore city where a remote control center is set up to operate this telescope. Hanle in Ladakh and Hoskote in Bangalore are linked with satellite communication provided on Indian communication satellites.

The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is being set up in the Ladakh village of Merak near the Pangong Tso lake by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Transport

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[61] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[8] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border was sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but, as in the previous case, there is no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m; 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m; 9,020 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m; 12,100 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m; 13,500 ft). This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. The newer route is the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m; 13,051 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m; 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m; 16,598 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m; 17,470 ft) and the More plains and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.


Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh
Buses run from Leh to the villages throughout the year. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which even today provides the only link to some of the valleys, villages and high pastures. Though much of the road network in Kargil has only recently been taken up with the help of funds mostly from the central Govt. Prior to that some major roads into various villages like Drass, Hardas, Kaksar and Sodh were constructed by the Indian Army partly for transportation of defence equipment and partly as goodwill gesture.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport. While an airport meant for civilian purpose at Kargil is used by the Indian Army. The airport is a political issue for the locals who argue that the airport should serve its original purpose, i.e., should open up for civilian flights. Since past few years the Indian Air Force has been operating AN-32 air courier service to transport the locals during the winter seasons to Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh.[63][64] A private airplane company Air Mantra landed a 17-seater aircraft at the airport, in presence of dignitaries like the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, marking the first ever landing by a civilian airline company at Kargil.

Demographics

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different ethnic groups, predominantly Tibetans, Monpas and Dards. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language.

Most Ladakhis in Kargil District are Shia Muslims while in Leh District and Zangskar are Tibetan Buddhist. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Muslims in Leh District. There are some Ladakhi Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns and also Padum in Zangskar. The Balti villages in Leh District have several thousand Nurbakhshia Muslims, followers of Muslim Sufi Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani. There are a less than 40 families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. These families belong to several very small Christian churches and a boarding school as a result of mission work begun in the 19th Century by missionaries from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Saxony, now Germany.

Among non-Ladakhi residents, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a small number of followers of the Bon religion.

The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Changthang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District.

People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of the Dha-Hanu area, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards of Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are believed to be descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh, and traditionally worked as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters. The region's population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. 76.87% population of Kargil is Muslim, while that of Leh is 66.40% Buddhist as per the 2011 census.


A local woman, Ladakh
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the language of Leh is enriched with foreign words. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English; although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past, now only land records and some police records are kept in Urdu.

The total birth rate (TBR) in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The total death rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.

The sex ratio for Leh district declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district it declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of mostly male seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average annual population growth rate from 1981 to 2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.

Culture

Cuisine

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.

Architecture

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa, including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas. Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes. However, the architecture in Kargil region is highly influenced by Persian Architecture as seen in various Mosques and Imam Bargahs

Music and dance

Traditional music includes the instruments surna and daman (shenai and drum). The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of the fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former. Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats.

Sports

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice generally mid–December through mid–February.[76] Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shehnai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid–17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. However Polo is still popular among the Baltis and the sport with some support from financial bigwigs is an annual affair in Drass region of District Kargil
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Ladakh

Ladakh ("land of high passes") (Ladakhi: ལ་དྭགས la'dwags; Hindi: लद्दाख़; Urdu: لَدّاخ‎) is a region in the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range[3] to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4][5] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India.[6] It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[8] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh's cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

In terms of pronunciation, the use of

"Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

History

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[12] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[14] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[b] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[c] Ptolemy,[d] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[15] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts.[e]

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 north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred Stein,[16]

"... Then further west, The Tibetans encountered a distinctly foreign nation — Shangshung, with its capital at Khyunglung. Mt. Kailāśa (Tise) and Lake Manasarovar formed part of this country, whose language has come down to us through early documents. Though still unidentified, it seems to be Indo-European. ... Geographically the country was certainly open to India, both through Nepal and by way of Kashmir and Ladakh. Kailāśa is a holy place for the Indians, who make pilgrimages to it. No one knows how long they have done so, but the cult may well go back to the times when Shangshung was still independent of Tibet.
How far Zhangzhung stretched to the north, east and west is a mystery ... We have already had an occasion to remark that Shangshung, embracing Kailāśa sacred Mount of the Hindus, may once have had a religion largely borrowed from Hinduism. The situation may even have lasted for quite a long time. In fact, about 950, the Hindu King of Kabul had a statue of Vişņu, of the Kashmiri type (with three heads), which he claimed had been given him by the king of the Bhota (Tibetans) who, in turn had obtained it from Kailāśa."

A chronicle of Ladakh compiled in the 17th century called the La dvags royal rabs, meaning the Royal Chronicle of the Kings of Ladakh recorded that this boundary was traditional and well-known. The first part of the Chronicle was written in the years 1610–1640 and the second half towards the end of the 17th century. The work has been translated into English by A. H. Francke and published in 1926 in Calcutta titled the Antiquities of Indian Tibet. In volume 2, the Ladakhi Chronicle describes the partition by King Skyid-lde-ngima-gon of his kingdom between his three sons, and then the chronicle described the extent of territory secured by that son. The following quotation is from page 94 of this book:

He gave to each of his sons a separate kingdom, viz., to the eldest Dpal-gyi-gon, Maryul of Mngah-ris, the inhabitants using black bows; ru-thogs of the east and the Gold-mine of Hgog; nearer this way Lde-mchog-dkar-po; at the frontier ra-ba-dmar-po; Wam-le, to the top of the pass of the Yi-mig rock ...

From a perusal of the aforesaid work, It is evident that Rudokh was an integral part of Ladakh. Even after the family partition, Rudok continued to be part of Ladakh. Maryul meaning lowlands was a name given to a part of Ladakh. Even at that time, i.e. in the 10th century, Rudok was an integral part of Ladakh and Lde-mchog-dkar-po, i.e., Demchok was an integral part of Ladakh.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states. Some of the Ladakhis converted to Islam during this period.

Between 1380s and early 1510s, many Islamic missionaries propagated Islam and proselytised the Ladakhi people. Sayyid Ali Hamdani, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh and Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi were three important Sufi missionaries who propagated Islam to the locals. Mir Sayyid Ali was the first one to make Muslim converts in Ladakh after his second visit to Kashmir when he passed through it in 1394 AD on his way to Kashgar. He is often described as the founder of Islam in Ladakh. He built several mosques in Ladakh during this time,including one at Padum and one at Shey, the capital of Ladakh. His principal disciple, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh also propagated Islam to Ladakhis and the Balti people rapidly converted to Islam. Noorbakshia Islam is named after him and his followers are only found in Baltistan and Ladakh. During his youth, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin expelled the mystic Sheikh Zain Shahwalli for showing disrespect to him. The sheikh then went to Ladakh and proselytised many people to Islam. In 1505, Shamsuddin Iraqi, a noted Shia scholar, visited Kashmir and Baltistan. He helped in spreading Shia Islam in Kashmir and converted the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Baltistan to his school of thought.

It is unclear what happened to Islam after this period and it seems to have received a setback. Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat who invaded and briefly coquered Ladakh in 1532, 1545 and 1548, does not record any presence of Islam in Leh during his invasion although Shia Islam and Noorbakshi Islam continued to flourish in other regions of Ladakh.


Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means "victorious" in several Tibetan languages.) which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[12] During the Balti invasion led by Raja Ali Sher Khan Anchan, many Buddhist and artifacts were damaged. According to some accounts after the Namgyals were defeated, Jamyang gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the victorious Ali. Ali took the king and his soldiers as captives. Jamyang was later restored to the throne by Ali and was then given the hand of a Muslim princess in marriage whose name was Gyal Khatun or Argyal Khatoom upon the condition that she would be the first queen and her son will become the next ruler. Historical accounts differ upon who her father was. Some identify Ali's ally and Raja of Khaplu Yabgo Shey Gilazi as her father, while others identify Ali himself as the father. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gonpas by Sengge Namgyal, the son of Jamyang and Gyal and the kingdom expanded into Zangskar and Spiti. However, despite a defeat of Ladakh by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, it retained its independence.

It appears that the Balti conquest of Laddakh took place in about 1594 AD which was the era of Namgyal dynasty by Balti king Ali Sher Khan Anchan. Legends show that the Balti army obsessed with success advanced as far as Purang, in the valley of Mansarwar Lake, and won the admiration of their enemies and friends. The Raja of Ladakh sued for peace and, since Ali Sher Khan's intention was not to annex Laddakh, he agreed subject to the condition that the village of Ganokh and Gagra Nullah should be ceded to Skardu and he (the Laddakhi Raja) should pay annual tribute. This tribute was paid through the Gonpa (monastery) of Lama Yuru till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh. Hashmatullah records that the Head Lama of the said Gonpa had admitted before him the payment of yearly tribute to Skardu Darbar till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh.

Islam begin to take root in the Leh area in the beginning of 17th century after the Balti invasion and the marriage of Gyal to Jamyang. A large group of Muslim servants and musicians were sent along with Gyal to Ladakh and private mosques were built where they could pray. The Muslim musicians later settled in Leh. Several hundred Baltis migrated to the kingdom and according to oral tradition many Muslim traders were granted land to settle. Many other Muslims were invited over the following years for various purposes.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684. Kashmiri historians assert that the king converted to Islam in return for the assistance by Mughal Empire after this however Ladakhi chronicles do not mention such a thing. The king agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for defending the kingdom.[30][31] The Mughals however withdrew after being paid off by the 5th Dalai Lama. With the help of reinforcements from Galdan Boshugtu Khan, Khan of the Zungar Empire, the Tibetans attacked again in 1684. The Tibetans were victorious and concluded a treaty with Ladakh then they retreated back to Lhasa on December of 1684. The Treaty of Tingmosgang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the province of Jammu and Kashmir was transferred to Gulab Singh, to be ruled under British suzerainty as a Princely-State. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. European influence began in Ladakh in the 1850s and increased. Geologists, sportsmen and tourists began exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued. Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar and Leh from 16 days to two. The route, however, remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. Construction of a 6.5 km tunnel across Zoji La pass is under consideration to make the route functional throughout the year. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China.[citation needed] Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed "Operation Vijay" by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops. The Indian government was criticized by the Indian public because India respected geographical co-ordinates more than India's opponents: Pakistan and China.

In 1984 the Siachen Glacier area in the northernmost corner of Ladakh became the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan in the highest battleground in the world. The boundary here was not demarcated in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point named NJ9842. In 1984 India occupied the entire Siachen Glacier and by 1987 the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the glacier to the west, with Pakistan troops in the glacial valleys and on the ridges just west of the Saltoro Ridge crest. This status has remained much the same since, and a ceasefire was established in 2003.

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into the Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in the 1990s. Leh and Kargil Districts now each have their own locally elected Hill Councils with some control over local policy and development funds. In 1991, a Peace Pagoda was erected in Leh by Nipponzan Myohoji.

There is a heavy presence of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Ladakh. These forces and People's Liberation Army forces from China have, since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had frequent stand-offs along the Lakakh portion of the Line of Actual Control. The stand-off involving the most troops was in September 2014 in the disputed Chumar region when 800 to 1,000 Indian troops and 1,500 Chinese troops came into close proximity to each other.

Geography

Ladakh is the highest plateau of state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[10] It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun[39] Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistani Kashmir), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast, and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. The historic but imprecise divide between Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the north in the intricate maze of ridges east of Rudok including Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri, and continues southeastward toward northwestern Nepal. Before partition, Baltistan, now under Pakistani control, was a district in Ladakh. Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[f][40] The peaks in the Ladakh Range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft) and increase toward southeast, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

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 4,400 m (14,400 ft) 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 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu and Padum. The Zangskar 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. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh became the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, that still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram Range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,880 ft) at its snout. Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram Range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).


Monthly average temperature in Leh
The Ladakh Range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The Pangong Range runs parallel to the Ladakh Range for about 100 km northwest from Chushul along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest point is about 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of the Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram Range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas Group (highest point 7,245 m; 23,770 ft) the Rimo Muztagh (highest point 7,385 m; 24,229 ft) and the Teram Kangri Group (highest point 7,464 m; 24,488 ft) together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m; 24,692 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,202 m; 23,629 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia there is a triple barrier — the Ladakh Range, Karakoram Range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, generally denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding in the region (e.g., the 2010 floods) has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns and retreating glaciers, both of which have been found to be linked to global climate change. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the "Glacier Man", creates artificial glaciers as one solution for retreating glaciers.

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain cut off from the rest of the region for several months in the year, as the whole region remains cut off by road from the rest of the country. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from 3 to 35 °C in summer and minimums range from -20 to -35 °C in winter.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[45] The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s.

The fauna of Ladakh has much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the black redstart), and the hoopoe are common in summer. The brown-headed gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the brahminy duck also known as the ruddy sheldrake and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock, and chukar. The lammergeier and the golden eagle are common raptors here specially in Changthang region.

Wild animals of Ladakh
Ibex ( Photo by Tashi Lonchey)

The endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bharal or blue sheep is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region, although it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas. The Asiatic ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in the western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakhi Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is declining, however, and there are not more than 3000 individuals left in Ladakh. The urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: the Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by it. Its population declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators. The endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru in Indian English, or Ladakhi tsos, has traditionally been hunted for its wool (shahtoosh) which is a natural fiber of the finest quality and thus valued for its light weight and warmth and as a status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.


Kiang or Tibetan wild ass
The kiang, or Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who hold the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation.[51] There are about 200 snow leopards in Ladakh of an estimated 7,000 worldwide. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan sand fox has been discovered in this region. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common.

Scant precipitation makes Ladakh a high-altitude desert with extremely scarce vegetation over most of its area. Natural vegetation mainly occurs along water courses and on high altitude areas that receive more snow and cooler summer temperatures. Human settlements, however, are richly vegetated due to irrigation.

Natural vegetation commonly seen along water courses includes seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.), wild roses of pink or yellow varieties, tamarisk (Myricaria spp.), caraway, stinging nettles, mint, Physochlaina praealta, and various grasses.

Natural vegetation in unirrigated desert around Leh includes capers (Capparis spinosa), Nepeta floccosa, globe thistle (Echinops cornigerus), Ephedra gerardiana, rhubarb, Tanacetum spp., several artemisias, Peganum harmala, and several other succulents. Juniper trees grow wild in some locations and are usually considered sacred by Buddhists.

Human settlements are marked by lush fields and trees, all irrigated with water from glacial streams, springs, and rivers. Higher altitude villages grow barley, peas, and vegetables, and have one species of willow (called Drokchang in Ladakhi). Lower villages also grow wheat, alfalfa, mustard for oil, grapes, and a greater variety of vegetables. Cultivated trees in lower villages include apricots, apples, mulberries, walnuts, balsam poplars, Afghan poplars, oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and several species of willow (difficult to identify, and local names vary). Elms and white poplars are found in the Nubra Valley, and one legendary specimen of white poplar grows in Alchi in the Indus Valley. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Himalayan cypress and horse chestnut have been introduced since the 1990s.

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on 28 August 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on 3 September 1995. Kargil, later, adopted the Hill council in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council — Kargil was established.[56] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councilor and executive councilors.[57] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, the judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The MP from Ladakh in the current Lok Sabha is Thupstan Chhewang a candidate from the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).[58]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to be politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question to the fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992.

Economy

The economy of Ladakh rests on three pillars: the Indian Army, tourism, and civilian government in the form of jobs and extensive subsidies. Agriculture, the mainstay only one generation ago, is no longer a major portion of the economy, although most families still own and work their land.

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas and keeping livestock, especially yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats.

At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (9,800 to 14,100 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are the lifeline of the nomads in Tibet. They used to wander from high altitude to low altitude depending upon the climate. They sell their produce mainly yak hides,sheep hides to the merchants. Ladakh also suffers shortages of water. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment.

The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items.

Two items grown for export are apricots and pashmina. The largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as on the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal.

Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which has what are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan.


Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking.

This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[59] Today, about 100,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru - Padum - Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley.

Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, the tourism industry and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town. The Indian army is a major part of the economy by employing tens of thousands of Ladakhis as soldiers as well as purchasing goods and services locally.

Astronomy

Because of its high altitude and clear skies, Ladakh is emerging as a center for leading edge astronomy. Looking into the Ladakh climate, sky and cloud coverage etc., astronomical site survey in Ladakh region was started by Udaipur Solar Observatory and other institutions during 1984. A small 6-inch telescope with weather sensors were put at mount Nimu (along Leh-Srinagar Highway) and after four initial years of survey it was suddenly closed due to the proximity of site near Leh city and army establishments. During 1992–94, when India's future large telescope project started under leadership of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore questions raised again about world class astronomical sites where to put India's larger telescope. Then Ladakh region was again looked and a site in Changthang region was selected for detail site characterization for astronomy. This site is situated in Hanle and an isolated single peak, Digpa-rtsa-re was selected to develop Indian Astronomical Observatory and is home of the two-meter Himalayan Chandra Optical and Infrared Telescope at an altitude of 4500 m above sea level. This telescope was set up in 2000 and dedicated to the nation in 2003. The observatory is totally powered with solar power and a team of dedicated engineers and technicians are stationed always at this location. Astronomers don't need to go to Hanle: they visit CREST Facility at Hoskote town, a suburb of Bangalore city where a remote control center is set up to operate this telescope. Hanle in Ladakh and Hoskote in Bangalore are linked with satellite communication provided on Indian communication satellites.

The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is being set up in the Ladakh village of Merak near the Pangong Tso lake by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Transport

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[61] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[8] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border was sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but, as in the previous case, there is no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m; 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m; 9,020 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m; 12,100 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m; 13,500 ft). This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. The newer route is the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m; 13,051 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m; 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m; 16,598 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m; 17,470 ft) and the More plains and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.


Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh
Buses run from Leh to the villages throughout the year. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which even today provides the only link to some of the valleys, villages and high pastures. Though much of the road network in Kargil has only recently been taken up with the help of funds mostly from the central Govt. Prior to that some major roads into various villages like Drass, Hardas, Kaksar and Sodh were constructed by the Indian Army partly for transportation of defence equipment and partly as goodwill gesture.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport. While an airport meant for civilian purpose at Kargil is used by the Indian Army. The airport is a political issue for the locals who argue that the airport should serve its original purpose, i.e., should open up for civilian flights. Since past few years the Indian Air Force has been operating AN-32 air courier service to transport the locals during the winter seasons to Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh.[63][64] A private airplane company Air Mantra landed a 17-seater aircraft at the airport, in presence of dignitaries like the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, marking the first ever landing by a civilian airline company at Kargil.

Demographics

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different ethnic groups, predominantly Tibetans, Monpas and Dards. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language.

Most Ladakhis in Kargil District are Shia Muslims while in Leh District and Zangskar are Tibetan Buddhist. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Muslims in Leh District. There are some Ladakhi Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns and also Padum in Zangskar. The Balti villages in Leh District have several thousand Nurbakhshia Muslims, followers of Muslim Sufi Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani. There are a less than 40 families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. These families belong to several very small Christian churches and a boarding school as a result of mission work begun in the 19th Century by missionaries from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Saxony, now Germany.

Among non-Ladakhi residents, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a small number of followers of the Bon religion.

The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Changthang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District.

People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of the Dha-Hanu area, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards of Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are believed to be descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh, and traditionally worked as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters. The region's population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. 76.87% population of Kargil is Muslim, while that of Leh is 66.40% Buddhist as per the 2011 census.


A local woman, Ladakh
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the language of Leh is enriched with foreign words. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English; although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past, now only land records and some police records are kept in Urdu.

The total birth rate (TBR) in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The total death rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.

The sex ratio for Leh district declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district it declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of mostly male seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average annual population growth rate from 1981 to 2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.

Culture

Cuisine

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.

Architecture

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa, including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas. Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes. However, the architecture in Kargil region is highly influenced by Persian Architecture as seen in various Mosques and Imam Bargahs

Music and dance

Traditional music includes the instruments surna and daman (shenai and drum). The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of the fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former. Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats.

