Ladakh The Pride Of India

Ladakh The Pride Of India

Ladakh is the most northern region of Jammu & Kashmir state of India. It is called the endless discovery. It is also called pride of India.

Ladakh’s early history is woven into its mythology. And though the Great Chinese wanderer Fa-Hien traveled its folds far back as 399 AD, it was till but a few decades ago, what its name describes it as: ‘A land of Passes’ (La-Doghs: Passes and hillocks). Means of modern communication have brought this hinterland of traditional Buddhism into the circuit of an ordinary tourist. Ladakh beckons for more than one reason. The defiant beauty of its barren landscape, its unique flora and fauna, its culture, its clear blue skies and clear air, the ‘land where snow never melts and only corn ripens’, has more to offer: a good holiday.

Leh Palace

Built in the late 16th century by Singay Namgiyal, the palace stands like sentinel overlooking the town. Inside there are old wall paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. The Ladakhi royal family occupied Leh Palace until the 1830s before they were exiled to Stok. Today the palace is deserted and dilapidated.

Leh Mosque

Build by Deldan Namgyal in the mid 17th century, a tribute to his Muslim mother, the Leh mosque, an exquisite work of turko Iranion architecture, stands majestically in the main bazar.

Just the name of Ladakh evoked curiosity and mystery.   For a long time it beacon me but I could not get opportunity earlier to explore the mystery of the land. Ultimately I got the opportunity to visit the land.

On 22-05-2005 by Indian Airlines flight no. IC 447 I arrived at Leh airport, which was surrounded, by mountains and hills from all sides. Even part of the runway has been constructed cutting mountains. Before reaching Leh the aircraft had stop over at Srinagar. The journey from Srinagar to Leh was captivating as aero plane flew over thick snow covered mountain range. The sight was both captivating and challenging. When we arrived at Leh airport it looked more like army airport. Actually there are only two Indian Airlines flights weekly between Delhi and Leh, one connecting Jammu and the other through Srinagar. Only Jet Airlines has scheduled flights everyday.  During June when Sindhu festival takes place the frequency of flight is increased. The Indian Airlines arranges charted flights to ferry army personnel twice each week between Delhi and Leh. At Leh airport state government tourism department official received us. The lady, a Buddhist was warm and charming. She not only informed us about important tourist places but also advised us to take continuous rest for twenty-four hours for acclamitisation.     Others reiterated this medical advice also. We arrived at circuit house located in the city. The house of Dy. Commissioner of Leh is situated adjacent to the circuit house. As expected these building are made of wood structure. The sun was bright which added to splendour of snow peaked mountains all-around. But the temperature was zero degrees Celsius. Circuit house staff told us that there is no electricity in Ladakh during daytime. In the night it comes for few hours, which is sufficient enough to heat water stored in geyser, which could be used following morning. In the room also the temperature was very low and we used heavy razai. We took lot of tea to stabilize.

On 23-05-2005 we went on site seeing of important tourist places and monuments. Leh is a small town with dominating Buddhist culture but at the same time modern trends were also visible. Approximately forty thousands foreign tourists visit Leh who spend approximately Rs. 25,000/- each on their boarding, lodging and transport. Most of the house owners convert their house into guesthouse during tourist season. It is told that a house owner of four room guest house would earn about 4 to 5 lacs rupees per seasons as rent. Leh and Ladakh have high Buddhist population. Muslims, Kashmiri as well as Ladakhi are in minority. There is still minor population of Hindus and others.

After traveling out of the city area we saw the beautiful sight of the river Indus, which flows thin and flat. It reminded me of its important in history of India. And also unique culture developed along the river.

We saw Thiksay gonpa monastery and Shey palace.

Thiksey Monastery(19 Kms)

It has 12 storeys and consists of 8 temples and about 250 resident lamas. The chambers are full of statues, stupas, thangkas, ancient swords and Tantric wall paintings.

