Ladakh, the region of mountain passes, a piece of broken moon land- a perfect place to witness the unmatched beauty of nature. Ladakh is the highest plateau of the Indian state of Kashmir with much of it being over 3,000m. It lies between 32 to 36 degree north latitude and 75 to 80 degree east longitude. The total area of 45110sq km makes Ladakh the largest district in India. Ladakh region is bifurcated in Kargil and Leh districts. Kargil lies at an altitude of 2750m and Leh at 3505m. The largest town in Ladakh is Leh.
Ladakh is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and culture. It spans the Great Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges and the upper Indus River Valley. The district bordered Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the west and China in the north and Eastern part and Lahul Spiti of Himachal Pradesh in the South east. Ladakh’s ethnic composition consisted of Mongoloid and a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards. It is sometimes called little Tibet due to strong cultural and geographical similarities with Tibet. The approach to Ladakh is invariably marked with many long walls running 2-3 kms, decorated with engraved stones bearing the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hun” and Chortens which symbolizes Buddha’s mind.
He limpidity of the atmosphere, in fact gives the night sky a unique clarity, so full and bright with stars that one feels transported to some etheral setting far removed from earth. For endless years, mad had even discovered this remote land, several hardy animals and birds lived together here in an exquisite equilibrium. Circumstances have now changed as they have almost everywhere else on the subcontinent.Today, Ladakh's flora and fauna are threatened and protection is vital if the ancient ecosystems are to survive the trauma of modern man. Through the fabric of this account runs a strong statement, that the armed forces possible contribution to conservation remains untapped. Harnessing this vital potential force may be the single most important conservation advance India could make in the battle to save what remains of its natural wealth.
Around the first century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana Empire. Buddhism came to western Ladakh via Kashmir in the 2nd century. Buddhism is the religion of the majority of Leh District’s population. The most attractive features of the Landscape of Leh are the Buddhists Gompas ( Monastries). The Gompas are situated on the highest points of the mountain spurs or sprawl over cliffsides, located in vicinity of villages and provide focus for the faith of Buddhists. Gompas have a wreath of artifacts. There are also some religious places of Muslims which constitute slightly more than 15% of the district’s population.
Ladakh is a high altitude desert as the Himalayas create a rain shadow thus prohibiting the entry of monsoon clouds. The main source of water here remains the winter snowfall on the mountains that forms the glaciers. Like in the rest of the parts of the country where people pray for rain, here Ladakhis pray for the glaciers or snows to melt for irrigation and drinking purposes. Surprisingly though, the thin air makes the heat of the sun even more intense than at lower altitudes. Only in Ladakh can a man sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade suffer from sunstroke n frostbite at the same time.
Wind velocity in the afternoon and nights is of high order resulting in heavy soil errosion with dust storm and snow blizzards which make life very difficult. Due to longer winters, the agriculture season is short and spread over from April to September depending upon the climate. The main river of Ladakh is Indus, which flows in a north-west direction between Ladakh and Zanskar ranges. It is joined by several major rivers like Zanskar, Suru and Shayok before it reaches Pakistan.