Sports

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice generally mid–December through mid–February.[76] Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shehnai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid–17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. However Polo is still popular among the Baltis and the sport with some support from financial bigwigs is an annual affair in Drass region of District Kargil.
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Ladakh

Ladakh ("land of high passes") (Ladakhi: ལ་དྭགས la'dwags; Hindi: लद्दाख़; Urdu: لَدّاخ‎) is a region in the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range[3] to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4][5] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India.[6] It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[8] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh's cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

In terms of pronunciation, the use of

"Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

History

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[12] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[14] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[b] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[c] Ptolemy,[d] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[15] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts.[e]

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 north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred Stein,[16]

"... Then further west, The Tibetans encountered a distinctly foreign nation — Shangshung, with its capital at Khyunglung. Mt. Kailāśa (Tise) and Lake Manasarovar formed part of this country, whose language has come down to us through early documents. Though still unidentified, it seems to be Indo-European. ... Geographically the country was certainly open to India, both through Nepal and by way of Kashmir and Ladakh. Kailāśa is a holy place for the Indians, who make pilgrimages to it. No one knows how long they have done so, but the cult may well go back to the times when Shangshung was still independent of Tibet.
How far Zhangzhung stretched to the north, east and west is a mystery ... We have already had an occasion to remark that Shangshung, embracing Kailāśa sacred Mount of the Hindus, may once have had a religion largely borrowed from Hinduism. The situation may even have lasted for quite a long time. In fact, about 950, the Hindu King of Kabul had a statue of Vişņu, of the Kashmiri type (with three heads), which he claimed had been given him by the king of the Bhota (Tibetans) who, in turn had obtained it from Kailāśa."

A chronicle of Ladakh compiled in the 17th century called the La dvags royal rabs, meaning the Royal Chronicle of the Kings of Ladakh recorded that this boundary was traditional and well-known. The first part of the Chronicle was written in the years 1610–1640 and the second half towards the end of the 17th century. The work has been translated into English by A. H. Francke and published in 1926 in Calcutta titled the Antiquities of Indian Tibet. In volume 2, the Ladakhi Chronicle describes the partition by King Skyid-lde-ngima-gon of his kingdom between his three sons, and then the chronicle described the extent of territory secured by that son. The following quotation is from page 94 of this book:

He gave to each of his sons a separate kingdom, viz., to the eldest Dpal-gyi-gon, Maryul of Mngah-ris, the inhabitants using black bows; ru-thogs of the east and the Gold-mine of Hgog; nearer this way Lde-mchog-dkar-po; at the frontier ra-ba-dmar-po; Wam-le, to the top of the pass of the Yi-mig rock ...

From a perusal of the aforesaid work, It is evident that Rudokh was an integral part of Ladakh. Even after the family partition, Rudok continued to be part of Ladakh. Maryul meaning lowlands was a name given to a part of Ladakh. Even at that time, i.e. in the 10th century, Rudok was an integral part of Ladakh and Lde-mchog-dkar-po, i.e., Demchok was an integral part of Ladakh.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states. Some of the Ladakhis converted to Islam during this period.

Between 1380s and early 1510s, many Islamic missionaries propagated Islam and proselytised the Ladakhi people. Sayyid Ali Hamdani, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh and Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi were three important Sufi missionaries who propagated Islam to the locals. Mir Sayyid Ali was the first one to make Muslim converts in Ladakh after his second visit to Kashmir when he passed through it in 1394 AD on his way to Kashgar. He is often described as the founder of Islam in Ladakh. He built several mosques in Ladakh during this time,including one at Padum and one at Shey, the capital of Ladakh. His principal disciple, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh also propagated Islam to Ladakhis and the Balti people rapidly converted to Islam. Noorbakshia Islam is named after him and his followers are only found in Baltistan and Ladakh. During his youth, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin expelled the mystic Sheikh Zain Shahwalli for showing disrespect to him. The sheikh then went to Ladakh and proselytised many people to Islam. In 1505, Shamsuddin Iraqi, a noted Shia scholar, visited Kashmir and Baltistan. He helped in spreading Shia Islam in Kashmir and converted the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Baltistan to his school of thought.

It is unclear what happened to Islam after this period and it seems to have received a setback. Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat who invaded and briefly coquered Ladakh in 1532, 1545 and 1548, does not record any presence of Islam in Leh during his invasion although Shia Islam and Noorbakshi Islam continued to flourish in other regions of Ladakh.


Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means "victorious" in several Tibetan languages.) which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[12] During the Balti invasion led by Raja Ali Sher Khan Anchan, many Buddhist and artifacts were damaged. According to some accounts after the Namgyals were defeated, Jamyang gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the victorious Ali. Ali took the king and his soldiers as captives. Jamyang was later restored to the throne by Ali and was then given the hand of a Muslim princess in marriage whose name was Gyal Khatun or Argyal Khatoom upon the condition that she would be the first queen and her son will become the next ruler. Historical accounts differ upon who her father was. Some identify Ali's ally and Raja of Khaplu Yabgo Shey Gilazi as her father, while others identify Ali himself as the father. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gonpas by Sengge Namgyal, the son of Jamyang and Gyal and the kingdom expanded into Zangskar and Spiti. However, despite a defeat of Ladakh by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, it retained its independence.

It appears that the Balti conquest of Laddakh took place in about 1594 AD which was the era of Namgyal dynasty by Balti king Ali Sher Khan Anchan. Legends show that the Balti army obsessed with success advanced as far as Purang, in the valley of Mansarwar Lake, and won the admiration of their enemies and friends. The Raja of Ladakh sued for peace and, since Ali Sher Khan's intention was not to annex Laddakh, he agreed subject to the condition that the village of Ganokh and Gagra Nullah should be ceded to Skardu and he (the Laddakhi Raja) should pay annual tribute. This tribute was paid through the Gonpa (monastery) of Lama Yuru till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh. Hashmatullah records that the Head Lama of the said Gonpa had admitted before him the payment of yearly tribute to Skardu Darbar till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh.

Islam begin to take root in the Leh area in the beginning of 17th century after the Balti invasion and the marriage of Gyal to Jamyang. A large group of Muslim servants and musicians were sent along with Gyal to Ladakh and private mosques were built where they could pray. The Muslim musicians later settled in Leh. Several hundred Baltis migrated to the kingdom and according to oral tradition many Muslim traders were granted land to settle. Many other Muslims were invited over the following years for various purposes.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684. Kashmiri historians assert that the king converted to Islam in return for the assistance by Mughal Empire after this however Ladakhi chronicles do not mention such a thing. The king agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for defending the kingdom.[30][31] The Mughals however withdrew after being paid off by the 5th Dalai Lama. With the help of reinforcements from Galdan Boshugtu Khan, Khan of the Zungar Empire, the Tibetans attacked again in 1684. The Tibetans were victorious and concluded a treaty with Ladakh then they retreated back to Lhasa on December of 1684. The Treaty of Tingmosgang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the province of Jammu and Kashmir was transferred to Gulab Singh, to be ruled under British suzerainty as a Princely-State. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. European influence began in Ladakh in the 1850s and increased. Geologists, sportsmen and tourists began exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued. Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar and Leh from 16 days to two. The route, however, remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. Construction of a 6.5 km tunnel across Zoji La pass is under consideration to make the route functional throughout the year. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China.[citation needed] Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed "Operation Vijay" by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops. The Indian government was criticized by the Indian public because India respected geographical co-ordinates more than India's opponents: Pakistan and China.

In 1984 the Siachen Glacier area in the northernmost corner of Ladakh became the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan in the highest battleground in the world. The boundary here was not demarcated in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point named NJ9842. In 1984 India occupied the entire Siachen Glacier and by 1987 the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the glacier to the west, with Pakistan troops in the glacial valleys and on the ridges just west of the Saltoro Ridge crest. This status has remained much the same since, and a ceasefire was established in 2003.

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into the Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in the 1990s. Leh and Kargil Districts now each have their own locally elected Hill Councils with some control over local policy and development funds. In 1991, a Peace Pagoda was erected in Leh by Nipponzan Myohoji.

There is a heavy presence of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Ladakh. These forces and People's Liberation Army forces from China have, since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had frequent stand-offs along the Lakakh portion of the Line of Actual Control. The stand-off involving the most troops was in September 2014 in the disputed Chumar region when 800 to 1,000 Indian troops and 1,500 Chinese troops came into close proximity to each other.

Geography

Ladakh is the highest plateau of state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[10] It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun[39] Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistani Kashmir), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast, and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. The historic but imprecise divide between Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the north in the intricate maze of ridges east of Rudok including Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri, and continues southeastward toward northwestern Nepal. Before partition, Baltistan, now under Pakistani control, was a district in Ladakh. Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[f][40] The peaks in the Ladakh Range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft) and increase toward southeast, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

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 4,400 m (14,400 ft) 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 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu and Padum. The Zangskar 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. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh became the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, that still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram Range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,880 ft) at its snout. Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram Range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).


Monthly average temperature in Leh
The Ladakh Range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The Pangong Range runs parallel to the Ladakh Range for about 100 km northwest from Chushul along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest point is about 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of the Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram Range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas Group (highest point 7,245 m; 23,770 ft) the Rimo Muztagh (highest point 7,385 m; 24,229 ft) and the Teram Kangri Group (highest point 7,464 m; 24,488 ft) together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m; 24,692 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,202 m; 23,629 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia there is a triple barrier — the Ladakh Range, Karakoram Range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, generally denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding in the region (e.g., the 2010 floods) has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns and retreating glaciers, both of which have been found to be linked to global climate change. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the "Glacier Man", creates artificial glaciers as one solution for retreating glaciers.

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain cut off from the rest of the region for several months in the year, as the whole region remains cut off by road from the rest of the country. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from 3 to 35 °C in summer and minimums range from -20 to -35 °C in winter.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[45] The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s.

The fauna of Ladakh has much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the black redstart), and the hoopoe are common in summer. The brown-headed gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the brahminy duck also known as the ruddy sheldrake and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock, and chukar. The lammergeier and the golden eagle are common raptors here specially in Changthang region.

Wild animals of Ladakh
Ibex ( Photo by Tashi Lonchey)

The endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bharal or blue sheep is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region, although it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas. The Asiatic ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in the western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakhi Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is declining, however, and there are not more than 3000 individuals left in Ladakh. The urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: the Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by it. Its population declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators. The endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru in Indian English, or Ladakhi tsos, has traditionally been hunted for its wool (shahtoosh) which is a natural fiber of the finest quality and thus valued for its light weight and warmth and as a status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.


Kiang or Tibetan wild ass
The kiang, or Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who hold the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation.[51] There are about 200 snow leopards in Ladakh of an estimated 7,000 worldwide. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan sand fox has been discovered in this region. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common.

Scant precipitation makes Ladakh a high-altitude desert with extremely scarce vegetation over most of its area. Natural vegetation mainly occurs along water courses and on high altitude areas that receive more snow and cooler summer temperatures. Human settlements, however, are richly vegetated due to irrigation.

Natural vegetation commonly seen along water courses includes seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.), wild roses of pink or yellow varieties, tamarisk (Myricaria spp.), caraway, stinging nettles, mint, Physochlaina praealta, and various grasses.

Natural vegetation in unirrigated desert around Leh includes capers (Capparis spinosa), Nepeta floccosa, globe thistle (Echinops cornigerus), Ephedra gerardiana, rhubarb, Tanacetum spp., several artemisias, Peganum harmala, and several other succulents. Juniper trees grow wild in some locations and are usually considered sacred by Buddhists.

Human settlements are marked by lush fields and trees, all irrigated with water from glacial streams, springs, and rivers. Higher altitude villages grow barley, peas, and vegetables, and have one species of willow (called Drokchang in Ladakhi). Lower villages also grow wheat, alfalfa, mustard for oil, grapes, and a greater variety of vegetables. Cultivated trees in lower villages include apricots, apples, mulberries, walnuts, balsam poplars, Afghan poplars, oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and several species of willow (difficult to identify, and local names vary). Elms and white poplars are found in the Nubra Valley, and one legendary specimen of white poplar grows in Alchi in the Indus Valley. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Himalayan cypress and horse chestnut have been introduced since the 1990s.

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on 28 August 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on 3 September 1995. Kargil, later, adopted the Hill council in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council — Kargil was established.[56] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councilor and executive councilors.[57] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, the judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The MP from Ladakh in the current Lok Sabha is Thupstan Chhewang a candidate from the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).[58]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to be politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question to the fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992.

Economy

The economy of Ladakh rests on three pillars: the Indian Army, tourism, and civilian government in the form of jobs and extensive subsidies. Agriculture, the mainstay only one generation ago, is no longer a major portion of the economy, although most families still own and work their land.

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas and keeping livestock, especially yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats.

At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (9,800 to 14,100 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are the lifeline of the nomads in Tibet. They used to wander from high altitude to low altitude depending upon the climate. They sell their produce mainly yak hides,sheep hides to the merchants. Ladakh also suffers shortages of water. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment.

The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items.

Two items grown for export are apricots and pashmina. The largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as on the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal.

Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which has what are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan.


Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking.

This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[59] Today, about 100,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru - Padum - Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley.

Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, the tourism industry and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town. The Indian army is a major part of the economy by employing tens of thousands of Ladakhis as soldiers as well as purchasing goods and services locally.

Astronomy

Because of its high altitude and clear skies, Ladakh is emerging as a center for leading edge astronomy. Looking into the Ladakh climate, sky and cloud coverage etc., astronomical site survey in Ladakh region was started by Udaipur Solar Observatory and other institutions during 1984. A small 6-inch telescope with weather sensors were put at mount Nimu (along Leh-Srinagar Highway) and after four initial years of survey it was suddenly closed due to the proximity of site near Leh city and army establishments. During 1992–94, when India's future large telescope project started under leadership of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore questions raised again about world class astronomical sites where to put India's larger telescope. Then Ladakh region was again looked and a site in Changthang region was selected for detail site characterization for astronomy. This site is situated in Hanle and an isolated single peak, Digpa-rtsa-re was selected to develop Indian Astronomical Observatory and is home of the two-meter Himalayan Chandra Optical and Infrared Telescope at an altitude of 4500 m above sea level. This telescope was set up in 2000 and dedicated to the nation in 2003. The observatory is totally powered with solar power and a team of dedicated engineers and technicians are stationed always at this location. Astronomers don't need to go to Hanle: they visit CREST Facility at Hoskote town, a suburb of Bangalore city where a remote control center is set up to operate this telescope. Hanle in Ladakh and Hoskote in Bangalore are linked with satellite communication provided on Indian communication satellites.

The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is being set up in the Ladakh village of Merak near the Pangong Tso lake by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Transport

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[61] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[8] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border was sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but, as in the previous case, there is no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m; 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m; 9,020 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m; 12,100 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m; 13,500 ft). This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. The newer route is the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m; 13,051 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m; 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m; 16,598 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m; 17,470 ft) and the More plains and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.


Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh
Buses run from Leh to the villages throughout the year. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which even today provides the only link to some of the valleys, villages and high pastures. Though much of the road network in Kargil has only recently been taken up with the help of funds mostly from the central Govt. Prior to that some major roads into various villages like Drass, Hardas, Kaksar and Sodh were constructed by the Indian Army partly for transportation of defence equipment and partly as goodwill gesture.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport. While an airport meant for civilian purpose at Kargil is used by the Indian Army. The airport is a political issue for the locals who argue that the airport should serve its original purpose, i.e., should open up for civilian flights. Since past few years the Indian Air Force has been operating AN-32 air courier service to transport the locals during the winter seasons to Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh.[63][64] A private airplane company Air Mantra landed a 17-seater aircraft at the airport, in presence of dignitaries like the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, marking the first ever landing by a civilian airline company at Kargil.

Demographics

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different ethnic groups, predominantly Tibetans, Monpas and Dards. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language.

Most Ladakhis in Kargil District are Shia Muslims while in Leh District and Zangskar are Tibetan Buddhist. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Muslims in Leh District. There are some Ladakhi Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns and also Padum in Zangskar. The Balti villages in Leh District have several thousand Nurbakhshia Muslims, followers of Muslim Sufi Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani. There are a less than 40 families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. These families belong to several very small Christian churches and a boarding school as a result of mission work begun in the 19th Century by missionaries from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Saxony, now Germany.

Among non-Ladakhi residents, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a small number of followers of the Bon religion.

The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Changthang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District.

People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of the Dha-Hanu area, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards of Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are believed to be descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh, and traditionally worked as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters. The region's population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. 76.87% population of Kargil is Muslim, while that of Leh is 66.40% Buddhist as per the 2011 census.


A local woman, Ladakh
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the language of Leh is enriched with foreign words. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English; although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past, now only land records and some police records are kept in Urdu.

The total birth rate (TBR) in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The total death rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.

The sex ratio for Leh district declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district it declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of mostly male seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average annual population growth rate from 1981 to 2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.

Culture

Cuisine

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.

Architecture

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa, including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas. Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes. However, the architecture in Kargil region is highly influenced by Persian Architecture as seen in various Mosques and Imam Bargahs

Music and dance

Traditional music includes the instruments surna and daman (shenai and drum). The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of the fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former. Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats.

Sports

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice generally mid–December through mid–February.[76] Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shehnai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid–17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. However Polo is still popular among the Baltis and the sport with some support from financial bigwigs is an annual affair in Drass region of District Kargil.
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Ladakh

Ladakh ("land of high passes") (Ladakhi: ལ་དྭགས la'dwags; Hindi: लद्दाख़; Urdu: لَدّاخ‎) is a region in the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range[3] to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4][5] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India.[6] It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[8] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh's cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

In terms of pronunciation, the use of

"Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

History

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[12] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[14] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[b] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[c] Ptolemy,[d] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[15] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts.[e]

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 north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred Stein,[16]

"... Then further west, The Tibetans encountered a distinctly foreign nation — Shangshung, with its capital at Khyunglung. Mt. Kailāśa (Tise) and Lake Manasarovar formed part of this country, whose language has come down to us through early documents. Though still unidentified, it seems to be Indo-European. ... Geographically the country was certainly open to India, both through Nepal and by way of Kashmir and Ladakh. Kailāśa is a holy place for the Indians, who make pilgrimages to it. No one knows how long they have done so, but the cult may well go back to the times when Shangshung was still independent of Tibet.
How far Zhangzhung stretched to the north, east and west is a mystery ... We have already had an occasion to remark that Shangshung, embracing Kailāśa sacred Mount of the Hindus, may once have had a religion largely borrowed from Hinduism. The situation may even have lasted for quite a long time. In fact, about 950, the Hindu King of Kabul had a statue of Vişņu, of the Kashmiri type (with three heads), which he claimed had been given him by the king of the Bhota (Tibetans) who, in turn had obtained it from Kailāśa."

A chronicle of Ladakh compiled in the 17th century called the La dvags royal rabs, meaning the Royal Chronicle of the Kings of Ladakh recorded that this boundary was traditional and well-known. The first part of the Chronicle was written in the years 1610–1640 and the second half towards the end of the 17th century. The work has been translated into English by A. H. Francke and published in 1926 in Calcutta titled the Antiquities of Indian Tibet. In volume 2, the Ladakhi Chronicle describes the partition by King Skyid-lde-ngima-gon of his kingdom between his three sons, and then the chronicle described the extent of territory secured by that son. The following quotation is from page 94 of this book:

He gave to each of his sons a separate kingdom, viz., to the eldest Dpal-gyi-gon, Maryul of Mngah-ris, the inhabitants using black bows; ru-thogs of the east and the Gold-mine of Hgog; nearer this way Lde-mchog-dkar-po; at the frontier ra-ba-dmar-po; Wam-le, to the top of the pass of the Yi-mig rock ...

From a perusal of the aforesaid work, It is evident that Rudokh was an integral part of Ladakh. Even after the family partition, Rudok continued to be part of Ladakh. Maryul meaning lowlands was a name given to a part of Ladakh. Even at that time, i.e. in the 10th century, Rudok was an integral part of Ladakh and Lde-mchog-dkar-po, i.e., Demchok was an integral part of Ladakh.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states. Some of the Ladakhis converted to Islam during this period.