Shey Palace and Monastery(15 Kms)

This is the summer palace of the erstwhile rulers of Leh, surrounded by picturesque gardens. Built in 1620 AD, the palace has the largest victory stupa, topped with pure gold. There is a spectacular double storeyed statue of Budda Sayamunni in a sitting posture. Wrought of copper and brass, gilded with gold and silver and studded with precious gems, it leaves the senses breathless.

We visited the Hall of Fame located near Leh airport. It is a war museum. It displays details of war front terrain, the stories of sacrifice and victory of Indian soldiers, the details of recipients of Param Vir Chakra and other awards. The life and specially ensemble dress of our soldiers defending thick snow peaked hostile terrain of Siachen and Kargil. I remembered that the soldiers have done a great service to the nation and all Indians should be indebted to them.

The 23rd May 2005 happens to be Budh Purnima. It is day of celebration all over Ladakh and other areas. March past and culture programmes were organised by school children. The Buddhist Lamas organised special prayers at their monasteries gonpas.

On 24-05-2005 we went for stroll in the bazar. We went to the office of Dy. Commissioner, Leh. I was surprised to know that D.C., Natesh Nehru an officer of Kashmir Administrative Service was managing his district from his family house at Srinagar. Actually Ghulam Nabi, P.A. to the Deputy Commissioner was managing the protocol and affairs of the district. Another P.A., a Buddhist lady was also impressive. While sitting in the chamber of deputy commissioner I noticed that Mr. S.S. Rizvi was Dy. Commissioner of Leh for about two years during 1976-78. He belongs to Patna and we are family friends. I also saw the name of Ashok Jaitely who is known as ex-husband of Jaya Jaitely of an important political party. I also met Mr. Akbar, a Ladakhi Muslim who runs travel business.

On 25-05-2005 we visited Pangong lake located at 160 Kilometer from Leh. My driver was Namgyal who is a sober and decent young man. He is highly professionally competent driver to drive the vehicle in high altitude of thick snow peaked mountain roads. He told that he has traveled only up to Jammu & Kashmir and Himanchal Pradesh so far. He also told that he has a brother who is taking training for Lama at Dhramshala.


The Pangong Lake is 160 km from Leh with spectacular view of colorful montains and Changla Pass. The scenic view of snow capped colourful mountains throughout the journey made our trip memorable. Pangong Lake is 40 miles in length and nearly 2-4 miles wide and 19,930 ft. above sea level. The lake is especially beautiful towards the evening, when its rich deep blue colours are particularly striking to the eye. In the morning it is a lighter shade but still very brilliant. Although the water of the lake is salt, it is not as salty as that of the sea. Travelers are not allowed to pitch a tent here due to security restrictions, as 75% of the lake is in China, and only 25% in India.

On 25-05-2005 we left Leh at 7 o’ clock morning. The sun was bright and there was no cold wave. After long and dangerous drive along thick snow peaked mountains we arrived at Pangong lake at about 2 P.M. From Leh we drove along with river Indus and crossing Shey and Thicksey and reached Karu about 35 kms. away from Leh. We stopped at Karu to take tea and purchased Alu Paratha from Punjabi dhaba for consumption at Pangong as there was no other place on the way where one could get any eatable. It is Karu where first traffic check post of army is located. All together there are 5 TCPs the tourist has to report before he reached Pangong. The tourist has to hand over photocopies of inner line travel permit issued by the Office of Dy Commissioner of Leh.

Our taxi drove all along the passes manned by army units. The second highest motorable road is at Chang La (La means Pass) Post, which is at 17,800 feet above sea level. Some of the TCPs are attached to bigger army camps. But most of them were tin sheds and bunker as there is heavy snow through out the year. The labourers of Border Road Organisation are continuously repairing roads under freezing points temperature. We saw two snow clearing machines engaged in clearing roads.

The long drive between Karu and Pangong was both captivating and also breathe taking. The road was narrow, at frequent streaches there was not even pillar, there was sudden curves, there was tiny view of villeges in valley. The road itself was covered with snow.

After reaching Pangong Lake its deep blue water was a spectacular scene, which compensated the dangerous drive, we under took. The last Indian village is Choshul. We took our packed lunch and washed hands in the lake and enjoyed the pleasure.

