Culture in Ladakh


Ladakh is based in tibetan buddhism in regard of religion. Attractions for visitors are first the monasteries, which are usually located pittoresquely on a hill or at another especially beautiful place. Also there is the traditional medicine of the Amchis and the "life-advise" of the oracles as foundation of the buddhist teachings.


Many other cultural aspects like wedding-ceremonies, rituals for the dead and other traditions are more related to the cultures west of Ladakh. Also the influence of Bon-religion you can find in several aspects of daily-life. You will get to know some of these things automatically while travelling through the country and talking to guides and locals (the guide is often the translater as there are many Ladakhis not speaking english).


Traces of age-old cultures of about 3. - 5.000 years ago you can find on several rocks. Ladakh is a widely non-explored treasure-trove of countless petroglyphs.

 Another possibility getting to know more about the daily life of the Ladakhis are the visits of schools and NGOs (for example the Women's Alliance, dthe ecological centre (Ledeg), the Snowleopard Conservancy and Himalayan Homestays).


More sightseeings are next to the not mentioned attractions in the capital Leh are the king's palace in Shey, the museum in Stok and the main settlement of the tibetans: Choglamsar.




Talking with Experts


There are numerous NGOs, Projects and Inititatives in Ladakh and Zanskar, which you can visit and have a talk with the staff. Some are easy to just come along, for others it is better to have an appointment, especially when you are travelling in a (small) group or you want to be sure that someone who is good in english is available for sure. Most of them have their office in Leh.


The better known in Leh are:

- Womens Alliance of Ladakh

- Snowleopard Conservancy

- World Wildlife Fund for Nature

- Leh Nutrition Project

- Ladakh Ecological Development Group

- Tibetan Heritage Fund

- Ladakhs Nuns Association

- Ladakh Hilfe


At the Womens Alliance in the season you can daily view the movie "Ancient Futures" from Helena Norberg-Hodge. The Tibetan Heritage Fund takes care of the restauration of the Old town in Leh and offers very interesting guided walks in the season. The Ladakh Hilfe works together with the local REWA-Organisation with disabled people.



Learning ABC


In India all children have to go to school. India takes care for a sufficient number of gouvernment-schools with well paid teachers. Unfortunatly they are not controlled according to their attendance nor their quality. Especially in Ladakh the situation developed not satisfactorily. Out of the nowhere grew instead in many places private schools, mostly sponsored with money from the western countries. These offer better qualified lessons.


In any case it is interesting to have a look into a school and talk with the teachers. Also the morning-assembly with singing of the national anthem and praying together is quite different from the schools in the west. The children wear school-uniforms and have to memorise a lot. They start going to school quite often at the age of 4, first attending the "Lower Kindergarden" with singing a lot and shouting the alphabet.


Ladakh belongs to the state J&K, having the official language Urdu, which is also taught in the schools. Later english is added. In the private schools children learn the local script Bodhic and sometimes Hindi, means that they all grow up moreorless trilingual.


You can visit the schools spontaneous or fix a visit in your itinerary. Unfortunatly the 2-weeks-summerholidays are announced usually just shortly before so that it can happen that you are finding yourself on an empty schoolyard. Nevertheless it is interesting to opt for a school-visit if you want to have a better insight into Ladakh.


How is very involved in that topic, has to pay a visit to SECMOL, where you can find enthusiastic people to talk to. SECMOL is an NGO founded by a Ladakh, who is - next to other activities - more engaged in the betterment of gouvernment schools then the bigger spreading of private schools.



And else there is...


Palace of Shey
16 km away from Leh are the ruins of the old kings-palace of Shey, a building, which has been ever just a side-residency for the royal family in Leh. The outer walls are in good shape, in the inner part there is nothing to see which makes you imagine the historical life of the ancient royal families. But from the balcony you can have a great view over the Indus-Valley. Who climbs higher can have even better views. In one room you can see a hugh Buddha-statue. You can either drive directly to the palace or arrive by a 1-hour-walk through the fields from thikse. Nearby the palace is a group of tchorten from 8th to 10th century.


Museum in Stok
14 km away from Leh is Stok. Here is the residency of the present royal family. In some of their rooms in the palace they have established a museum with mostly items from historical times, possessions of the royal family as well as some 500 year old Thankas. On top of that there is a "magic sword" - formerly the oracle of Stok made a knot in the blade by magic.


If you are interested in the situation of the tibetan refugees, you have to visit Choglamsar. Here is the biggest community in exile in Ladakh. The SOS childrens village in the tibetan part (the second biggest in India) is open for visitors. With the help of donations (many from Germany) lots of houses for orphans with individual care could be built. The associated school is also open for other (tibetan) children. In the breaks there is a lot going on in the schoolyard.


Also in Choglamsar there is the Mahabodi-Centre. A monk (Bhikkhu Sanghasena) errected a big centre on this huge area with lots of institutions: a school with hostel, a home for old-aged people without family-members, a hospital, a nunnery etc. The centre is financed by donations. Visitors are welcome and will be taken around after being registered in the office. Next to the tours, the centre also offers mediation-courses. In the branch in Chanspa in the summer-season there are daily introductions into buddhism and meditation. Other events you have to ask on the spot.


Iin Choglamsar there are also quite some manufaktures. We like to arrange for you a ttip to manistone-carvers, Thangka-painters, weaving-ladies, carpet-weavers etc.