Between 1380s and early 1510s, many Islamic missionaries propagated Islam and proselytised the Ladakhi people. Sayyid Ali Hamdani, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh and Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi were three important Sufi missionaries who propagated Islam to the locals. Mir Sayyid Ali was the first one to make Muslim converts in Ladakh after his second visit to Kashmir when he passed through it in 1394 AD on his way to Kashgar. He is often described as the founder of Islam in Ladakh. He built several mosques in Ladakh during this time,including one at Padum and one at Shey, the capital of Ladakh. His principal disciple, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh also propagated Islam to Ladakhis and the Balti people rapidly converted to Islam. Noorbakshia Islam is named after him and his followers are only found in Baltistan and Ladakh. During his youth, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin expelled the mystic Sheikh Zain Shahwalli for showing disrespect to him. The sheikh then went to Ladakh and proselytised many people to Islam. In 1505, Shamsuddin Iraqi, a noted Shia scholar, visited Kashmir and Baltistan. He helped in spreading Shia Islam in Kashmir and converted the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Baltistan to his school of thought.

It is unclear what happened to Islam after this period and it seems to have received a setback. Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat who invaded and briefly coquered Ladakh in 1532, 1545 and 1548, does not record any presence of Islam in Leh during his invasion although Shia Islam and Noorbakshi Islam continued to flourish in other regions of Ladakh.


Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means "victorious" in several Tibetan languages.) which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[12] During the Balti invasion led by Raja Ali Sher Khan Anchan, many Buddhist and artifacts were damaged. According to some accounts after the Namgyals were defeated, Jamyang gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the victorious Ali. Ali took the king and his soldiers as captives. Jamyang was later restored to the throne by Ali and was then given the hand of a Muslim princess in marriage whose name was Gyal Khatun or Argyal Khatoom upon the condition that she would be the first queen and her son will become the next ruler. Historical accounts differ upon who her father was. Some identify Ali's ally and Raja of Khaplu Yabgo Shey Gilazi as her father, while others identify Ali himself as the father. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gonpas by Sengge Namgyal, the son of Jamyang and Gyal and the kingdom expanded into Zangskar and Spiti. However, despite a defeat of Ladakh by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, it retained its independence.

It appears that the Balti conquest of Laddakh took place in about 1594 AD which was the era of Namgyal dynasty by Balti king Ali Sher Khan Anchan. Legends show that the Balti army obsessed with success advanced as far as Purang, in the valley of Mansarwar Lake, and won the admiration of their enemies and friends. The Raja of Ladakh sued for peace and, since Ali Sher Khan's intention was not to annex Laddakh, he agreed subject to the condition that the village of Ganokh and Gagra Nullah should be ceded to Skardu and he (the Laddakhi Raja) should pay annual tribute. This tribute was paid through the Gonpa (monastery) of Lama Yuru till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh. Hashmatullah records that the Head Lama of the said Gonpa had admitted before him the payment of yearly tribute to Skardu Darbar till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh.

Islam begin to take root in the Leh area in the beginning of 17th century after the Balti invasion and the marriage of Gyal to Jamyang. A large group of Muslim servants and musicians were sent along with Gyal to Ladakh and private mosques were built where they could pray. The Muslim musicians later settled in Leh. Several hundred Baltis migrated to the kingdom and according to oral tradition many Muslim traders were granted land to settle. Many other Muslims were invited over the following years for various purposes.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684. Kashmiri historians assert that the king converted to Islam in return for the assistance by Mughal Empire after this however Ladakhi chronicles do not mention such a thing. The king agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for defending the kingdom.[30][31] The Mughals however withdrew after being paid off by the 5th Dalai Lama. With the help of reinforcements from Galdan Boshugtu Khan, Khan of the Zungar Empire, the Tibetans attacked again in 1684. The Tibetans were victorious and concluded a treaty with Ladakh then they retreated back to Lhasa on December of 1684. The Treaty of Tingmosgang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the province of Jammu and Kashmir was transferred to Gulab Singh, to be ruled under British suzerainty as a Princely-State. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. European influence began in Ladakh in the 1850s and increased. Geologists, sportsmen and tourists began exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued. Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar and Leh from 16 days to two. The route, however, remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. Construction of a 6.5 km tunnel across Zoji La pass is under consideration to make the route functional throughout the year. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China.[citation needed] Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed "Operation Vijay" by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops. The Indian government was criticized by the Indian public because India respected geographical co-ordinates more than India's opponents: Pakistan and China.

In 1984 the Siachen Glacier area in the northernmost corner of Ladakh became the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan in the highest battleground in the world. The boundary here was not demarcated in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point named NJ9842. In 1984 India occupied the entire Siachen Glacier and by 1987 the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the glacier to the west, with Pakistan troops in the glacial valleys and on the ridges just west of the Saltoro Ridge crest. This status has remained much the same since, and a ceasefire was established in 2003.

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into the Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in the 1990s. Leh and Kargil Districts now each have their own locally elected Hill Councils with some control over local policy and development funds. In 1991, a Peace Pagoda was erected in Leh by Nipponzan Myohoji.

There is a heavy presence of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Ladakh. These forces and People's Liberation Army forces from China have, since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had frequent stand-offs along the Lakakh portion of the Line of Actual Control. The stand-off involving the most troops was in September 2014 in the disputed Chumar region when 800 to 1,000 Indian troops and 1,500 Chinese troops came into close proximity to each other.

Geography

Ladakh is the highest plateau of state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[10] It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun[39] Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistani Kashmir), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast, and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. The historic but imprecise divide between Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the north in the intricate maze of ridges east of Rudok including Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri, and continues southeastward toward northwestern Nepal. Before partition, Baltistan, now under Pakistani control, was a district in Ladakh. Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[f][40] The peaks in the Ladakh Range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft) and increase toward southeast, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

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 4,400 m (14,400 ft) 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 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu and Padum. The Zangskar 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. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh became the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, that still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram Range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,880 ft) at its snout. Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram Range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).


Monthly average temperature in Leh
The Ladakh Range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The Pangong Range runs parallel to the Ladakh Range for about 100 km northwest from Chushul along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest point is about 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of the Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram Range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas Group (highest point 7,245 m; 23,770 ft) the Rimo Muztagh (highest point 7,385 m; 24,229 ft) and the Teram Kangri Group (highest point 7,464 m; 24,488 ft) together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m; 24,692 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,202 m; 23,629 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia there is a triple barrier — the Ladakh Range, Karakoram Range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, generally denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding in the region (e.g., the 2010 floods) has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns and retreating glaciers, both of which have been found to be linked to global climate change. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the "Glacier Man", creates artificial glaciers as one solution for retreating glaciers.

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain cut off from the rest of the region for several months in the year, as the whole region remains cut off by road from the rest of the country. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from 3 to 35 °C in summer and minimums range from -20 to -35 °C in winter.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[45] The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s.

The fauna of Ladakh has much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the black redstart), and the hoopoe are common in summer. The brown-headed gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the brahminy duck also known as the ruddy sheldrake and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock, and chukar. The lammergeier and the golden eagle are common raptors here specially in Changthang region.

Wild animals of Ladakh
Ibex ( Photo by Tashi Lonchey)

The endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bharal or blue sheep is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region, although it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas. The Asiatic ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in the western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakhi Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is declining, however, and there are not more than 3000 individuals left in Ladakh. The urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: the Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by it. Its population declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators. The endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru in Indian English, or Ladakhi tsos, has traditionally been hunted for its wool (shahtoosh) which is a natural fiber of the finest quality and thus valued for its light weight and warmth and as a status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.


Kiang or Tibetan wild ass
The kiang, or Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who hold the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation.[51] There are about 200 snow leopards in Ladakh of an estimated 7,000 worldwide. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan sand fox has been discovered in this region. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common.

Scant precipitation makes Ladakh a high-altitude desert with extremely scarce vegetation over most of its area. Natural vegetation mainly occurs along water courses and on high altitude areas that receive more snow and cooler summer temperatures. Human settlements, however, are richly vegetated due to irrigation.

Natural vegetation commonly seen along water courses includes seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.), wild roses of pink or yellow varieties, tamarisk (Myricaria spp.), caraway, stinging nettles, mint, Physochlaina praealta, and various grasses.

Natural vegetation in unirrigated desert around Leh includes capers (Capparis spinosa), Nepeta floccosa, globe thistle (Echinops cornigerus), Ephedra gerardiana, rhubarb, Tanacetum spp., several artemisias, Peganum harmala, and several other succulents. Juniper trees grow wild in some locations and are usually considered sacred by Buddhists.

Human settlements are marked by lush fields and trees, all irrigated with water from glacial streams, springs, and rivers. Higher altitude villages grow barley, peas, and vegetables, and have one species of willow (called Drokchang in Ladakhi). Lower villages also grow wheat, alfalfa, mustard for oil, grapes, and a greater variety of vegetables. Cultivated trees in lower villages include apricots, apples, mulberries, walnuts, balsam poplars, Afghan poplars, oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and several species of willow (difficult to identify, and local names vary). Elms and white poplars are found in the Nubra Valley, and one legendary specimen of white poplar grows in Alchi in the Indus Valley. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Himalayan cypress and horse chestnut have been introduced since the 1990s.

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on 28 August 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on 3 September 1995. Kargil, later, adopted the Hill council in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council — Kargil was established.[56] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councilor and executive councilors.[57] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, the judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The MP from Ladakh in the current Lok Sabha is Thupstan Chhewang a candidate from the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).[58]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to be politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question to the fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992.

Economy

The economy of Ladakh rests on three pillars: the Indian Army, tourism, and civilian government in the form of jobs and extensive subsidies. Agriculture, the mainstay only one generation ago, is no longer a major portion of the economy, although most families still own and work their land.

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas and keeping livestock, especially yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats.

At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (9,800 to 14,100 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are the lifeline of the nomads in Tibet. They used to wander from high altitude to low altitude depending upon the climate. They sell their produce mainly yak hides,sheep hides to the merchants. Ladakh also suffers shortages of water. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment.

The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items.

Two items grown for export are apricots and pashmina. The largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as on the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal.

Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which has what are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan.


Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking.

This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[59] Today, about 100,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru - Padum - Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley.

Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, the tourism industry and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town. The Indian army is a major part of the economy by employing tens of thousands of Ladakhis as soldiers as well as purchasing goods and services locally.

Astronomy

Because of its high altitude and clear skies, Ladakh is emerging as a center for leading edge astronomy. Looking into the Ladakh climate, sky and cloud coverage etc., astronomical site survey in Ladakh region was started by Udaipur Solar Observatory and other institutions during 1984. A small 6-inch telescope with weather sensors were put at mount Nimu (along Leh-Srinagar Highway) and after four initial years of survey it was suddenly closed due to the proximity of site near Leh city and army establishments. During 1992–94, when India's future large telescope project started under leadership of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore questions raised again about world class astronomical sites where to put India's larger telescope. Then Ladakh region was again looked and a site in Changthang region was selected for detail site characterization for astronomy. This site is situated in Hanle and an isolated single peak, Digpa-rtsa-re was selected to develop Indian Astronomical Observatory and is home of the two-meter Himalayan Chandra Optical and Infrared Telescope at an altitude of 4500 m above sea level. This telescope was set up in 2000 and dedicated to the nation in 2003. The observatory is totally powered with solar power and a team of dedicated engineers and technicians are stationed always at this location. Astronomers don't need to go to Hanle: they visit CREST Facility at Hoskote town, a suburb of Bangalore city where a remote control center is set up to operate this telescope. Hanle in Ladakh and Hoskote in Bangalore are linked with satellite communication provided on Indian communication satellites.

The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is being set up in the Ladakh village of Merak near the Pangong Tso lake by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Transport

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[61] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[8] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border was sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but, as in the previous case, there is no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m; 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m; 9,020 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m; 12,100 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m; 13,500 ft). This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. The newer route is the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m; 13,051 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m; 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m; 16,598 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m; 17,470 ft) and the More plains and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.


Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh
Buses run from Leh to the villages throughout the year. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which even today provides the only link to some of the valleys, villages and high pastures. Though much of the road network in Kargil has only recently been taken up with the help of funds mostly from the central Govt. Prior to that some major roads into various villages like Drass, Hardas, Kaksar and Sodh were constructed by the Indian Army partly for transportation of defence equipment and partly as goodwill gesture.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport. While an airport meant for civilian purpose at Kargil is used by the Indian Army. The airport is a political issue for the locals who argue that the airport should serve its original purpose, i.e., should open up for civilian flights. Since past few years the Indian Air Force has been operating AN-32 air courier service to transport the locals during the winter seasons to Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh.[63][64] A private airplane company Air Mantra landed a 17-seater aircraft at the airport, in presence of dignitaries like the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, marking the first ever landing by a civilian airline company at Kargil.

Demographics

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different ethnic groups, predominantly Tibetans, Monpas and Dards. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language.

Most Ladakhis in Kargil District are Shia Muslims while in Leh District and Zangskar are Tibetan Buddhist. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Muslims in Leh District. There are some Ladakhi Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns and also Padum in Zangskar. The Balti villages in Leh District have several thousand Nurbakhshia Muslims, followers of Muslim Sufi Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani. There are a less than 40 families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. These families belong to several very small Christian churches and a boarding school as a result of mission work begun in the 19th Century by missionaries from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Saxony, now Germany.

Among non-Ladakhi residents, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a small number of followers of the Bon religion.

The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Changthang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District.

People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of the Dha-Hanu area, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards of Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are believed to be descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh, and traditionally worked as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters. The region's population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. 76.87% population of Kargil is Muslim, while that of Leh is 66.40% Buddhist as per the 2011 census.


A local woman, Ladakh
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the language of Leh is enriched with foreign words. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English; although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past, now only land records and some police records are kept in Urdu.

The total birth rate (TBR) in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The total death rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.

The sex ratio for Leh district declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district it declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of mostly male seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average annual population growth rate from 1981 to 2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.

Culture

Cuisine

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.

Architecture

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa, including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas. Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes. However, the architecture in Kargil region is highly influenced by Persian Architecture as seen in various Mosques and Imam Bargahs

Music and dance

Traditional music includes the instruments surna and daman (shenai and drum). The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of the fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former. Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats.

Sports

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice generally mid–December through mid–February.[76] Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shehnai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid–17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. However Polo is still popular among the Baltis and the sport with some support from financial bigwigs is an annual affair in Drass region of District Kargil.
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Ladakh

Ladakh ("land of high passes") (Ladakhi: ལ་དྭགས la'dwags; Hindi: लद्दाख़; Urdu: لَدّاخ‎) is a region in the Indian Administered Jammu and Kashmir that currently extends from the Kuen Lun mountain range[3] to the main Great Himalayas to the south, inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.[4][5] It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in Jammu and Kashmir and its culture and history are closely related to that of Tibet.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistan), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast (extending to the Kun Lun Mountains), and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. Aksai Chin is one of the disputed border areas between China and India.[6] It is administered by China as part of Hotan County but is also claimed by India as a part of the Ladakh region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1962, China and India fought a brief war over Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, but in 1993 and 1996 the two countries signed agreements to respect the Line of Actual Control.

In the past Ladakh gained importance from its strategic location at the crossroads of important trade routes,[8] but since the Chinese authorities closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has dwindled except for tourism. Since 1974, the Government of India has successfully encouraged tourism in Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a part of strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian military maintains a strong presence in the region.

The largest town in Ladakh is Leh followed by Kargil Almost half of Ladakhis are Shia Muslims and the rest are mostly Tibetan Buddhists. Some Ladakhi activists have in recent times called for Ladakh to be constituted as a union territory because of perceived unfair treatment by Kashmir and Ladakh's cultural differences with predominantly Muslim Kashmir.

In terms of pronunciation, the use of

"Ladakh, the Persian transliteration of the Tibetan La-dvags, is warranted by the pronunciation of the word in several Tibetan districts.

History

Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh indicate that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times.[12] Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards,[14] who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[b] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[c] Ptolemy,[d] and the geographical lists of the Puranas.[15] Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang describes the region in his accounts.[e]

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 north-west India, particularly from Kashmir. The first spreading of Buddhism was the one in Tibet proper.

According to Rolf Alfred Stein, author of Tibetan Civilization, the area of Zhangzhung was not historically a part of Tibet and was a distinctly foreign territory to the Tibetans. According to Rolf Alfred Stein,[16]

"... Then further west, The Tibetans encountered a distinctly foreign nation — Shangshung, with its capital at Khyunglung. Mt. Kailāśa (Tise) and Lake Manasarovar formed part of this country, whose language has come down to us through early documents. Though still unidentified, it seems to be Indo-European. ... Geographically the country was certainly open to India, both through Nepal and by way of Kashmir and Ladakh. Kailāśa is a holy place for the Indians, who make pilgrimages to it. No one knows how long they have done so, but the cult may well go back to the times when Shangshung was still independent of Tibet.
How far Zhangzhung stretched to the north, east and west is a mystery ... We have already had an occasion to remark that Shangshung, embracing Kailāśa sacred Mount of the Hindus, may once have had a religion largely borrowed from Hinduism. The situation may even have lasted for quite a long time. In fact, about 950, the Hindu King of Kabul had a statue of Vişņu, of the Kashmiri type (with three heads), which he claimed had been given him by the king of the Bhota (Tibetans) who, in turn had obtained it from Kailāśa."

A chronicle of Ladakh compiled in the 17th century called the La dvags royal rabs, meaning the Royal Chronicle of the Kings of Ladakh recorded that this boundary was traditional and well-known. The first part of the Chronicle was written in the years 1610–1640 and the second half towards the end of the 17th century. The work has been translated into English by A. H. Francke and published in 1926 in Calcutta titled the Antiquities of Indian Tibet. In volume 2, the Ladakhi Chronicle describes the partition by King Skyid-lde-ngima-gon of his kingdom between his three sons, and then the chronicle described the extent of territory secured by that son. The following quotation is from page 94 of this book:

He gave to each of his sons a separate kingdom, viz., to the eldest Dpal-gyi-gon, Maryul of Mngah-ris, the inhabitants using black bows; ru-thogs of the east and the Gold-mine of Hgog; nearer this way Lde-mchog-dkar-po; at the frontier ra-ba-dmar-po; Wam-le, to the top of the pass of the Yi-mig rock ...

From a perusal of the aforesaid work, It is evident that Rudokh was an integral part of Ladakh. Even after the family partition, Rudok continued to be part of Ladakh. Maryul meaning lowlands was a name given to a part of Ladakh. Even at that time, i.e. in the 10th century, Rudok was an integral part of Ladakh and Lde-mchog-dkar-po, i.e., Demchok was an integral part of Ladakh.

Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states. Some of the Ladakhis converted to Islam during this period.

Between 1380s and early 1510s, many Islamic missionaries propagated Islam and proselytised the Ladakhi people. Sayyid Ali Hamdani, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh and Mir Shamsuddin Iraqi were three important Sufi missionaries who propagated Islam to the locals. Mir Sayyid Ali was the first one to make Muslim converts in Ladakh after his second visit to Kashmir when he passed through it in 1394 AD on his way to Kashgar. He is often described as the founder of Islam in Ladakh. He built several mosques in Ladakh during this time,including one at Padum and one at Shey, the capital of Ladakh. His principal disciple, Sayyid Muhammad Nur Baksh also propagated Islam to Ladakhis and the Balti people rapidly converted to Islam. Noorbakshia Islam is named after him and his followers are only found in Baltistan and Ladakh. During his youth, Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin expelled the mystic Sheikh Zain Shahwalli for showing disrespect to him. The sheikh then went to Ladakh and proselytised many people to Islam. In 1505, Shamsuddin Iraqi, a noted Shia scholar, visited Kashmir and Baltistan. He helped in spreading Shia Islam in Kashmir and converted the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Baltistan to his school of thought.

It is unclear what happened to Islam after this period and it seems to have received a setback. Mirza Muhammad Haidar Dughlat who invaded and briefly coquered Ladakh in 1532, 1545 and 1548, does not record any presence of Islam in Leh during his invasion although Shia Islam and Noorbakshi Islam continued to flourish in other regions of Ladakh.


Thikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty (Namgyal means "victorious" in several Tibetan languages.) which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal,[12] During the Balti invasion led by Raja Ali Sher Khan Anchan, many Buddhist and artifacts were damaged. According to some accounts after the Namgyals were defeated, Jamyang gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the victorious Ali. Ali took the king and his soldiers as captives. Jamyang was later restored to the throne by Ali and was then given the hand of a Muslim princess in marriage whose name was Gyal Khatun or Argyal Khatoom upon the condition that she would be the first queen and her son will become the next ruler. Historical accounts differ upon who her father was. Some identify Ali's ally and Raja of Khaplu Yabgo Shey Gilazi as her father, while others identify Ali himself as the father. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gonpas by Sengge Namgyal, the son of Jamyang and Gyal and the kingdom expanded into Zangskar and Spiti. However, despite a defeat of Ladakh by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, it retained its independence.

It appears that the Balti conquest of Laddakh took place in about 1594 AD which was the era of Namgyal dynasty by Balti king Ali Sher Khan Anchan. Legends show that the Balti army obsessed with success advanced as far as Purang, in the valley of Mansarwar Lake, and won the admiration of their enemies and friends. The Raja of Ladakh sued for peace and, since Ali Sher Khan's intention was not to annex Laddakh, he agreed subject to the condition that the village of Ganokh and Gagra Nullah should be ceded to Skardu and he (the Laddakhi Raja) should pay annual tribute. This tribute was paid through the Gonpa (monastery) of Lama Yuru till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh. Hashmatullah records that the Head Lama of the said Gonpa had admitted before him the payment of yearly tribute to Skardu Darbar till the Dogra conquest of Laddakh.

Islam begin to take root in the Leh area in the beginning of 17th century after the Balti invasion and the marriage of Gyal to Jamyang. A large group of Muslim servants and musicians were sent along with Gyal to Ladakh and private mosques were built where they could pray. The Muslim musicians later settled in Leh. Several hundred Baltis migrated to the kingdom and according to oral tradition many Muslim traders were granted land to settle. Many other Muslims were invited over the following years for various purposes.

In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which, among other reasons, resulted in its invasion by the Tibetan Central Government. This event is known as the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war of 1679-1684. Kashmiri historians assert that the king converted to Islam in return for the assistance by Mughal Empire after this however Ladakhi chronicles do not mention such a thing. The king agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for defending the kingdom.[30][31] The Mughals however withdrew after being paid off by the 5th Dalai Lama. With the help of reinforcements from Galdan Boshugtu Khan, Khan of the Zungar Empire, the Tibetans attacked again in 1684. The Tibetans were victorious and concluded a treaty with Ladakh then they retreated back to Lhasa on December of 1684. The Treaty of Tingmosgang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh but severely restricted Ladakh's independence. In 1834, the Dogra Zorawar Singh, a general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, the province of Jammu and Kashmir was transferred to Gulab Singh, to be ruled under British suzerainty as a Princely-State. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. European influence began in Ladakh in the 1850s and increased. Geologists, sportsmen and tourists began exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church.

At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. Pakistani raiders had reached Ladakh and military operations were initiated to evict them. The wartime conversion of the pony trail from Sonamarg to Zoji La by army engineers permitted tanks to move up and successfully capture the pass. The advance continued. Dras, Kargil and Leh were liberated and Ladakh cleared of the infiltrators.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. In 1955 China began to build roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through this area. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh Highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar and Leh from 16 days to two. The route, however, remains closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. Construction of a 6.5 km tunnel across Zoji La pass is under consideration to make the route functional throughout the year. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the subject of a territorial dispute between India, Pakistan and China.[citation needed] Kargil was an area of conflict in the wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the focal point of a potential nuclear conflict during the Kargil War in 1999.

The Kargil War of 1999, codenamed "Operation Vijay" by the Indian Army, saw infiltration by Pakistani troops into parts of Western Ladakh, namely Kargil, Dras, Mushkoh, Batalik and Chorbatla, overlooking key locations on the Srinagar-Leh highway. Extensive operations were launched in high altitudes by the Indian Army with considerable artillery and air force support. Pakistani troops were evicted from the Indian side of the Line of Control which the Indian government ordered was to be respected and which was not crossed by Indian troops. The Indian government was criticized by the Indian public because India respected geographical co-ordinates more than India's opponents: Pakistan and China.

In 1984 the Siachen Glacier area in the northernmost corner of Ladakh became the venue of a continuing military standoff between India and Pakistan in the highest battleground in the world. The boundary here was not demarcated in the 1972 Simla Agreement beyond a point named NJ9842. In 1984 India occupied the entire Siachen Glacier and by 1987 the heights of the Saltoro Ridge which borders the glacier to the west, with Pakistan troops in the glacial valleys and on the ridges just west of the Saltoro Ridge crest. This status has remained much the same since, and a ceasefire was established in 2003.

The Ladakh region was bifurcated into the Kargil and Leh districts in 1979. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims. Following demands for autonomy from the Kashmiri dominated state government, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created in the 1990s. Leh and Kargil Districts now each have their own locally elected Hill Councils with some control over local policy and development funds. In 1991, a Peace Pagoda was erected in Leh by Nipponzan Myohoji.

There is a heavy presence of Indian Army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police forces in Ladakh. These forces and People's Liberation Army forces from China have, since the 1962 Sino-Indian War, had frequent stand-offs along the Lakakh portion of the Line of Actual Control. The stand-off involving the most troops was in September 2014 in the disputed Chumar region when 800 to 1,000 Indian troops and 1,500 Chinese troops came into close proximity to each other.

Geography

Ladakh is the highest plateau of state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[10] It extends from the Himalayan to the Kunlun[39] Ranges and includes the upper Indus River valley.

Historically, the region included the Baltistan (Baltiyul) valleys (now mostly in Pakistani Kashmir), the entire upper Indus Valley, the remote Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti to the south, much of Ngari including the Rudok region and Guge in the east, Aksai Chin in the northeast, and the Nubra Valley to the north over Khardong La in the Ladakh Range. Contemporary Ladakh borders Tibet to the east, the Lahaul and Spiti regions to the south, the Vale of Kashmir, Jammu and Baltiyul regions to the west, and the southwest corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram Pass in the far north. The historic but imprecise divide between Ladakh and the Tibetan Plateau commences in the north in the intricate maze of ridges east of Rudok including Aling Kangri and Mavang Kangri, and continues southeastward toward northwestern Nepal. Before partition, Baltistan, now under Pakistani control, was a district in Ladakh. Skardo was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.

The mountain ranges in this region were formed over 45 million years by the folding of the Indian plate into the more stationary Eurasian Plate. The drift continues, causing frequent earthquakes in the Himalayan region.[f][40] The peaks in the Ladakh Range are at a medium altitude close to the Zoji-la (5,000–5,500 m or 16,000–18,050 ft) and increase toward southeast, culminating in the twin summits of Nun-Kun (7000 m or 23,000 ft).

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 4,400 m (14,400 ft) 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 kilometres from Srinagar, Leh, Skardu and Padum. The Zangskar 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. Dras and the Mushkoh Valley form the western extremity of Ladakh.

The Indus River is the backbone of Ladakh. Most major historical and current towns — Shey, Leh, Basgo and Tingmosgang (but not Kargil), are close to the Indus River. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, the stretch of the Indus flowing through Ladakh became the only part of this river, which is greatly venerated in the Hindu religion and culture, that still flows through India.

The Siachen Glacier is in the eastern Karakoram Range in the Himalaya Mountains along the disputed India-Pakistan border. The Karakoram Range forms a great watershed that separates China from the Indian subcontinent and is sometimes called the "Third Pole." The glacier lies between the Saltoro Ridge immediately to the west and the main Karakoram Range to the east. At 76 km long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakoram and second-longest in the world's non-polar areas. It falls from an altitude of 5,753 m (18,875 ft) above sea level at its source at Indira Col on the China border down to 3,620 m (11,880 ft) at its snout. Saser Kangri is the highest peak in the Saser Muztagh, the easternmost subrange of the Karakoram Range in India, Saser Kangri I having an altitude of 7,672 m (25,171 ft).


Monthly average temperature in Leh
The Ladakh Range has no major peaks; its average height is a little less than 6,000 m (20,000 ft), and few of its passes are less than 5,000 m (16,000 ft). The Pangong Range runs parallel to the Ladakh Range for about 100 km northwest from Chushul along the southern shore of the Pangong Lake. Its highest point is about 6,700 m (22,000 ft) and the northern slopes are heavily glaciated. The region comprising the valley of the Shayok and Nubra rivers is known as Nubra. The Karakoram Range in Ladakh is not as mighty as in Baltistan. The massifs to the north and east of the Nubra–Siachen line include the Apsarasas Group (highest point 7,245 m; 23,770 ft) the Rimo Muztagh (highest point 7,385 m; 24,229 ft) and the Teram Kangri Group (highest point 7,464 m; 24,488 ft) together with Mamostong Kangri (7,526 m; 24,692 ft) and Singhi Kangri (7,202 m; 23,629 ft). North of the Karakoram lies the Kunlun. Thus, between Leh and eastern Central Asia there is a triple barrier — the Ladakh Range, Karakoram Range, and Kunlun. Nevertheless, a major trade route was established between Leh and Yarkand.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow, generally denying entry to monsoon clouds. The main source of water is the winter snowfall on the mountains. Recent flooding in the region (e.g., the 2010 floods) has been attributed to abnormal rain patterns and retreating glaciers, both of which have been found to be linked to global climate change. The Leh Nutrition Project, headed by Chewang Norphel, also known as the "Glacier Man", creates artificial glaciers as one solution for retreating glaciers.

The regions on the north flank of the Himalayas — Dras, the Suru valley and Zangskar — experience heavy snowfall and remain cut off from the rest of the region for several months in the year, as the whole region remains cut off by road from the rest of the country. Summers are short, though they are long enough to grow crops. The summer weather is dry and pleasant. Temperature ranges are from 3 to 35 °C in summer and minimums range from -20 to -35 °C in winter.

Flora and fauna

Vegetation is extremely sparse in Ladakh except along streambeds and wetlands, on high slopes, and in irrigated places.[45] The wildlife of this region was first studied by Ferdinand Stoliczka, an Austrian-Czech palaeontologist, who carried out a massive expedition in the region in the 1870s.

The fauna of Ladakh has much in common with that of Central Asia in general and that of the Tibetan Plateau in particular. Exceptions to this are the birds, many of which migrate from the warmer parts of India to spend the summer in Ladakh. For such an arid area, Ladakh has a great diversity of birds — a total of 225 species have been recorded. Many species of finches, robins, redstarts (like the black redstart), and the hoopoe are common in summer. The brown-headed gull is seen in summer on the river Indus and on some lakes of the Changthang. Resident water-birds include the brahminy duck also known as the ruddy sheldrake and the bar-headed goose. The black-necked crane, a rare species found scattered in the Tibetan plateau, is also found in parts of Ladakh. Other birds include the raven, Eurasian magpie, red-billed chough, Tibetan snowcock, and chukar. The lammergeier and the golden eagle are common raptors here specially in Changthang region.

Wild animals of Ladakh
Ibex ( Photo by Tashi Lonchey)

The endangered black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, breeds in Ladakh. It is the state bird of Jammu and Kashmir.
The bharal or blue sheep is the most abundant mountain ungulate in the Ladakh region, although it is not found in some parts of Zangskar and Sham areas. The Asiatic ibex is a very elegant mountain goat that is distributed in the western part of Ladakh. It is the second most abundant mountain ungulate in the region with a population of about 6000 individuals. It is adapted to rugged areas where it easily climbs when threatened. The Ladakhi Urial is another unique mountain sheep that inhabits the mountains of Ladakh. The population is declining, however, and there are not more than 3000 individuals left in Ladakh. The urial is endemic to Ladakh, where it is distributed only along two major river valleys: the Indus and Shayok. The animal is often persecuted by farmers whose crops are allegedly damaged by it. Its population declined precipitously in the last century due to indiscriminate shooting by hunters along the Leh-Srinagar highway. The Tibetan argali or Nyan is the largest wild sheep in the world, standing 3.5 to 4 feet at the shoulder with the horn measuring 90–100 cm. It is distributed on the Tibetan plateau and its marginal mountains encompassing a total area of 2.5 million km2. There is only a small population of about 400 animals in Ladakh. The animal prefers open and rolling terrain as it runs, unlike wild goats that climb into steep cliffs, to escape from predators. The endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru in Indian English, or Ladakhi tsos, has traditionally been hunted for its wool (shahtoosh) which is a natural fiber of the finest quality and thus valued for its light weight and warmth and as a status symbol. The wool of chiru must be pulled out by hand, a process done after the animal is killed. The fiber is smuggled into Kashmir and woven into exquisite shawls by Kashmiri workers. Ladakh is also home to the Tibetan gazelle, which inhabits the vast rangelands in eastern Ladakh bordering Tibet.


Kiang or Tibetan wild ass
The kiang, or Tibetan wild ass, is common in the grasslands of Changthang, numbering about 2,500 individuals. These animals are in conflict with the nomadic people of Changthang who hold the Kiang responsible for pasture degradation.[51] There are about 200 snow leopards in Ladakh of an estimated 7,000 worldwide. The Hemis High Altitude National Park in central Ladakh is an especially good habitat for this predator as it has abundant prey populations. The Eurasian lynx, is another rare cat that preys on smaller herbivores in Ladakh. It is mostly found in Nubra, Changthang and Zangskar. The Pallas's cat, which looks somewhat like a house cat, is very rare in Ladakh and not much is known about the species. The Tibetan wolf, which sometimes preys on the livestock of the Ladakhis, is the most persecuted amongst the predators. There are also a few brown bears in the Suru valley and the area around Dras. The Tibetan sand fox has been discovered in this region. Among smaller animals, marmots, hares, and several types of pika and vole are common.

Scant precipitation makes Ladakh a high-altitude desert with extremely scarce vegetation over most of its area. Natural vegetation mainly occurs along water courses and on high altitude areas that receive more snow and cooler summer temperatures. Human settlements, however, are richly vegetated due to irrigation.

Natural vegetation commonly seen along water courses includes seabuckthorn (Hippophae spp.), wild roses of pink or yellow varieties, tamarisk (Myricaria spp.), caraway, stinging nettles, mint, Physochlaina praealta, and various grasses.

Natural vegetation in unirrigated desert around Leh includes capers (Capparis spinosa), Nepeta floccosa, globe thistle (Echinops cornigerus), Ephedra gerardiana, rhubarb, Tanacetum spp., several artemisias, Peganum harmala, and several other succulents. Juniper trees grow wild in some locations and are usually considered sacred by Buddhists.

Human settlements are marked by lush fields and trees, all irrigated with water from glacial streams, springs, and rivers. Higher altitude villages grow barley, peas, and vegetables, and have one species of willow (called Drokchang in Ladakhi). Lower villages also grow wheat, alfalfa, mustard for oil, grapes, and a greater variety of vegetables. Cultivated trees in lower villages include apricots, apples, mulberries, walnuts, balsam poplars, Afghan poplars, oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and several species of willow (difficult to identify, and local names vary). Elms and white poplars are found in the Nubra Valley, and one legendary specimen of white poplar grows in Alchi in the Indus Valley. Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Himalayan cypress and horse chestnut have been introduced since the 1990s.

Government and politics

Ladakh district was a district of the Jammu and Kashmir state of India until 1 July 1979 when it was divided into Leh district and Kargil district. Each of these districts is governed by a Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which is based on the pattern of the Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council. These councils were created as a compromise solution to the demands of Ladakhi people to make Leh a union territory.

In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant each district of Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. This agreement was given effect by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Act, 1995. The council came into being with the holding of elections in Leh District on 28 August 1995. The inaugural meeting of the council was held at Leh on 3 September 1995. Kargil, later, adopted the Hill council in July 2003, when the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council — Kargil was established.[56] The council works with village panchayats to take decisions on economic development, healthcare, education, land use, taxation, and local governance which are further reviewed at the block headquarters in the presence of the chief executive councilor and executive councilors.[57] The government of Jammu and Kashmir looks after law and order, the judicial system, communications and the higher education in the region.

Ladakh sends one member (MP) to the lower house of the Indian parliament the Lok Sabha. The MP from Ladakh in the current Lok Sabha is Thupstan Chhewang a candidate from the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP).[58]

Although on the whole there has been religious harmony in Ladakh, religion has tended to be politicized in the last few decades. As early as 1931, Kashmiri neo-Buddhists founded the Kashmir Raj Bodhi Mahasabha that led to some sense of separateness from the Muslims. The bifurcation of the region into Muslim majority Kargil district and Buddhist majority Leh district in 1979 again brought the communal question to the fore. The Buddhists in Ladakh accused the overwhelmingly Muslim state government of continued apathy, corruption and a bias in favour of Muslims. On these grounds, they demanded union territory status for Ladakh. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Association to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims which went on for three years before being lifted in 1992.

Economy

The economy of Ladakh rests on three pillars: the Indian Army, tourism, and civilian government in the form of jobs and extensive subsidies. Agriculture, the mainstay only one generation ago, is no longer a major portion of the economy, although most families still own and work their land.

For centuries, Ladakh enjoyed a stable and self-reliant agricultural economy based on growing barley, wheat and peas and keeping livestock, especially yaks, cows, dzos (a yak-cow cross breed), sheep and goats.

At altitudes of 3,000 to 4,300 m (9,800 to 14,100 ft), the growing season is only a few months long every year, similar to the northern countries of the world. Animals are the lifeline of the nomads in Tibet. They used to wander from high altitude to low altitude depending upon the climate. They sell their produce mainly yak hides,sheep hides to the merchants. Ladakh also suffers shortages of water. The Ladakhis developed a small-scale farming system adapted to this unique environment.

The land is irrigated by a system of channels which funnel water from the ice and snow of the mountains. The principal crops are barley and wheat. Rice was previously a luxury in the Ladakhi diet, but, subsidised by the government, has now become a cheap staple.

At lower elevations fruit is grown, while the high altitude Rupshu region is the preserve of nomadic herders. In the past, surplus produce was traded for tea, sugar, salt and other items.

Two items grown for export are apricots and pashmina. The largest commercially sold agricultural product is vegetables, sold in large amounts to the Indian army as well as on the local market. Production remains mainly in the hands of small-landowners who work their own land, often with the help of migrant labourers from Nepal.

Naked barley (Ladakhi: nas, Urdu: grim) was traditionally a staple crop all over Ladakh. Growing times vary considerably with altitude. The extreme limit of cultivation is at Korzok, on the Tso-moriri lake, at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), which has what are widely considered to be the highest fields in the world.

In the past Ladakh's geographical position at the crossroads of some of the most important trade routes in Asia was exploited to the full. Ladakhis collected tax on goods that crossed their kingdom from Turkestan, Tibet, Punjab, Kashmir and Baltistan.


Leh Bazaar prior to 1871
A minority of Ladakhi people were also employed as merchants and caravan traders, facilitating trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between Punjab and Xinjiang. However, since the Chinese Government closed the borders with Tibet and Central Asia, this international trade has completely dried up.

Since 1974, the Indian Government has encouraged a shift in trekking and other tourist activities from the troubled Kashmir region to the relatively unaffected areas of Ladakh. Although tourism employs only 4% of Ladakh's working population, it now accounts for 50% of the region's GNP.

Adventure tourism in Ladakh started in the 19th century. By the turn of the 20th century, it was not uncommon for British officials to undertake the 14-day trek from Srinagar to Leh as part of their annual leave. Agencies were set up in Srinagar and Shimla specialising in sports-related activities — hunting, fishing and trekking.