On 26-06-2005 while strolling in the town I saw Imamia school. I went inside to know about the school.  The school is run by a Shia organisation. The students belong to all communities, Buddhist, Muslims, Hindus, Ladakhi and Kashmiri.  Inside the school premises the examination was in progress. The teacher told me that both Shias and Sunnis have substantial population in Leh, Kargil and other areas of Ladakh. They have their education institutions, which are open to students of all communities and ethnic background.

In the evening Alok Kumar IPS (1997) SSP Leh welcomed us for dinner at his residence. He belongs to Patna. His father Ram Chandra Prasad was an MLA from Rajgir and a Minister in early 70’s. We discussed about life and culture in Jammu & Kashmir in general and Ladakh in particular. He was earlier S.P. of militant infested districts of Doda & Pulgam. He told that the militancy has forced the preparedness of Jammu & Kashmir police to the level of combatant army surpassing central para military forces like CRPF, CISF & BSF. Leh district has larger area than two or three states of India put together. It has war front with both China and Pakistan. The district has one Lt. General and two GOC Major Generals.  I told him about checking at four TCPs of army unit and one TCP of Leh police while traveling between Leh and Pangong Lake. The inner line permit is issued in favour of an Indian citizen in pursuance of   SRO 490 dated 17-08-1978 issued of Home Deptt. Jammu & Kashmir Govt. vide his endorsement no. S-153-A/73-III dated 17-08-1978. The inner line permit is issued in favour of an Indian tourist with copy to senior superintendent of police, Leh and sub-divisional magistrate. But the Alok Kumar was suprised that why the photocopy of the inner line permit should be handed over to TCP manned by army personnel.  He clarified that it is the civil administration, which has the full authority over the district; the army pickets on way to Pangong Lake have no jurisdiction to check the permit.

On 27-05-2005 we travelled to Likir and Alchi monasteries. The area is located between Leh and Kargil. Our driver was Nizamuddin and gunner was Tashi, a Buddhist. This road goes along river Indus for a long stretch. The road links Leh, Kargil and Srinagar. The strech between Kargil and Srinagar is open for few months in summer only.

I saw work going on for widening of present narrow road. The Border Road Organisation is engaged in up keep and widening of these roads. I was told by accompanying police personnel that during Indo-Pak Kargil war the shells from Pakistani pickets used to drop at that point on the national highway. During those days the army vehicles to cross that strech in night after dimming their headlight, which was, double dangerous.

Alchi Gompa(66 Kms)

This monastery consists of six temples, which contains a chorten, seated Buddhas and exquisite paintings. Over ten centuries old, profusely painted walls depict the events of the Buddha’s life, lamas and musicians.

On way back to Leh we sat at the ghat of river Indus where on 11th of June every year the Sindhu festival is organised with great fan fare and publicity. I thought about Indus being witness to evolution of Indian culture and also advent of foreigners in ancient history of India.


All over Leh and Ladakh one photo is prominently displayed. It is beautiful scene of Lhasa and Potala Palace, which every Buddhist has already visited or aspire to visit befor

One thing in Leh is noticable is that there is no signboard in Urdu except on government signboards. It is told that it is in retaliation that Ladakhi is not used in Kashmir valley.

At restaurants at Leh one can get variety of dishes: Ladakhi, Kashmiri, Chinese, Continental, Israeli besides Indian. As Israelis visit the area in large number their dishes are prepared at all reasonable restaurants.

I inquired about Ladakhi songs and my driver told me that some non-Ladakhis are great singers. I enjoyed their songs, at least their music. During my stay at Leh I noticed that               Leh local hill area development council is very effective organisation. It is looking after all round development of the region. There are ecology and environment oriented organizations also who want to develop the region and also preserve the pure nature’s environment. On 28-05-2005 we took Indian Airlines flight 446 from Leh airport at 9.45 A.M. Due to march past of school children vehicular traffic   was not allowed through the bazar. So we took a different route to reach the airport.   I will always remember captivating snow capped mountains of Ladakh, which is certainly pride of India.


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