Ladakh is a portion of the wider Kashmir region that is administered by India as a union territory. It has been a source of contention between India, Pakistan, and China since 1947.
Prior to the Chinese government’s closure of the borders between Tibet Autonomous Region and Ladakh in the 1960s, international trade declined as a result of Ladakh’s strategic location at the intersection of vital trade routes]. The Indian government has effectively promoted tourism in Ladakh since 1974. The Indian military keeps a sizable presence in the area because Ladakh is crucial from a strategic standpoint.
After the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act was passed, Ladakh became a union territory of India on October 31, 2019. It had formerly been a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The largest and second-least populated union territory in India is Ladakh.
History, Culture and Heritage of Ladakh;
The Khampa nomads, who domesticated Yaks were the first inhabitants of Ladakh. The first settlement along the Indus river was established by Mons from the region of Kullu and another tribe called Brokpas, towards the west of Ladakh, originating from Gilgit. Gya became the first seat of government of a Mon ruler who was known by Gyapacho.
During 10th century AD, nomads from Khotan (now in central Asia) launched a series of bloody invasion on Ladakh. Gyapacho succeeded in repelling the attack of Khotan nomads by the help of Skide Nyimagon, the descendant of king of Tibet. Gyapacho ceded to him the unhabituated Shey and Thiksey in return of the favour. Nyimagon became the first king of Ladakh and chose Shey as a headquarter and built a fort at Shey. Later he became the king of entire Ladakh region. Skide Nyimagon ruled from 975 to 1000 AD. Between 1000 and 1500 AD, Ladakh was ruled by the succession of kings, who were great patrons of art and architecture. They were responsible for building palaces and promoting religious activities among other things.
Dragspa Bumlde’s successor Lodros Cholden ( 1435 to 1438 AD), was disposed and imprisoned by a prince descending from a side branch of the family and with him ended the first dynasty of Ladakh. Dragspa Bumlde’s younger brother Dragspa Bum had been allotted an estate including Basgo and Teba (then upper and lower Ladakh) and his son Lhachen Bhagan succeeded him . Bhagan (1460-1485), disposed the king of Leh, Lodros Choglden and disinherited his sons. Thus Bhagan became the founder of Ladakh’s second dynasty. Bhagan’s sons and all his later descendants took the surname “Namgya”l or “The Victor”. The first king of the new dynasty whose reign is well documented is Tashi Namgyal, who ruled in the third quarter of the 16th century. Ladakh reached its zenith under king Tsewang Namgyal, who united whole the entire region and established his capital at Leh
The king Jamnyang Namgyal who ruled from 1595-1616 AD, proposed the celebration of Losar 2 months earlier to fight against the “Baltis” of Skardu. Jamnyang Namgyal got defeated In the battle and got imprisoned by Raja Ali Sher. Ironacally, Ali Sher Khans’s daughter fell in love with Jamnyang Namgyal who later married her.Their son Singay Namgyal , who is know as the greatest ruler of Ladakh. During his reign, he conquered Guge (Tsaparang was the capital of Guge) and Rudok and in 1638, he was successful in repelling a Mongol invasion of Guge. Zanskar and Upper Lahoul were annexed in the late 1630’s. He defeated the king of Baltistan. He also built the famous Namgyal palace at Leh which of nine storey. He also built the monastery at Hemis and Temisgam.
Buddhism and different sects in Ladakh
According to the book “Ratnagiri”, Buddhism came into Ladakh through Kashmir.It was Ashoka ,who sent missionaries during around 300 BC. During second century BC, a viharas called Surendra viharas were build in Suru valley. It is believed that Kushana empire always kept his interest in Ladakh during 1st to 3rd century BC. And during the reign of Kanishka from first half of second century, Buddhism became very popular Kashmir and in Ladakh. Large numbers of stupas were build. The Kanika Stupa at Sani in Zanskar is associated with Kanishka.
In the mid 7th and 8th century, Buddhism was having a hard time securing a foothold in Tibet which was then under the influence of the bon religion, a religion with animistic and totemistic belief. It was king Lang-Darma who was a great follower and protector of this religion. It was him who burned lots of Buddhist holy bibles or books and destroyed hundreds of Monasteries and Stupas. Later the Tibetan ruler king Tritsong Deotsen in order to bring peace and overcome this practices invited Guru Padmasambhava and monk Shaktarashita from India. Guru Padmasambhava during his quest to Tibet came across many practitioners of Bon religion who attempted stop him by casting spells on him. He instead awed them with his Tantric powers and bound then local deities by oath to become servants and protectors of the Buddha , Dharma and Sangha. He then established Tibet’s first Buddhist monastery at Samye and founded the first of four majiur schools of Tibetan Buddhism, “The Nyingmapa Schoo”. Guru Padmasambhava is often depicted in thankas (scroll paintings) and walls wearing three robes of the monk with a red cap or hat. It is said that enroute to Tibet, Guru came to Ladakh and meditated for some time thus by leaving fews marks at some places. The Bon religion is now heavily assimilated to Buddhism is still very much in practice in few parts of Tibet and adjacent countries.
In Ladakh, people practice and follow Tibetan way of Buddhism, which follows Mahayana and Vajrayana schools. Mahayana , “The Greater Vehicle”, teachings focuses on securing the enlightenment of all beings and believe in later commentaries made by great Buddhist saints and scholars. While Hinayana Buddhism is more focused on individual path to enlightenment.
Different schools of Tibetan Buddhism ;
|Sect & period when it was founded.||First monastery or temple in ladakh||Head lama||Exponents||Major (under lined) and Associated monasteries|
|Nyingmapa (8th cent)||Taktok (8th century)||Guru Padmasambhava||Sakti|
|Saskyapa (11th century)||Matho (15th century)||Atisha,Virupa, drokmi, Saskya Pandita etc||Matho (only)|
|Kargyupa (11th cent)||Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa|
|Drigungpa (11th cent)||Phyang (1515)||Togldan Rinpoche||Chosje Denma kunga||Phyang &Lamayuru|
|Drukpa (12th century)||Hanle (17th century)||Incarnate if Lama Stagsang Raspa||Dugchen Rinpoche, Stagsang Raspa,||Hemis, stakna, Chemre,Shey,Sani, Zongkul etc|
|Gelukpa (14th century)||Spituk (14th century)||H.H.Bakula Rinpoche and Ngari Rinpoche(Lekir)||Atisha, Tsongkhapa, etc||Spituk,Lekir,Diskit, Thikse, Stakmo, Stok, Sankar, Alchi, Bazgo, Rizdong, Saspol, Karsha, Rangdum, Stongde ,Phugtal etc|