This era is recorded in Arthur Neves The Tourist's Guide to Kashmir, Ladakh and Skardo, first published in 1911.[59] Today, about 100,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Among the popular places of tourist interest include Leh, Drass valley, Suru valley, Kargil, Zangskar, Zangla, Rangdum, Padum, Phugthal, Sani, Stongdey, Shyok Valley, Sankoo, Salt Valley and several popular trek routes like Lamayuru - Padum - Darcha, the Nubra valley and the Indus valley.

Extensive government employment and large-scale infrastructure projects — including, crucially, road links — have helped consolidate the new economy and create an urban alternative to farming. Subsidised food, government jobs, the tourism industry and new infrastructure have accelerated a mass migration from the farms into Leh town. The Indian army is a major part of the economy by employing tens of thousands of Ladakhis as soldiers as well as purchasing goods and services locally.

Astronomy

Because of its high altitude and clear skies, Ladakh is emerging as a center for leading edge astronomy. Looking into the Ladakh climate, sky and cloud coverage etc., astronomical site survey in Ladakh region was started by Udaipur Solar Observatory and other institutions during 1984. A small 6-inch telescope with weather sensors were put at mount Nimu (along Leh-Srinagar Highway) and after four initial years of survey it was suddenly closed due to the proximity of site near Leh city and army establishments. During 1992–94, when India's future large telescope project started under leadership of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore questions raised again about world class astronomical sites where to put India's larger telescope. Then Ladakh region was again looked and a site in Changthang region was selected for detail site characterization for astronomy. This site is situated in Hanle and an isolated single peak, Digpa-rtsa-re was selected to develop Indian Astronomical Observatory and is home of the two-meter Himalayan Chandra Optical and Infrared Telescope at an altitude of 4500 m above sea level. This telescope was set up in 2000 and dedicated to the nation in 2003. The observatory is totally powered with solar power and a team of dedicated engineers and technicians are stationed always at this location. Astronomers don't need to go to Hanle: they visit CREST Facility at Hoskote town, a suburb of Bangalore city where a remote control center is set up to operate this telescope. Hanle in Ladakh and Hoskote in Bangalore are linked with satellite communication provided on Indian communication satellites.

The National Large Solar Telescope (NLST) is being set up in the Ladakh village of Merak near the Pangong Tso lake by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Transport

There are about 1,800 km (1,100 mi) of roads in Ladakh of which 800 km (500 mi) are surfaced.[61] The majority of roads in Ladakh are looked after by the Border Roads Organisation.

Ladakh was the connection point between Central Asia and South Asia when the Silk Road was in use. The sixty-day journey on the Ladakh route connecting Amritsar and Yarkand through eleven passes was frequently undertaken by traders till the third quarter of the 19th century.[8] Another common route in regular use was the Kalimpong route between Leh and Lhasa via Gartok, the administrative centre of western Tibet. Gartok could be reached either straight up the Indus in winter or through either the Taglang la or the Chang la. Beyond Gartok, the Cherko la brought travelers to the Manasarovar and Rakshastal lakes, and then to Barka, which is connected to the main Lhasa road. These traditional routes have been closed since the Ladakh-Tibet border was sealed by the Chinese government. Other routes connected Ladakh to Hunza and Chitral but, as in the previous case, there is no border crossing between Ladakh and Pakistan.

In present times, the only two land routes to Ladakh in use are from Srinagar and Manali. Travelers from Srinagar start their journey from Sonamarg, over the Zoji La pass (3,450 m; 11,320 ft) via Dras and Kargil (2,750 m; 9,020 ft) passing through Namika la (3,700 m; 12,100 ft) and Fatu la (4,100 m; 13,500 ft). This has been the main traditional gateway to Ladakh since historical times and is now open to traffic from April or May until November or December every year. The newer route is the high altitude Manali-Leh Highway from Himachal Pradesh. The highway crosses four passes, Rohtang la (3,978 m; 13,051 ft), Baralacha la (4,892 m; 16,050 ft), Lungalacha la (5,059 m; 16,598 ft) and Taglang la (5,325 m; 17,470 ft) and the More plains and is open only between May and November when snow is cleared from the road.


Bus leaving Likir village for Leh, Ladakh
Buses run from Leh to the villages throughout the year. Ladakh is criss-crossed by a complex network of mountain trails which even today provides the only link to some of the valleys, villages and high pastures. Though much of the road network in Kargil has only recently been taken up with the help of funds mostly from the central Govt. Prior to that some major roads into various villages like Drass, Hardas, Kaksar and Sodh were constructed by the Indian Army partly for transportation of defence equipment and partly as goodwill gesture.

There is one airport in Leh, from which there are daily flights to Delhi and weekly flights to Srinagar and Jammu. There are two airstrips at Daulat Beg Oldie and Fukche for military transport. While an airport meant for civilian purpose at Kargil is used by the Indian Army. The airport is a political issue for the locals who argue that the airport should serve its original purpose, i.e., should open up for civilian flights. Since past few years the Indian Air Force has been operating AN-32 air courier service to transport the locals during the winter seasons to Jammu, Srinagar and Chandigarh.[63][64] A private airplane company Air Mantra landed a 17-seater aircraft at the airport, in presence of dignitaries like the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, marking the first ever landing by a civilian airline company at Kargil.

Demographics

Ladakh has a population of about 260,000 which is a blend of many different ethnic groups, predominantly Tibetans, Monpas and Dards. Like other Ladakhis, the Baltis of Kargil, Nubra, Suru Valley and Baltistan show strong Tibetan links in their appearance and language.

Most Ladakhis in Kargil District are Shia Muslims while in Leh District and Zangskar are Tibetan Buddhist. There are sizeable minorities of Buddhists in Kargil District and of Muslims in Leh District. There are some Ladakhi Sunni Muslims of Kashmiri descent in Leh and Kargil towns and also Padum in Zangskar. The Balti villages in Leh District have several thousand Nurbakhshia Muslims, followers of Muslim Sufi Shah Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh Qahistani. There are a less than 40 families of Ladakhi Christians, who converted in the 19th century. These families belong to several very small Christian churches and a boarding school as a result of mission work begun in the 19th Century by missionaries from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut, Saxony, now Germany.

Among non-Ladakhi residents, there are followers of Hinduism and Sikhism, and a small number of followers of the Bon religion.

The Changpa nomads who live in the Rupshu plateau are more closely related to Tibetans. Since the early 1960s nomad numbers have increased as Changthang nomads from across the border flee Chinese-ruled Tibet. However, since 2000 some nomads, notably most of the community of Kharnak, have abandoned the nomadic life and settled in Leh town. There are about 3,500 Tibetan refugees from all parts of Tibet in Leh District.

People of Dard descent predominate in Dras and Dha-Hanu areas. The residents of the Dha-Hanu area, known as Brokpa, are followers of Tibetan Buddhism and have preserved much of their original Dardic traditions and customs. The Dards of Dras, however, have converted to Islam and have been strongly influenced by their Kashmiri neighbours. The Mons are believed to be descendants of earlier Indian settlers in Ladakh, and traditionally worked as musicians, blacksmiths and carpenters. The region's population is split roughly in half between the districts of Leh and Kargil. 76.87% population of Kargil is Muslim, while that of Leh is 66.40% Buddhist as per the 2011 census.


A local woman, Ladakh
The principal language of Ladakh is Ladakhi, a Tibetan language. Educated Ladakhis usually know Hindi, Urdu and often English. Within Ladakh, there is a range of dialects, so that the language of the Chang-pa people may differ markedly from that of the Purig-pa in Kargil, or the Zangskaris, but they are all mutually comprehensible. Due to its position on important trade routes, the language of Leh is enriched with foreign words. Traditionally, Ladakhi had no written form distinct from classical Tibetan, but a number of Ladakhi writers have started using the Tibetan script to write the colloquial tongue. Administrative work and education are carried out in English; although Urdu was used to a great extent in the past, now only land records and some police records are kept in Urdu.

The total birth rate (TBR) in 2001 was 22.44, while it was 21.44 for Muslims and 24.46 for Buddhists. Brokpas had the highest TBR at 27.17 and Arghuns had the lowest at 14.25. TFR was 2.69 with 1.3 in Leh and 3.4 in Kargil. For Buddhists it was 2.79 and for Muslims it was 2.66. Baltis had a TFR of 3.12 and Arghuns had a TFR of 1.66. The total death rate was 15.69, with Muslims having 16.37 and Buddhists having 14.32. Highest was for Brokpas at 21.74 and lowest was for Bodhs at 14.32.

The sex ratio for Leh district declined from 1011 females per 1000 males in 1951 to 805 in 2001, while for Kargil district it declined from 970 to 901. The urban sex ratio in both the districts is about 640. The adult sex ratio reflects large numbers of mostly male seasonal and migrant labourers and merchants. About 84% of Ladakh's population lives in villages. The average annual population growth rate from 1981 to 2001 was 2.75% in Leh District and 2.83% in Kargil district.

Culture

Cuisine

Ladakhi food has much in common with Tibetan food, the most prominent foods being thukpa (noodle soup) and tsampa, known in Ladakhi as ngampe (roasted barley flour). Edible without cooking, tsampa makes useful trekking food. A dish that is strictly Ladakhi is skyu, a heavy pasta dish with root vegetables. As Ladakh moves toward a cash-based economy, foods from the plains of India are becoming more common. As in other parts of Central Asia, tea in Ladakh is traditionally made with strong green tea, butter, and salt. It is mixed in a large churn and known as gurgur cha, after the sound it makes when mixed. Sweet tea (cha ngarmo) is common now, made in the Indian style with milk and sugar. Most of the surplus barley that is produced is fermented into chang, an alcoholic beverage drunk especially on festive occasions.

Architecture

The architecture of Ladakh contains Tibetan and Indian influences and monastic architecture reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, is a common feature on every gompa, including the likes of Lamayuru, Likir, Thikse, Hemis, Alchi and Ridzong Gompas. Many houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing south, and in the past were made of rocks, earth and wood but are now more often concrete frames filled in with stones or adobes. However, the architecture in Kargil region is highly influenced by Persian Architecture as seen in various Mosques and Imam Bargahs

Music and dance

Traditional music includes the instruments surna and daman (shenai and drum). The music of Ladakhi Buddhist monastic festivals, like Tibetan music, often involves religious chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Religious mask dances are an important part of Ladakh's cultural life. Hemis monastery, a leading centre of the Drukpa tradition of Buddhism, holds an annual masked dance festival, as do all major Ladakhi monasteries. The dances typically narrate a story of the fight between good and evil, ending with the eventual victory of the former. Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh. Both women and men weave, on different looms. Typical costumes include gonchas of velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats.

Sports

The most popular sport in Ladakh now is ice hockey, which is played only on natural ice generally mid–December through mid–February.[76] Cricket is also very popular. Archery is a traditional sport in Ladakh, and many villages still hold archery festivals, which are as much about traditional dancing, drinking and gambling as about the sport. The sport is conducted with strict etiquette, to the accompaniment of the music of surna and daman (shehnai and drum). Polo, the other traditional sport of Ladakh is indigenous to Baltistan and Gilgit, and was probably introduced into Ladakh in the mid–17th century by King Singge Namgyal, whose mother was a Balti princess. However Polo is still popular among the Baltis and the sport with some support from financial bigwigs is an annual affair in Drass region of District Kargil.
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Shimla

Shimla (Hindi: शिमला; Punjabi: ਸ਼ਿਮਲਾ; English pronunciation: /ˈʃɪmlə/; Hindi: [ˈʃɪmlaː] ( listen)), also known as Simla, is the capital and largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is also a district which is bounded by Mandi and Kullu in the north, Kinnaur in the east, the state of Uttarakhand in the south-east, and Solan and Sirmaur. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of the hilly regions of the state. As of 2011, the city had 171,817 permanent residents, and was one of the least populous capital cities in India.

Small hamlets were recorded prior to 1815 when the English forces took control of the area. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of Himalayas. As the summer capital, Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945. After independence, the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being in 1948 as a result of integration of 28 princely states. Even after independence, the city remained an important political centre, hosting the Simla Agreement of 1972. After the reorganisation, the Mahasu district and its major portion were merged with Shimla. Its name is derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali[citation needed]. As of 2011 Shimla comprises 19 hill states, namely Baghal, Baghat, Balsan, Bashahr, Bhajji, Bija, Darkoti, Dhami, Jubbal, Keonthal, Kumharsain, Kunihar, Kuthar, Mahlog, Mangal, Nalagarh (Hindur), Sangri and Tharoch.

Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural beauty of the city attract a large number of tourists. The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge, which together form the city centre. The Kalka–Shimla Railway line built by the British, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a major tourist attraction. Owing to its steep terrain, Shimla hosts the mountain biking race MTB Himalaya, which started in 2005 and is regarded as the biggest event of its kind in South Asia. Shimla also has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia. The ice skating season usually begins in the start of December and goes on till the end of February. Apart from being a tourism centre, the city is also an educational hub with a number of colleges and research institutions. The city also has sporting venues like the Indira Gandhi Rajya Khel Parisar, the main sports complex and the Naldehra Golf Club.

History

The vast majority of the area occupied by the present-day Shimla city was dense forest during the 18th century. The only civilisation consisted of the Jakhoo temple and a few scattered houses. The area was called 'Shimla', named after a Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali.

The area of present-day Shimla was invaded and captured by Bhimsen Thapa of Nepal in 1806. The British East India Company took control of the territory as per the Sugauli Treaty after the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16). The Gurkha leaders were quelled by storming the fort of Malaun under the command of David Ochterlony in May 1815. In a diary entry dated 30 August 1817, the Gerard brothers, who surveyed the area, describe Shimla as "a middling-sized village where a fakir is situated to give water to the travellers". In 1819, Lieutenant Ross, the Assistant Political Agent in the Hill States, set up a wood cottage in Shimla. Three years later, his successor and the Scottish civil servant Charles Pratt Kennedy built the first pucca house in the area in 1822, near what is now the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly building. The accounts of the Britain-like climate started attracting several British officers to the area during the hot Indian summers. By 1826, some officers had started spending their entire vacation in Shimla. In 1827, Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal, visited Shimla and stayed in the Kennedy House. A year later, Lord Combermere, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, stayed at the same residence. During his stay, a three-mile road and a bridge were constructed near Jakhu. In 1830, the British acquired the surrounding land from the chiefs of Keonthal and Patiala in exchange for the Rawin pargana and a portion of the Bharauli pargana. The settlement grew rapidly after this, from 30 houses in 1830 to 1,141 houses in 1881.

In 1832, Shimla saw its first political meeting: between the Governor-General William Bentinck and the emissaries of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In a letter to Colonel Churchill, he wrote:

“Shimla is only four days march from Loodianah (Ludhiana), is easy of access, and proves a very agreeable refuge from the burning plains of Hindoostaun (Hindustan). ”
Combermere's successor Earl Dalhousie visited Shimla in the same year. After this, the town saw regular visits from the Governor Generals and Commanders-in-Chief of British India. A number of young British officers started visiting the area to socialise with the higher-ups; they were followed by ladies looking for marriage alliances for their relatives. Shimla thus became a hill station famous for balls, parties and other festivities. Subsequently, residential schools for pupils from upper-class families were established nearby. By the late 1830s, the city also became a centre for theatre and art exhibitions. As the population increased, a number of bungalows were built and a big bazaar was established in the town. The Indian businessmen, mainly from Sood and Parsi communities, arrived in the area to cater to the needs of the growing European population. On 9 September 1844 the foundation of the Christ Church was laid. Subsequently, several roads were widened and the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road with a 560-feet tunnel was taken up in 1851–52. This tunnel, now known as the Dhalli Tunnel, was started by a Major Briggs in 1850 and completed in the winter of 1851–52. The 1857 uprising caused a panic among the European residents of the town, but Shimla remained largely unaffected by the rebellion.

In 1863, the Viceroy of India, John Lawrence, decided to shift the summer capital of the British Raj to Shimla. He took the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and this separate centre over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876–1880) made efforts to plan the town from 1876, when he first stayed in a rented house, but began plans for a Viceregal Lodge, later built on Observatory Hill. A fire cleared much of the area where the native Indian population lived (the "Upper Bazaar" nowadays known as the Ridge), and the planning of the eastern end to become the centre of the European town forced them to live in the Middle and Lower Bazaars on the lower terraces descending the steep slopes from the Ridge. The Upper Bazaar was cleared for a town hall, with many facilities such as library and theatre, as well as offices for police and military volunteers as well as municipal administration.

During the "Hot Weather", Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, India, the head of the Indian Army, and many Departments of the Government. The summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab moved from Murree, in modern-day Pakistan, to Shimla in 1876. They were joined by many of the British wives and daughters of the men who remained on the plains. Together these formed Shimla Society, which, according to Charles Allen, "was as close as British India ever came to having an upper crust." This may have been helped by the fact that it was very expensive, having an ideal climate and thus being desirable, as well as having limited accommodation. British soldiers, merchants and civil servants moved here each year to escape from the heat during summer in the Indo-Gangetic plain. The presence of many bachelors and unattached men, as well as the many women passing the hot weather there, gave Shimla a reputation for adultery, and at least gossip about adultery: as Rudyard Kipling said in a letter cited by Allen, it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".

The 500-foot (150 m) Lower Bazaar tunnel was built in 1905 and christened Khachhar Surang. The Elysium tunnel (now known as the Auckland Tunnel), about 120 feet (37 m) in length, was also built in 1905.

The Kalka–Shimla railway line, constructed in 1906, added to Shimla's accessibility and popularity. The railway route from Kalka to Shimla, with more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels, was touted as an engineering feat and came to be known as the "British Jewel of the Orient". In 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. In addition, Shimla was the capital of the undivided state of Punjab in 1871, and remained so until the construction of the new city of Chandigarh (the present-day capital of the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana). Upon the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Shimla was named its capital.

Entrance of the Crow Brough Rest House built in 1921.
After independence the Chief Commissioner's Province of H.P. came into being on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudatory princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya, known in full as the Shimla Hills States & four Punjab southern hill states by issue of the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 & 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged in the Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954. Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lt. Governor was appointed. Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a Union Territory on 1 November 1956. Following area of Punjab State namely Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Tehsil of Pathankot District; were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Thus Himachal emerged as the eighteenth state of the Indian Union.

Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the former Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Christ Church, Gorton Castle, Shimla Town Hall and the Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. The original Peterhoff, another Viceregal residence, burned down in 1981. British Shimla extended about a mile and a half along the ridge between Jakhoo Hill and Prospect Hill. The central spine was the Mall, which ran along the length of the ridge, with a Mall Extension southwards, closed to all carriages except those of the Viceroy and his wife.

Geography

Simla and Jutogh, 1911 map

Skating at Simla, c. 1905
Shimla lies in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas at 31.61°N 77.10°E. It has an average altitude of 2,206 metres (7,238 ft) above mean sea level and extends along a ridge with seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) from east to west.[17] Shimla was built on top of a total of seven different hills namely: Inverarm Hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill. The highest point in Shimla is the Jakhoo hill, which is at a height of 2,454 metres (8,051 ft).

The city is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India. Weak construction techniques and an increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no bodies of water near the main city and the closest river, the Sutlej, is about 21 km (13 mi) away. Other rivers that flow through the Shimla district, although further from the city, are the Giri, and Pabbar (both tributaries of Yamuna).

The green belt in the Shimla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1,020 acres). The main forests in and around the city are of pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Shimla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region are the frequent number of landslides that often take place after heavy rains.

Climate[edit]
Shimla features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under the Köppen climate classification. The climate in Shimla is predominantly cool during winters and moderately warm during summer.
Temperatures typically range from −4 °C (25 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) over the course of a year.[25] The average temperature during summer is between 19 and 28 °C (66 and 82 °F), and between −1 and 10 °C (30 and 50 °F) in winter. Monthly precipitation varies between 15 millimetres (0.59 in) in November and 434 millimetres (17.1 in) in August. It is typically around 45 millimetres (1.8 in) per month during winter and spring, and around 175 millimetres (6.9 in) in June as the monsoon approaches. The average total annual precipitation is 1,575 millimetres (62 in), which is much less than most other hill stations but still much heavier than on the plains. Snowfall in the region, which historically has taken place in the month of December, has lately (over the last fifteen years) been happening in January or early February every year. The maximum snowfall received in recent times was 38.6 centimetres (15.2 in) on 18 January 2013. On two consecutive days (17 and 18 January 2013), the town received 63.6 centimetres (25.0 in) of snow.

Climate data for Shimla (1971–2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.4
(70.5) 22.6
(72.7) 25.8
(78.4) 29.6
(85.3) 32.4
(90.3) 31.5
(88.7) 28.9
(84) 27.8
(82) 28.6
(83.5) 25.6
(78.1) 23.5
(74.3) 20.5
(68.9) 32.4
(90.3)
Average high °C (°F) 9.3
(48.7) 10.3
(50.5) 14.5
(58.1) 19.8
(67.6) 23.0
(73.4) 23.8
(74.8) 21.3
(70.3) 20.5
(68.9) 20.4
(68.7) 18.9
(66) 15.4
(59.7) 11.9
(53.4) 17.5
(63.5)
Average low °C (°F) 1.7
(35.1) 2.4
(36.3) 6.1
(43) 10.8
(51.4) 13.6
(56.5) 15.1
(59.2) 14.6
(58.3) 14.2
(57.6) 12.9
(55.2) 10.5
(50.9) 7.0
(44.6) 4.0
(39.2) 9.5
(49.1)
Record low °C (°F) −10.6
(12.9) −8.5
(16.7) −6.1
(21) −1.3
(29.7) 1.4
(34.5) 7.8
(46) 9.4
(48.9) 10.6
(51.1) 5.0
(41) 0.2
(32.4) −1.1
(30) −12.2
(10) −12.2
(10)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 53.0
(2.087) 63.8
(2.512) 68.9
(2.713) 61.3
(2.413) 83.8
(3.299) 185.3
(7.295) 333.0
(13.11) 296.7
(11.681) 148.7
(5.854) 36.3
(1.429) 22.5
(0.886) 21.4
(0.843) 1,374.6
(54.118)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 42
(16.5) 43
(16.9) 7
(2.8) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 7
(2.8) 99
(39)
Average rainy days 4.5 5.3 5.9 4.6 6.3 10.1 17.2 16.2 8.8 2.2 1.5 1.8 84.5
Average snowy days 4.2 4.2 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.3 11.2
Source: India Meteorological Department (record high and low up to 2010, snow, 1990–2010)

Economy

Employment is largely driven by the government and tourism sectors. Education sector and horticultural produce processing comprise most of the remainder. Recently a Model Career Centre has been set-up at US Club Shimla under the National Career Service, India flagship of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Govt. of India to help connect job-seekers with employers.

In addition to being the local hub of transport and trade, Shimla is the area's healthcare centre, hosting a medical college and four major hospitals:[32] Indira Gandhi Hospital (Snowdown Hospital,) Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (formerly called Ripon Hospital), Kamla Nehru Hospital and Indus Hospital. The city's development plan aims make Shimla an attractive health tourism spot.

The hotel industry is one of the major source of income generation for the city. Shimla leads the list of Indian cities with the highest ranked hotels.

National Academy of Audits and Accounts, Yarrows.
Shimla had always been famous for its quality of education and lots of important schools have been imparting quality education throughout the state. Along with schools of higher education, several institutes are also present namely Himachal Pradesh University and Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Recruitment to the IAAS is through the joint competitive examinations (the Civil Services Examination) and through promotion from the subordinate cadre. Once recruited to IAAS, the directly recruited officers are trained mainly at the National Academy of Audit and Accounts, Shimla. Students from across India prefer to study in Shimla because of its climate and Queen of Hill Stations status. These has been adding to the economy of the district as well as the State.

Government is trying to promote technology and IT sector as the new area for growth and promotion[35] although not many companies have yet settled in Shimla. There are many new startups in and around Shimla. There are over 6 different call centre's in Shimla. Some major call centres are Alturist Technologies, 31 Parallel. Two notable companies that are registered in Shimla are Netgen IT Solutions, an international website development startup with partner offices in USA and Australia, and Himachal Media, a company that deals with content and media publishing.

Civic administration

The administrative responsibilities of the city of Shimla and the surrounding planning areas of Dhalli, Totu and New Shimla reside with the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). All three areas were taken under SMC in 2006–07. Established in 1851, the Shimla Municipal Corporation is an elected body comprising 27 councillors, three of whom are nominated by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. The nominations are based on prominence in the fields of social service, academics and other activities. Thirty-three percent of seats are reserved for women. The elections take place every five years and the mayor and deputy mayor are elected by and amongst the councillors themselves. Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Singh Panwar of CPI(M) are the present Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively. The two major political parties are the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress with third party Communist Party of India (Marxist) being an emerging one. The administrative head of the corporation is the commissioner who is appointed by the state government. The city contributes one seat to the state assembly (Vidhan Sabha), and one seat to the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). Law and order in the city is collectively maintained by the police force, Vigilance Department, enforcement directorate, forensics, fire brigade, prisons service and Home Guard. There are five police stations and three fire stations in Shimla.[39] The Superintendent of Police, Shimla heads the police force. The First Armed Police Battalion, one of the four armed police battalions in the state, is also available for assistance to the local police for assistance. There are eleven courts in the district including a fast-track court.

Demographics

According to 2011 census, Shimla city spread over an area of 35.34 km2. had a population of 169,578 with 93,152 males and 76,426 females. Shimla urban agglomeration had a population of 171,817 as per provisional data of 2011 census, out of which males were 94,797 and females were 77,020. The literacy rate of city was 93.63 percent[3] and that of urban agglomeration was 94.14 per cent.

The city area has increased considerably along with passage of time. It has stretched from Hiranagar to Dhalli from one side & from Tara Devi to Malyana in the other. As per the 2001 India Census,[43] the city has a population of 142,161 spread over an area of 19.55 km². A floating population of 75,000 is attributed to service industries such as tourism. The largest demographic, 55%, is 16–45 years of age. A further 28% of the population are younger than 15 years. The low sex ratio – 930 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 – is cause for concern, and much lower than the 974 versus 1,000 for Himachal Pradesh state as a whole.

The unemployment rate in the city has come down from 36% in 1992 to 22.6% in 2006. This drop is attributed to recent industrialisation, the growth of service industries, and knowledge development.[45] 84% of the population of Shimla city is literate, compared to 80% in Shimla district and 83.87% in the entire state. The majority of Shimla's population consists of natives of Himachal Pradesh.

Hindi is the Lingua franca of the city, it is the principal spoken language of the city and also the most commonly used language for the official purposes. English is also spoken by a sizeable population, and is the second official language of the city. Other than Hindi, Pahari languages is spoken by the ethnic Pahari people, who form a major part of the population in the city. Punjabi language is prevalent among the ethnic Punjabi migrant population of the city, most of whom are refugees from West Punjab, who settled in the city after the Partition of India in 1947. According to 2011 census, the majority religion of city is Hinduism practised by 93.5% of the population, followed by Islam (2.29%), Sikhism (1.95%), Buddhism (1.33%) and Christianity (0.62%). Muslim migration has visibly increased in the year 2015, especially from Uttar Pradesh.

Culture

he people of Shimla are informally called Shimlaites. With largely cosmopolitan crowds, a variety of festivals are celebrated here. The Shimla Summer Festival, held every year during peak tourist season, and lasting 3–4 days, is celebrated on the Ridge. The highlights of this event include performances by popular singers from all over the country.

Shimla has a number of places to visit. Local hangouts like the Mall and the Ridge are in the heart of the city. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original 'Tudorbethan' architecture. The former Viceregal Lodge, which now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and Wildflower Hall, now a luxury hotel, are some of the famous ones. A collection of paintings, jewellery and textiles of the region can be found at the State Museum (built in 1974).

Foggy morning at Tattapani

Lakkar Bazaar, a market extending off the Ridge, is famous for souvenirs and crafts made of wood. Tatta Pani, 55 kilometres (34.2 mi) from the main city, is the name of hot sulphur springs that are believed to have medicinal value located on the banks of the River Satluj. Shimla is also home to South Asia's only natural ice skating rink. State and national level competitions are often held at this venue. Shimla Ice Skating Club, which manages the rink, hosts a carnival every year in January, which includes a fancy dress competition and figure skating events. Due to effects of global warming and increasing urban development in and around Shimla, the number of sessions on ice every winter have been decreasing in the past few years.

Places of interest

The Mall: The Mall is the main shopping street of Shimla. It has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, post offices and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is situated there.
Christ Church: Situated on the Ridge, Christ Church is the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a very majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.
Jakhu Hill: 2 km from Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, Jakhu Hill is the highest peak and offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the hill is an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is the home of countless playful monkeys waiting to be fed by all visitors. A 108 feet (33 metre) statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity, at 8,500 feet (2,591 metres) above sea level, is single statue to stand at the highest altitude among several other masterpieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[55]
Jutogh: Located 8 km from the city centre, this army cantonment is near Totu, an important suburb of Shimla city.
Shimla State Museum: The museum, which was opened in 1974, has tried to protect hill-out and the cultural wealth of the state. There is a collection of miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and also costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study: This institute is housed at the former Viceregal Lodge, built in 1884–88.
Summer Hill: Situated at a distance of 5 km from the Ridge is the lovely township of Summer Hill, at a height of 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is situated here.
Annandale: Developed as the racecourse of Shimla, Annandale is 2–4 km from the Ridge at a height of 6,117 ft. It is a very big beautiful ground, now used by the Indian Army.
Tara Devi: 11 km from the Shimla bus-stand. Tara Devi Hill has a temple dedicated to the goddess of stars on top of the hill. There is a military Dairy Town here as well as the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides.
Sankat Mochan: A very famous Lord Hanuman temple is located here.
Junga: Junga is near Tehsi, 26 km from Shimla. Its original name (with diacritics) is Jūnga and is a former royal retreat of the princely state of Keonthal. It is known as the Keonthal Estate.
Anand Vilas: Midway between Shimla and Junga. "Sarva Dharma Mandir", Temple of all faiths, is a spiritual group dedicated to Mother Nature. Thousands of visitors and devotees come here every year. There is an "Art is Values" school with pupils from all over India. Classes are provided free of cost.
Totu: A major developing suburb of Shimla on NH-88. Houses Jutogh railway station & HimFed under Govt. of Himachal Pradesh.
Mashobra: 13 km from Shimla, site of the annual Sipi fair in June.
Kufri: 16 km from Shimla at a height of 8,600 ft, Kufri is the local winter sports centre, and has a small zoo.
Chharabra: 13 km from Shimla on route to Kufri.
Naldehra: 22 km from Shimla, with a nine-hole Naldehra Golf Club. The annual Sipi fair in June is held in Naldehra.
Chail: Chail was built as summer retreat by the Maharaja of Patiala during the British Raj, it is known for its cricket pitch, the highest in the world.
Tattapani: Location of sulphur springs which are found near the Tatapani mandir (holy temple)
Sanjauli: The main suburb of Shimla.

Transport

Local transport in Shimla is by bus or private vehicles. Buses ply frequently on the circular road surrounding the city centre. Heavy local transport can be seen between Shimla and its major suburbs which include Sanjauli, Kasumpti, Summer Hill, Totu and New Shimla. Tourist taxis are also an option for out of town trips. Locals typically traverse the city on foot. Private vehicles are prohibited on the Mall, Ridge and nearby markets. Due to narrow roads and steep slopes, the auto rickshaws common in other Indian cities are largely absent.

Road

Shimla is well-connected by road network to all major cities in north India. National Highway 22 (NH 22) connects Shimla to the nearest big city of Chandigarh. HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) runs 24 daily bus services between Shimla to Delhi. HRTC Volvo buses are also available on Shimla-Haridwar via Dehradoon, Shimla-Katra via Chandigarh-Pathankot-Jammu and Shimla-Manali routes. Buses from Shimla to Chandigarh[56] are available round the clock. Distance between major towns and Shimla:

National Highway 22 connects Shimla to the city of Chandigarh.
Distance between major towns and Shimla:

Kalka: 90 km
Chandigarh: 120 km
Ambala: 152 km
Patiala: 172 km
Bathinda: 330 km
Amritsar: 342 km
Delhi: 380 km
Dehradun: 227 km
Jammu: 482 km
Agra: 568 km
Jaipur: 629 km
Haridwar: 278 km
Srinagar: 787 km
Pithoragarh: 703 km
Kolkata: 1460 km
Mumbai: 1742 km

Air

Shimla Airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 kilometres (14 mi) from the city. Currently, there are no regular commercial flights to the city. The nearest major airport is Chandigarh Airport in Chandigarh about 116 km away.
Kanya Kumari: 2500;km

Rail

The scenic Kalka Shimla Railway, a narrow gauge track, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the steepest rise in altitude in a distance of 96 km.[58] Kalka, the plains rail terminus, has daily departures to major Indian cities. The city boasts a total of three railway stations with Shimla the main station and two others located at Summer Hill and Totu (Jutogh) respectively. It was built to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the Indian rail system. The route is famous for its scenery and improbable construction.

In 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property. For about a week starting on 11 September 2007, an expert team from UNESCO visited the railway to review and inspect it for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On 8 July 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway became part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.[60] alongside Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
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Shimla

Shimla (Hindi: शिमला; Punjabi: ਸ਼ਿਮਲਾ; English pronunciation: /ˈʃɪmlə/; Hindi: [ˈʃɪmlaː] ( listen)), also known as Simla, is the capital and largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is also a district which is bounded by Mandi and Kullu in the north, Kinnaur in the east, the state of Uttarakhand in the south-east, and Solan and Sirmaur. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of the hilly regions of the state. As of 2011, the city had 171,817 permanent residents, and was one of the least populous capital cities in India.

Small hamlets were recorded prior to 1815 when the English forces took control of the area. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of Himalayas. As the summer capital, Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945. After independence, the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being in 1948 as a result of integration of 28 princely states. Even after independence, the city remained an important political centre, hosting the Simla Agreement of 1972. After the reorganisation, the Mahasu district and its major portion were merged with Shimla. Its name is derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali[citation needed]. As of 2011 Shimla comprises 19 hill states, namely Baghal, Baghat, Balsan, Bashahr, Bhajji, Bija, Darkoti, Dhami, Jubbal, Keonthal, Kumharsain, Kunihar, Kuthar, Mahlog, Mangal, Nalagarh (Hindur), Sangri and Tharoch.

Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural beauty of the city attract a large number of tourists. The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge, which together form the city centre. The Kalka–Shimla Railway line built by the British, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a major tourist attraction. Owing to its steep terrain, Shimla hosts the mountain biking race MTB Himalaya, which started in 2005 and is regarded as the biggest event of its kind in South Asia. Shimla also has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia. The ice skating season usually begins in the start of December and goes on till the end of February. Apart from being a tourism centre, the city is also an educational hub with a number of colleges and research institutions. The city also has sporting venues like the Indira Gandhi Rajya Khel Parisar, the main sports complex and the Naldehra Golf Club.

History

The vast majority of the area occupied by the present-day Shimla city was dense forest during the 18th century. The only civilisation consisted of the Jakhoo temple and a few scattered houses. The area was called 'Shimla', named after a Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali.

The area of present-day Shimla was invaded and captured by Bhimsen Thapa of Nepal in 1806. The British East India Company took control of the territory as per the Sugauli Treaty after the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16). The Gurkha leaders were quelled by storming the fort of Malaun under the command of David Ochterlony in May 1815. In a diary entry dated 30 August 1817, the Gerard brothers, who surveyed the area, describe Shimla as "a middling-sized village where a fakir is situated to give water to the travellers". In 1819, Lieutenant Ross, the Assistant Political Agent in the Hill States, set up a wood cottage in Shimla. Three years later, his successor and the Scottish civil servant Charles Pratt Kennedy built the first pucca house in the area in 1822, near what is now the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly building. The accounts of the Britain-like climate started attracting several British officers to the area during the hot Indian summers. By 1826, some officers had started spending their entire vacation in Shimla. In 1827, Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal, visited Shimla and stayed in the Kennedy House. A year later, Lord Combermere, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, stayed at the same residence. During his stay, a three-mile road and a bridge were constructed near Jakhu. In 1830, the British acquired the surrounding land from the chiefs of Keonthal and Patiala in exchange for the Rawin pargana and a portion of the Bharauli pargana. The settlement grew rapidly after this, from 30 houses in 1830 to 1,141 houses in 1881.

In 1832, Shimla saw its first political meeting: between the Governor-General William Bentinck and the emissaries of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In a letter to Colonel Churchill, he wrote:

“Shimla is only four days march from Loodianah (Ludhiana), is easy of access, and proves a very agreeable refuge from the burning plains of Hindoostaun (Hindustan). ”
Combermere's successor Earl Dalhousie visited Shimla in the same year. After this, the town saw regular visits from the Governor Generals and Commanders-in-Chief of British India. A number of young British officers started visiting the area to socialise with the higher-ups; they were followed by ladies looking for marriage alliances for their relatives. Shimla thus became a hill station famous for balls, parties and other festivities. Subsequently, residential schools for pupils from upper-class families were established nearby. By the late 1830s, the city also became a centre for theatre and art exhibitions. As the population increased, a number of bungalows were built and a big bazaar was established in the town. The Indian businessmen, mainly from Sood and Parsi communities, arrived in the area to cater to the needs of the growing European population. On 9 September 1844 the foundation of the Christ Church was laid. Subsequently, several roads were widened and the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road with a 560-feet tunnel was taken up in 1851–52. This tunnel, now known as the Dhalli Tunnel, was started by a Major Briggs in 1850 and completed in the winter of 1851–52. The 1857 uprising caused a panic among the European residents of the town, but Shimla remained largely unaffected by the rebellion.

In 1863, the Viceroy of India, John Lawrence, decided to shift the summer capital of the British Raj to Shimla. He took the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and this separate centre over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876–1880) made efforts to plan the town from 1876, when he first stayed in a rented house, but began plans for a Viceregal Lodge, later built on Observatory Hill. A fire cleared much of the area where the native Indian population lived (the "Upper Bazaar" nowadays known as the Ridge), and the planning of the eastern end to become the centre of the European town forced them to live in the Middle and Lower Bazaars on the lower terraces descending the steep slopes from the Ridge. The Upper Bazaar was cleared for a town hall, with many facilities such as library and theatre, as well as offices for police and military volunteers as well as municipal administration.

During the "Hot Weather", Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, India, the head of the Indian Army, and many Departments of the Government. The summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab moved from Murree, in modern-day Pakistan, to Shimla in 1876. They were joined by many of the British wives and daughters of the men who remained on the plains. Together these formed Shimla Society, which, according to Charles Allen, "was as close as British India ever came to having an upper crust." This may have been helped by the fact that it was very expensive, having an ideal climate and thus being desirable, as well as having limited accommodation. British soldiers, merchants and civil servants moved here each year to escape from the heat during summer in the Indo-Gangetic plain. The presence of many bachelors and unattached men, as well as the many women passing the hot weather there, gave Shimla a reputation for adultery, and at least gossip about adultery: as Rudyard Kipling said in a letter cited by Allen, it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".

The 500-foot (150 m) Lower Bazaar tunnel was built in 1905 and christened Khachhar Surang. The Elysium tunnel (now known as the Auckland Tunnel), about 120 feet (37 m) in length, was also built in 1905.

The Kalka–Shimla railway line, constructed in 1906, added to Shimla's accessibility and popularity. The railway route from Kalka to Shimla, with more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels, was touted as an engineering feat and came to be known as the "British Jewel of the Orient". In 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. In addition, Shimla was the capital of the undivided state of Punjab in 1871, and remained so until the construction of the new city of Chandigarh (the present-day capital of the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana). Upon the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Shimla was named its capital.

Entrance of the Crow Brough Rest House built in 1921.
After independence the Chief Commissioner's Province of H.P. came into being on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudatory princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya, known in full as the Shimla Hills States & four Punjab southern hill states by issue of the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 & 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged in the Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954. Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lt. Governor was appointed. Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a Union Territory on 1 November 1956. Following area of Punjab State namely Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Tehsil of Pathankot District; were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Thus Himachal emerged as the eighteenth state of the Indian Union.

Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the former Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Christ Church, Gorton Castle, Shimla Town Hall and the Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. The original Peterhoff, another Viceregal residence, burned down in 1981. British Shimla extended about a mile and a half along the ridge between Jakhoo Hill and Prospect Hill. The central spine was the Mall, which ran along the length of the ridge, with a Mall Extension southwards, closed to all carriages except those of the Viceroy and his wife.

Geography

Simla and Jutogh, 1911 map

Skating at Simla, c. 1905
Shimla lies in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas at 31.61°N 77.10°E. It has an average altitude of 2,206 metres (7,238 ft) above mean sea level and extends along a ridge with seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) from east to west.[17] Shimla was built on top of a total of seven different hills namely: Inverarm Hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill. The highest point in Shimla is the Jakhoo hill, which is at a height of 2,454 metres (8,051 ft).

The city is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India. Weak construction techniques and an increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no bodies of water near the main city and the closest river, the Sutlej, is about 21 km (13 mi) away. Other rivers that flow through the Shimla district, although further from the city, are the Giri, and Pabbar (both tributaries of Yamuna).

The green belt in the Shimla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1,020 acres). The main forests in and around the city are of pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Shimla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region are the frequent number of landslides that often take place after heavy rains.

Climate[edit]
Shimla features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under the Köppen climate classification. The climate in Shimla is predominantly cool during winters and moderately warm during summer.
Temperatures typically range from −4 °C (25 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) over the course of a year.[25] The average temperature during summer is between 19 and 28 °C (66 and 82 °F), and between −1 and 10 °C (30 and 50 °F) in winter. Monthly precipitation varies between 15 millimetres (0.59 in) in November and 434 millimetres (17.1 in) in August. It is typically around 45 millimetres (1.8 in) per month during winter and spring, and around 175 millimetres (6.9 in) in June as the monsoon approaches. The average total annual precipitation is 1,575 millimetres (62 in), which is much less than most other hill stations but still much heavier than on the plains. Snowfall in the region, which historically has taken place in the month of December, has lately (over the last fifteen years) been happening in January or early February every year. The maximum snowfall received in recent times was 38.6 centimetres (15.2 in) on 18 January 2013. On two consecutive days (17 and 18 January 2013), the town received 63.6 centimetres (25.0 in) of snow.

Climate data for Shimla (1971–2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.4
(70.5) 22.6
(72.7) 25.8
(78.4) 29.6
(85.3) 32.4
(90.3) 31.5
(88.7) 28.9
(84) 27.8
(82) 28.6
(83.5) 25.6
(78.1) 23.5
(74.3) 20.5
(68.9) 32.4
(90.3)
Average high °C (°F) 9.3
(48.7) 10.3
(50.5) 14.5
(58.1) 19.8
(67.6) 23.0
(73.4) 23.8
(74.8) 21.3
(70.3) 20.5
(68.9) 20.4
(68.7) 18.9
(66) 15.4
(59.7) 11.9
(53.4) 17.5
(63.5)
Average low °C (°F) 1.7
(35.1) 2.4
(36.3) 6.1
(43) 10.8
(51.4) 13.6
(56.5) 15.1
(59.2) 14.6
(58.3) 14.2
(57.6) 12.9
(55.2) 10.5
(50.9) 7.0
(44.6) 4.0
(39.2) 9.5
(49.1)
Record low °C (°F) −10.6
(12.9) −8.5
(16.7) −6.1
(21) −1.3
(29.7) 1.4
(34.5) 7.8
(46) 9.4
(48.9) 10.6
(51.1) 5.0
(41) 0.2
(32.4) −1.1
(30) −12.2
(10) −12.2
(10)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 53.0
(2.087) 63.8
(2.512) 68.9
(2.713) 61.3
(2.413) 83.8
(3.299) 185.3
(7.295) 333.0
(13.11) 296.7
(11.681) 148.7
(5.854) 36.3
(1.429) 22.5
(0.886) 21.4
(0.843) 1,374.6
(54.118)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 42
(16.5) 43
(16.9) 7
(2.8) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 7
(2.8) 99
(39)
Average rainy days 4.5 5.3 5.9 4.6 6.3 10.1 17.2 16.2 8.8 2.2 1.5 1.8 84.5
Average snowy days 4.2 4.2 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.3 11.2
Source: India Meteorological Department (record high and low up to 2010, snow, 1990–2010)

Economy

Employment is largely driven by the government and tourism sectors. Education sector and horticultural produce processing comprise most of the remainder. Recently a Model Career Centre has been set-up at US Club Shimla under the National Career Service, India flagship of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Govt. of India to help connect job-seekers with employers.

In addition to being the local hub of transport and trade, Shimla is the area's healthcare centre, hosting a medical college and four major hospitals:[32] Indira Gandhi Hospital (Snowdown Hospital,) Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (formerly called Ripon Hospital), Kamla Nehru Hospital and Indus Hospital. The city's development plan aims make Shimla an attractive health tourism spot.

The hotel industry is one of the major source of income generation for the city. Shimla leads the list of Indian cities with the highest ranked hotels.

National Academy of Audits and Accounts, Yarrows.
Shimla had always been famous for its quality of education and lots of important schools have been imparting quality education throughout the state. Along with schools of higher education, several institutes are also present namely Himachal Pradesh University and Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Recruitment to the IAAS is through the joint competitive examinations (the Civil Services Examination) and through promotion from the subordinate cadre. Once recruited to IAAS, the directly recruited officers are trained mainly at the National Academy of Audit and Accounts, Shimla. Students from across India prefer to study in Shimla because of its climate and Queen of Hill Stations status. These has been adding to the economy of the district as well as the State.

Government is trying to promote technology and IT sector as the new area for growth and promotion[35] although not many companies have yet settled in Shimla. There are many new startups in and around Shimla. There are over 6 different call centre's in Shimla. Some major call centres are Alturist Technologies, 31 Parallel. Two notable companies that are registered in Shimla are Netgen IT Solutions, an international website development startup with partner offices in USA and Australia, and Himachal Media, a company that deals with content and media publishing.

Civic administration

The administrative responsibilities of the city of Shimla and the surrounding planning areas of Dhalli, Totu and New Shimla reside with the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). All three areas were taken under SMC in 2006–07. Established in 1851, the Shimla Municipal Corporation is an elected body comprising 27 councillors, three of whom are nominated by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. The nominations are based on prominence in the fields of social service, academics and other activities. Thirty-three percent of seats are reserved for women. The elections take place every five years and the mayor and deputy mayor are elected by and amongst the councillors themselves. Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Singh Panwar of CPI(M) are the present Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively. The two major political parties are the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress with third party Communist Party of India (Marxist) being an emerging one. The administrative head of the corporation is the commissioner who is appointed by the state government. The city contributes one seat to the state assembly (Vidhan Sabha), and one seat to the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). Law and order in the city is collectively maintained by the police force, Vigilance Department, enforcement directorate, forensics, fire brigade, prisons service and Home Guard. There are five police stations and three fire stations in Shimla.[39] The Superintendent of Police, Shimla heads the police force. The First Armed Police Battalion, one of the four armed police battalions in the state, is also available for assistance to the local police for assistance. There are eleven courts in the district including a fast-track court.

Demographics

According to 2011 census, Shimla city spread over an area of 35.34 km2. had a population of 169,578 with 93,152 males and 76,426 females. Shimla urban agglomeration had a population of 171,817 as per provisional data of 2011 census, out of which males were 94,797 and females were 77,020. The literacy rate of city was 93.63 percent[3] and that of urban agglomeration was 94.14 per cent.

The city area has increased considerably along with passage of time. It has stretched from Hiranagar to Dhalli from one side & from Tara Devi to Malyana in the other. As per the 2001 India Census,[43] the city has a population of 142,161 spread over an area of 19.55 km². A floating population of 75,000 is attributed to service industries such as tourism. The largest demographic, 55%, is 16–45 years of age. A further 28% of the population are younger than 15 years. The low sex ratio – 930 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 – is cause for concern, and much lower than the 974 versus 1,000 for Himachal Pradesh state as a whole.

The unemployment rate in the city has come down from 36% in 1992 to 22.6% in 2006. This drop is attributed to recent industrialisation, the growth of service industries, and knowledge development.[45] 84% of the population of Shimla city is literate, compared to 80% in Shimla district and 83.87% in the entire state. The majority of Shimla's population consists of natives of Himachal Pradesh.

Hindi is the Lingua franca of the city, it is the principal spoken language of the city and also the most commonly used language for the official purposes. English is also spoken by a sizeable population, and is the second official language of the city. Other than Hindi, Pahari languages is spoken by the ethnic Pahari people, who form a major part of the population in the city. Punjabi language is prevalent among the ethnic Punjabi migrant population of the city, most of whom are refugees from West Punjab, who settled in the city after the Partition of India in 1947. According to 2011 census, the majority religion of city is Hinduism practised by 93.5% of the population, followed by Islam (2.29%), Sikhism (1.95%), Buddhism (1.33%) and Christianity (0.62%). Muslim migration has visibly increased in the year 2015, especially from Uttar Pradesh.

Culture

he people of Shimla are informally called Shimlaites. With largely cosmopolitan crowds, a variety of festivals are celebrated here. The Shimla Summer Festival, held every year during peak tourist season, and lasting 3–4 days, is celebrated on the Ridge. The highlights of this event include performances by popular singers from all over the country.

Shimla has a number of places to visit. Local hangouts like the Mall and the Ridge are in the heart of the city. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original 'Tudorbethan' architecture. The former Viceregal Lodge, which now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and Wildflower Hall, now a luxury hotel, are some of the famous ones. A collection of paintings, jewellery and textiles of the region can be found at the State Museum (built in 1974).

Foggy morning at Tattapani

Lakkar Bazaar, a market extending off the Ridge, is famous for souvenirs and crafts made of wood. Tatta Pani, 55 kilometres (34.2 mi) from the main city, is the name of hot sulphur springs that are believed to have medicinal value located on the banks of the River Satluj. Shimla is also home to South Asia's only natural ice skating rink. State and national level competitions are often held at this venue. Shimla Ice Skating Club, which manages the rink, hosts a carnival every year in January, which includes a fancy dress competition and figure skating events. Due to effects of global warming and increasing urban development in and around Shimla, the number of sessions on ice every winter have been decreasing in the past few years.

Places of interest

The Mall: The Mall is the main shopping street of Shimla. It has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, post offices and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is situated there.
Christ Church: Situated on the Ridge, Christ Church is the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a very majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.
Jakhu Hill: 2 km from Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, Jakhu Hill is the highest peak and offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the hill is an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is the home of countless playful monkeys waiting to be fed by all visitors. A 108 feet (33 metre) statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity, at 8,500 feet (2,591 metres) above sea level, is single statue to stand at the highest altitude among several other masterpieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[55]
Jutogh: Located 8 km from the city centre, this army cantonment is near Totu, an important suburb of Shimla city.
Shimla State Museum: The museum, which was opened in 1974, has tried to protect hill-out and the cultural wealth of the state. There is a collection of miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and also costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study: This institute is housed at the former Viceregal Lodge, built in 1884–88.
Summer Hill: Situated at a distance of 5 km from the Ridge is the lovely township of Summer Hill, at a height of 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is situated here.
Annandale: Developed as the racecourse of Shimla, Annandale is 2–4 km from the Ridge at a height of 6,117 ft. It is a very big beautiful ground, now used by the Indian Army.
Tara Devi: 11 km from the Shimla bus-stand. Tara Devi Hill has a temple dedicated to the goddess of stars on top of the hill. There is a military Dairy Town here as well as the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides.
Sankat Mochan: A very famous Lord Hanuman temple is located here.
Junga: Junga is near Tehsi, 26 km from Shimla. Its original name (with diacritics) is Jūnga and is a former royal retreat of the princely state of Keonthal. It is known as the Keonthal Estate.
Anand Vilas: Midway between Shimla and Junga. "Sarva Dharma Mandir", Temple of all faiths, is a spiritual group dedicated to Mother Nature. Thousands of visitors and devotees come here every year. There is an "Art is Values" school with pupils from all over India. Classes are provided free of cost.
Totu: A major developing suburb of Shimla on NH-88. Houses Jutogh railway station & HimFed under Govt. of Himachal Pradesh.
Mashobra: 13 km from Shimla, site of the annual Sipi fair in June.
Kufri: 16 km from Shimla at a height of 8,600 ft, Kufri is the local winter sports centre, and has a small zoo.
Chharabra: 13 km from Shimla on route to Kufri.
Naldehra: 22 km from Shimla, with a nine-hole Naldehra Golf Club. The annual Sipi fair in June is held in Naldehra.
Chail: Chail was built as summer retreat by the Maharaja of Patiala during the British Raj, it is known for its cricket pitch, the highest in the world.
Tattapani: Location of sulphur springs which are found near the Tatapani mandir (holy temple)
Sanjauli: The main suburb of Shimla.

Transport

Local transport in Shimla is by bus or private vehicles. Buses ply frequently on the circular road surrounding the city centre. Heavy local transport can be seen between Shimla and its major suburbs which include Sanjauli, Kasumpti, Summer Hill, Totu and New Shimla. Tourist taxis are also an option for out of town trips. Locals typically traverse the city on foot. Private vehicles are prohibited on the Mall, Ridge and nearby markets. Due to narrow roads and steep slopes, the auto rickshaws common in other Indian cities are largely absent.

Road

Shimla is well-connected by road network to all major cities in north India. National Highway 22 (NH 22) connects Shimla to the nearest big city of Chandigarh. HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) runs 24 daily bus services between Shimla to Delhi. HRTC Volvo buses are also available on Shimla-Haridwar via Dehradoon, Shimla-Katra via Chandigarh-Pathankot-Jammu and Shimla-Manali routes. Buses from Shimla to Chandigarh[56] are available round the clock. Distance between major towns and Shimla:

National Highway 22 connects Shimla to the city of Chandigarh.
Distance between major towns and Shimla:

Kalka: 90 km
Chandigarh: 120 km
Ambala: 152 km
Patiala: 172 km
Bathinda: 330 km
Amritsar: 342 km
Delhi: 380 km
Dehradun: 227 km
Jammu: 482 km
Agra: 568 km
Jaipur: 629 km
Haridwar: 278 km
Srinagar: 787 km
Pithoragarh: 703 km
Kolkata: 1460 km
Mumbai: 1742 km

Air

Shimla Airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 kilometres (14 mi) from the city. Currently, there are no regular commercial flights to the city. The nearest major airport is Chandigarh Airport in Chandigarh about 116 km away.
Kanya Kumari: 2500;km

Rail

The scenic Kalka Shimla Railway, a narrow gauge track, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the steepest rise in altitude in a distance of 96 km.[58] Kalka, the plains rail terminus, has daily departures to major Indian cities. The city boasts a total of three railway stations with Shimla the main station and two others located at Summer Hill and Totu (Jutogh) respectively. It was built to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the Indian rail system. The route is famous for its scenery and improbable construction.

In 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property. For about a week starting on 11 September 2007, an expert team from UNESCO visited the railway to review and inspect it for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On 8 July 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway became part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.[60] alongside Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
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Shimla

Shimla (Hindi: शिमला; Punjabi: ਸ਼ਿਮਲਾ; English pronunciation: /ˈʃɪmlə/; Hindi: [ˈʃɪmlaː] ( listen)), also known as Simla, is the capital and largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla is also a district which is bounded by Mandi and Kullu in the north, Kinnaur in the east, the state of Uttarakhand in the south-east, and Solan and Sirmaur. In 1864, Shimla was declared as the summer capital of British India, succeeding Murree, northeast of Rawalpindi. After independence, the city became the capital of Punjab and was later named the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is the principal commercial, cultural and educational centre of the hilly regions of the state. As of 2011, the city had 171,817 permanent residents, and was one of the least populous capital cities in India.

Small hamlets were recorded prior to 1815 when the English forces took control of the area. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of Himalayas. As the summer capital, Shimla hosted many important political meetings including the Simla Accord of 1914 and the Simla Conference of 1945. After independence, the state of Himachal Pradesh came into being in 1948 as a result of integration of 28 princely states. Even after independence, the city remained an important political centre, hosting the Simla Agreement of 1972. After the reorganisation, the Mahasu district and its major portion were merged with Shimla. Its name is derived from the goddess Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali[citation needed]. As of 2011 Shimla comprises 19 hill states, namely Baghal, Baghat, Balsan, Bashahr, Bhajji, Bija, Darkoti, Dhami, Jubbal, Keonthal, Kumharsain, Kunihar, Kuthar, Mahlog, Mangal, Nalagarh (Hindur), Sangri and Tharoch.

Shimla is home to a number of buildings that are styled in the Tudorbethan and neo-Gothic architectures dating from the colonial era, as well as multiple temples and churches. The colonial architecture and churches, the temples and the natural beauty of the city attract a large number of tourists. The major attractions include the Viceroy Lodge, the Christ Church, the Jakhoo Temple, the Mall Road and the Ridge, which together form the city centre. The Kalka–Shimla Railway line built by the British, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a major tourist attraction. Owing to its steep terrain, Shimla hosts the mountain biking race MTB Himalaya, which started in 2005 and is regarded as the biggest event of its kind in South Asia. Shimla also has the largest natural ice skating rink in South Asia. The ice skating season usually begins in the start of December and goes on till the end of February. Apart from being a tourism centre, the city is also an educational hub with a number of colleges and research institutions. The city also has sporting venues like the Indira Gandhi Rajya Khel Parisar, the main sports complex and the Naldehra Golf Club.

History

The vast majority of the area occupied by the present-day Shimla city was dense forest during the 18th century. The only civilisation consisted of the Jakhoo temple and a few scattered houses. The area was called 'Shimla', named after a Hindu goddess, Shyamala Devi, an incarnation of Kali.

The area of present-day Shimla was invaded and captured by Bhimsen Thapa of Nepal in 1806. The British East India Company took control of the territory as per the Sugauli Treaty after the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16). The Gurkha leaders were quelled by storming the fort of Malaun under the command of David Ochterlony in May 1815. In a diary entry dated 30 August 1817, the Gerard brothers, who surveyed the area, describe Shimla as "a middling-sized village where a fakir is situated to give water to the travellers". In 1819, Lieutenant Ross, the Assistant Political Agent in the Hill States, set up a wood cottage in Shimla. Three years later, his successor and the Scottish civil servant Charles Pratt Kennedy built the first pucca house in the area in 1822, near what is now the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly building. The accounts of the Britain-like climate started attracting several British officers to the area during the hot Indian summers. By 1826, some officers had started spending their entire vacation in Shimla. In 1827, Lord Amherst, the Governor-General of Bengal, visited Shimla and stayed in the Kennedy House. A year later, Lord Combermere, the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in India, stayed at the same residence. During his stay, a three-mile road and a bridge were constructed near Jakhu. In 1830, the British acquired the surrounding land from the chiefs of Keonthal and Patiala in exchange for the Rawin pargana and a portion of the Bharauli pargana. The settlement grew rapidly after this, from 30 houses in 1830 to 1,141 houses in 1881.

In 1832, Shimla saw its first political meeting: between the Governor-General William Bentinck and the emissaries of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In a letter to Colonel Churchill, he wrote:

“Shimla is only four days march from Loodianah (Ludhiana), is easy of access, and proves a very agreeable refuge from the burning plains of Hindoostaun (Hindustan). ”
Combermere's successor Earl Dalhousie visited Shimla in the same year. After this, the town saw regular visits from the Governor Generals and Commanders-in-Chief of British India. A number of young British officers started visiting the area to socialise with the higher-ups; they were followed by ladies looking for marriage alliances for their relatives. Shimla thus became a hill station famous for balls, parties and other festivities. Subsequently, residential schools for pupils from upper-class families were established nearby. By the late 1830s, the city also became a centre for theatre and art exhibitions. As the population increased, a number of bungalows were built and a big bazaar was established in the town. The Indian businessmen, mainly from Sood and Parsi communities, arrived in the area to cater to the needs of the growing European population. On 9 September 1844 the foundation of the Christ Church was laid. Subsequently, several roads were widened and the construction of the Hindustan-Tibet road with a 560-feet tunnel was taken up in 1851–52. This tunnel, now known as the Dhalli Tunnel, was started by a Major Briggs in 1850 and completed in the winter of 1851–52. The 1857 uprising caused a panic among the European residents of the town, but Shimla remained largely unaffected by the rebellion.

In 1863, the Viceroy of India, John Lawrence, decided to shift the summer capital of the British Raj to Shimla. He took the trouble of moving the administration twice a year between Calcutta and this separate centre over 1,000 miles away, despite the fact that it was difficult to reach. Lord Lytton (Viceroy of India 1876–1880) made efforts to plan the town from 1876, when he first stayed in a rented house, but began plans for a Viceregal Lodge, later built on Observatory Hill. A fire cleared much of the area where the native Indian population lived (the "Upper Bazaar" nowadays known as the Ridge), and the planning of the eastern end to become the centre of the European town forced them to live in the Middle and Lower Bazaars on the lower terraces descending the steep slopes from the Ridge. The Upper Bazaar was cleared for a town hall, with many facilities such as library and theatre, as well as offices for police and military volunteers as well as municipal administration.

During the "Hot Weather", Shimla was also the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief, India, the head of the Indian Army, and many Departments of the Government. The summer capital of the regional Government of the Punjab moved from Murree, in modern-day Pakistan, to Shimla in 1876. They were joined by many of the British wives and daughters of the men who remained on the plains. Together these formed Shimla Society, which, according to Charles Allen, "was as close as British India ever came to having an upper crust." This may have been helped by the fact that it was very expensive, having an ideal climate and thus being desirable, as well as having limited accommodation. British soldiers, merchants and civil servants moved here each year to escape from the heat during summer in the Indo-Gangetic plain. The presence of many bachelors and unattached men, as well as the many women passing the hot weather there, gave Shimla a reputation for adultery, and at least gossip about adultery: as Rudyard Kipling said in a letter cited by Allen, it had a reputation for "frivolity, gossip and intrigue".

The 500-foot (150 m) Lower Bazaar tunnel was built in 1905 and christened Khachhar Surang. The Elysium tunnel (now known as the Auckland Tunnel), about 120 feet (37 m) in length, was also built in 1905.

The Kalka–Shimla railway line, constructed in 1906, added to Shimla's accessibility and popularity. The railway route from Kalka to Shimla, with more than 806 bridges and 103 tunnels, was touted as an engineering feat and came to be known as the "British Jewel of the Orient". In 2008, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mountain railways of India. In addition, Shimla was the capital of the undivided state of Punjab in 1871, and remained so until the construction of the new city of Chandigarh (the present-day capital of the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana). Upon the formation of the state of Himachal Pradesh in 1971, Shimla was named its capital.

Entrance of the Crow Brough Rest House built in 1921.
After independence the Chief Commissioner's Province of H.P. came into being on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudatory princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya, known in full as the Shimla Hills States & four Punjab southern hill states by issue of the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 & 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged in the Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954. Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lt. Governor was appointed. Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a Union Territory on 1 November 1956. Following area of Punjab State namely Shimla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Tehsil of Pathankot District; were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Thus Himachal emerged as the eighteenth state of the Indian Union.

Pre-independence structures still dot Shimla; buildings such as the former Viceregal Lodge, Auckland House, Christ Church, Gorton Castle, Shimla Town Hall and the Gaiety Theatre are reminders of British rule in India. The original Peterhoff, another Viceregal residence, burned down in 1981. British Shimla extended about a mile and a half along the ridge between Jakhoo Hill and Prospect Hill. The central spine was the Mall, which ran along the length of the ridge, with a Mall Extension southwards, closed to all carriages except those of the Viceroy and his wife.

Geography

Simla and Jutogh, 1911 map

Skating at Simla, c. 1905
Shimla lies in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas at 31.61°N 77.10°E. It has an average altitude of 2,206 metres (7,238 ft) above mean sea level and extends along a ridge with seven spurs. The city stretches nearly 9.2 kilometres (5.7 mi) from east to west.[17] Shimla was built on top of a total of seven different hills namely: Inverarm Hill, Observatory Hill, Prospect Hill, Summer Hill, Bantony Hill, Elysium Hill and Jakhoo Hill. The highest point in Shimla is the Jakhoo hill, which is at a height of 2,454 metres (8,051 ft).

The city is a Zone IV (High Damage Risk Zone) per the Earthquake hazard zoning of India. Weak construction techniques and an increasing population pose a serious threat to the already earthquake prone region. There are no bodies of water near the main city and the closest river, the Sutlej, is about 21 km (13 mi) away. Other rivers that flow through the Shimla district, although further from the city, are the Giri, and Pabbar (both tributaries of Yamuna).

The green belt in the Shimla planning area is spread over 414 hectares (1,020 acres). The main forests in and around the city are of pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron. Environmental degradation due to the increasing number of tourists every year without the infrastructure to support them has resulted in Shimla losing its popular appeal as an ecotourism spot. Another rising concern in the region are the frequent number of landslides that often take place after heavy rains.

Climate[edit]
Shimla features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under the Köppen climate classification. The climate in Shimla is predominantly cool during winters and moderately warm during summer.
Temperatures typically range from −4 °C (25 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) over the course of a year.[25] The average temperature during summer is between 19 and 28 °C (66 and 82 °F), and between −1 and 10 °C (30 and 50 °F) in winter. Monthly precipitation varies between 15 millimetres (0.59 in) in November and 434 millimetres (17.1 in) in August. It is typically around 45 millimetres (1.8 in) per month during winter and spring, and around 175 millimetres (6.9 in) in June as the monsoon approaches. The average total annual precipitation is 1,575 millimetres (62 in), which is much less than most other hill stations but still much heavier than on the plains. Snowfall in the region, which historically has taken place in the month of December, has lately (over the last fifteen years) been happening in January or early February every year. The maximum snowfall received in recent times was 38.6 centimetres (15.2 in) on 18 January 2013. On two consecutive days (17 and 18 January 2013), the town received 63.6 centimetres (25.0 in) of snow.

Climate data for Shimla (1971–2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 21.4
(70.5) 22.6
(72.7) 25.8
(78.4) 29.6
(85.3) 32.4
(90.3) 31.5
(88.7) 28.9
(84) 27.8
(82) 28.6
(83.5) 25.6
(78.1) 23.5
(74.3) 20.5
(68.9) 32.4
(90.3)
Average high °C (°F) 9.3
(48.7) 10.3
(50.5) 14.5
(58.1) 19.8
(67.6) 23.0
(73.4) 23.8
(74.8) 21.3
(70.3) 20.5
(68.9) 20.4
(68.7) 18.9
(66) 15.4
(59.7) 11.9
(53.4) 17.5
(63.5)
Average low °C (°F) 1.7
(35.1) 2.4
(36.3) 6.1
(43) 10.8
(51.4) 13.6
(56.5) 15.1
(59.2) 14.6
(58.3) 14.2
(57.6) 12.9
(55.2) 10.5
(50.9) 7.0
(44.6) 4.0
(39.2) 9.5
(49.1)
Record low °C (°F) −10.6
(12.9) −8.5
(16.7) −6.1
(21) −1.3
(29.7) 1.4
(34.5) 7.8
(46) 9.4
(48.9) 10.6
(51.1) 5.0
(41) 0.2
(32.4) −1.1
(30) −12.2
(10) −12.2
(10)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 53.0
(2.087) 63.8
(2.512) 68.9
(2.713) 61.3
(2.413) 83.8
(3.299) 185.3
(7.295) 333.0
(13.11) 296.7
(11.681) 148.7
(5.854) 36.3
(1.429) 22.5
(0.886) 21.4
(0.843) 1,374.6
(54.118)
Average snowfall cm (inches) 42
(16.5) 43
(16.9) 7
(2.8) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 0
(0) 7
(2.8) 99
(39)
Average rainy days 4.5 5.3 5.9 4.6 6.3 10.1 17.2 16.2 8.8 2.2 1.5 1.8 84.5
Average snowy days 4.2 4.2 1.4 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.3 11.2
Source: India Meteorological Department (record high and low up to 2010, snow, 1990–2010)

Economy

Employment is largely driven by the government and tourism sectors. Education sector and horticultural produce processing comprise most of the remainder. Recently a Model Career Centre has been set-up at US Club Shimla under the National Career Service, India flagship of the Ministry of Labour and Employment Govt. of India to help connect job-seekers with employers.

In addition to being the local hub of transport and trade, Shimla is the area's healthcare centre, hosting a medical college and four major hospitals:[32] Indira Gandhi Hospital (Snowdown Hospital,) Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital (formerly called Ripon Hospital), Kamla Nehru Hospital and Indus Hospital. The city's development plan aims make Shimla an attractive health tourism spot.

The hotel industry is one of the major source of income generation for the city. Shimla leads the list of Indian cities with the highest ranked hotels.

National Academy of Audits and Accounts, Yarrows.
Shimla had always been famous for its quality of education and lots of important schools have been imparting quality education throughout the state. Along with schools of higher education, several institutes are also present namely Himachal Pradesh University and Indian Institute of Advanced Study. Recruitment to the IAAS is through the joint competitive examinations (the Civil Services Examination) and through promotion from the subordinate cadre. Once recruited to IAAS, the directly recruited officers are trained mainly at the National Academy of Audit and Accounts, Shimla. Students from across India prefer to study in Shimla because of its climate and Queen of Hill Stations status. These has been adding to the economy of the district as well as the State.

Government is trying to promote technology and IT sector as the new area for growth and promotion[35] although not many companies have yet settled in Shimla. There are many new startups in and around Shimla. There are over 6 different call centre's in Shimla. Some major call centres are Alturist Technologies, 31 Parallel. Two notable companies that are registered in Shimla are Netgen IT Solutions, an international website development startup with partner offices in USA and Australia, and Himachal Media, a company that deals with content and media publishing.

Civic administration

The administrative responsibilities of the city of Shimla and the surrounding planning areas of Dhalli, Totu and New Shimla reside with the Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC). All three areas were taken under SMC in 2006–07. Established in 1851, the Shimla Municipal Corporation is an elected body comprising 27 councillors, three of whom are nominated by the Government of Himachal Pradesh. The nominations are based on prominence in the fields of social service, academics and other activities. Thirty-three percent of seats are reserved for women. The elections take place every five years and the mayor and deputy mayor are elected by and amongst the councillors themselves. Sanjay Chauhan and Tikender Singh Panwar of CPI(M) are the present Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively. The two major political parties are the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress with third party Communist Party of India (Marxist) being an emerging one. The administrative head of the corporation is the commissioner who is appointed by the state government. The city contributes one seat to the state assembly (Vidhan Sabha), and one seat to the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha). Law and order in the city is collectively maintained by the police force, Vigilance Department, enforcement directorate, forensics, fire brigade, prisons service and Home Guard. There are five police stations and three fire stations in Shimla.[39] The Superintendent of Police, Shimla heads the police force. The First Armed Police Battalion, one of the four armed police battalions in the state, is also available for assistance to the local police for assistance. There are eleven courts in the district including a fast-track court.

Demographics

According to 2011 census, Shimla city spread over an area of 35.34 km2. had a population of 169,578 with 93,152 males and 76,426 females. Shimla urban agglomeration had a population of 171,817 as per provisional data of 2011 census, out of which males were 94,797 and females were 77,020. The literacy rate of city was 93.63 percent[3] and that of urban agglomeration was 94.14 per cent.

The city area has increased considerably along with passage of time. It has stretched from Hiranagar to Dhalli from one side & from Tara Devi to Malyana in the other. As per the 2001 India Census,[43] the city has a population of 142,161 spread over an area of 19.55 km². A floating population of 75,000 is attributed to service industries such as tourism. The largest demographic, 55%, is 16–45 years of age. A further 28% of the population are younger than 15 years. The low sex ratio – 930 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 – is cause for concern, and much lower than the 974 versus 1,000 for Himachal Pradesh state as a whole.

The unemployment rate in the city has come down from 36% in 1992 to 22.6% in 2006. This drop is attributed to recent industrialisation, the growth of service industries, and knowledge development.[45] 84% of the population of Shimla city is literate, compared to 80% in Shimla district and 83.87% in the entire state. The majority of Shimla's population consists of natives of Himachal Pradesh.

Hindi is the Lingua franca of the city, it is the principal spoken language of the city and also the most commonly used language for the official purposes. English is also spoken by a sizeable population, and is the second official language of the city. Other than Hindi, Pahari languages is spoken by the ethnic Pahari people, who form a major part of the population in the city. Punjabi language is prevalent among the ethnic Punjabi migrant population of the city, most of whom are refugees from West Punjab, who settled in the city after the Partition of India in 1947. According to 2011 census, the majority religion of city is Hinduism practised by 93.5% of the population, followed by Islam (2.29%), Sikhism (1.95%), Buddhism (1.33%) and Christianity (0.62%). Muslim migration has visibly increased in the year 2015, especially from Uttar Pradesh.

Culture

he people of Shimla are informally called Shimlaites. With largely cosmopolitan crowds, a variety of festivals are celebrated here. The Shimla Summer Festival, held every year during peak tourist season, and lasting 3–4 days, is celebrated on the Ridge. The highlights of this event include performances by popular singers from all over the country.

Shimla has a number of places to visit. Local hangouts like the Mall and the Ridge are in the heart of the city. Most of the heritage buildings in the city are preserved in their original 'Tudorbethan' architecture. The former Viceregal Lodge, which now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, and Wildflower Hall, now a luxury hotel, are some of the famous ones. A collection of paintings, jewellery and textiles of the region can be found at the State Museum (built in 1974).

Foggy morning at Tattapani

Lakkar Bazaar, a market extending off the Ridge, is famous for souvenirs and crafts made of wood. Tatta Pani, 55 kilometres (34.2 mi) from the main city, is the name of hot sulphur springs that are believed to have medicinal value located on the banks of the River Satluj. Shimla is also home to South Asia's only natural ice skating rink. State and national level competitions are often held at this venue. Shimla Ice Skating Club, which manages the rink, hosts a carnival every year in January, which includes a fancy dress competition and figure skating events. Due to effects of global warming and increasing urban development in and around Shimla, the number of sessions on ice every winter have been decreasing in the past few years.

Places of interest

The Mall: The Mall is the main shopping street of Shimla. It has many restaurants, clubs, banks, bars, post offices and tourist offices. The Gaiety Theatre is situated there.
Christ Church: Situated on the Ridge, Christ Church is the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a very majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility.
Jakhu Hill: 2 km from Shimla, at a height of 8,000 ft, Jakhu Hill is the highest peak and offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the hill is an old temple of Lord Hanuman, which is the home of countless playful monkeys waiting to be fed by all visitors. A 108 feet (33 metre) statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity, at 8,500 feet (2,591 metres) above sea level, is single statue to stand at the highest altitude among several other masterpieces in the world, overtaking the Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[55]
Jutogh: Located 8 km from the city centre, this army cantonment is near Totu, an important suburb of Shimla city.
Shimla State Museum: The museum, which was opened in 1974, has tried to protect hill-out and the cultural wealth of the state. There is a collection of miniature Pahari paintings, sculptures, bronzes wood-carvings and also costumes, textiles and jewellery of the region.
Indian Institute of Advanced Study: This institute is housed at the former Viceregal Lodge, built in 1884–88.
Summer Hill: Situated at a distance of 5 km from the Ridge is the lovely township of Summer Hill, at a height of 6,500 ft on the Shimla-Kalka railway line. Mahatma Gandhi lived in these quiet surroundings during his visits to Shimla. Himachal Pradesh University is situated here.
Annandale: Developed as the racecourse of Shimla, Annandale is 2–4 km from the Ridge at a height of 6,117 ft. It is a very big beautiful ground, now used by the Indian Army.
Tara Devi: 11 km from the Shimla bus-stand. Tara Devi Hill has a temple dedicated to the goddess of stars on top of the hill. There is a military Dairy Town here as well as the headquarters of Bharat Scouts and Guides.
Sankat Mochan: A very famous Lord Hanuman temple is located here.
Junga: Junga is near Tehsi, 26 km from Shimla. Its original name (with diacritics) is Jūnga and is a former royal retreat of the princely state of Keonthal. It is known as the Keonthal Estate.
Anand Vilas: Midway between Shimla and Junga. "Sarva Dharma Mandir", Temple of all faiths, is a spiritual group dedicated to Mother Nature. Thousands of visitors and devotees come here every year. There is an "Art is Values" school with pupils from all over India. Classes are provided free of cost.
Totu: A major developing suburb of Shimla on NH-88. Houses Jutogh railway station & HimFed under Govt. of Himachal Pradesh.
Mashobra: 13 km from Shimla, site of the annual Sipi fair in June.
Kufri: 16 km from Shimla at a height of 8,600 ft, Kufri is the local winter sports centre, and has a small zoo.
Chharabra: 13 km from Shimla on route to Kufri.
Naldehra: 22 km from Shimla, with a nine-hole Naldehra Golf Club. The annual Sipi fair in June is held in Naldehra.
Chail: Chail was built as summer retreat by the Maharaja of Patiala during the British Raj, it is known for its cricket pitch, the highest in the world.
Tattapani: Location of sulphur springs which are found near the Tatapani mandir (holy temple)
Sanjauli: The main suburb of Shimla.

Transport

Local transport in Shimla is by bus or private vehicles. Buses ply frequently on the circular road surrounding the city centre. Heavy local transport can be seen between Shimla and its major suburbs which include Sanjauli, Kasumpti, Summer Hill, Totu and New Shimla. Tourist taxis are also an option for out of town trips. Locals typically traverse the city on foot. Private vehicles are prohibited on the Mall, Ridge and nearby markets. Due to narrow roads and steep slopes, the auto rickshaws common in other Indian cities are largely absent.

Road

Shimla is well-connected by road network to all major cities in north India. National Highway 22 (NH 22) connects Shimla to the nearest big city of Chandigarh. HRTC (Himachal Road Transport Corporation) runs 24 daily bus services between Shimla to Delhi. HRTC Volvo buses are also available on Shimla-Haridwar via Dehradoon, Shimla-Katra via Chandigarh-Pathankot-Jammu and Shimla-Manali routes. Buses from Shimla to Chandigarh[56] are available round the clock. Distance between major towns and Shimla:

National Highway 22 connects Shimla to the city of Chandigarh.
Distance between major towns and Shimla:

Kalka: 90 km
Chandigarh: 120 km
Ambala: 152 km
Patiala: 172 km
Bathinda: 330 km
Amritsar: 342 km
Delhi: 380 km
Dehradun: 227 km
Jammu: 482 km
Agra: 568 km
Jaipur: 629 km
Haridwar: 278 km
Srinagar: 787 km
Pithoragarh: 703 km
Kolkata: 1460 km
Mumbai: 1742 km

Air

Shimla Airport is at Jubbarhatti, 23 kilometres (14 mi) from the city. Currently, there are no regular commercial flights to the city. The nearest major airport is Chandigarh Airport in Chandigarh about 116 km away.
Kanya Kumari: 2500;km

Rail

The scenic Kalka Shimla Railway, a narrow gauge track, is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the steepest rise in altitude in a distance of 96 km.[58] Kalka, the plains rail terminus, has daily departures to major Indian cities. The city boasts a total of three railway stations with Shimla the main station and two others located at Summer Hill and Totu (Jutogh) respectively. It was built to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India during the British Raj, with the Indian rail system. The route is famous for its scenery and improbable construction.

In 2007, the government of Himachal Pradesh declared the railway a heritage property. For about a week starting on 11 September 2007, an expert team from UNESCO visited the railway to review and inspect it for possible selection as a World Heritage Site. On 8 July 2008, the Kalka–Shimla Railway became part of the World Heritage Site Mountain Railways of India.[60] alongside Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
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