Nestled at the top of Indian MAP with its boundaries with Tibet and Pakistan. Eastern region of Jammu & Kashmir state offers and incredible destination for nature and adventure lovers.
The first inhabitants of Ladakh are thought to have been a mixture of nomadic herds men from the Tibetan Plateau and a small contingent of early Buddhist refugees from northern India called the Mons. Sometime in the fourth or fifth centuries, these two groups were joined by the Dards, a tribe of Indo-Aryan origin who migrated southeast along the Indus Valley, bringing with them irrigation and settled agriculture.
The first independent kingdom in the region was established in the 9th century by the maverick novel man Nyima Gon, taking advantage of the Chaos after the collapse of the Guge Empire of the western Tibet. Buddhism, meanwhile, had also found its way across the Himalayas from India. Disseminated by the wondering sage- Apostles such as Padmasambhava (Alias" Guru Rimpoche"), Dharma gradually displaced the pantheistic shamanism of the Bon Cult ( which still holds away in remote villages north of Khalsi, near Lamayuru). The east word expansion of the faith towards Tibetan plateau continued in the 10th and 11th centuries- the period later dove the " Second Spreading ". among its key proselytizers was the " great translator" Rinchen Zangpo, scholar and missionary associated with the foundation of numerous monasteries in Ladakh and in neighboring Spiti.
Around the 14th century, Ladakh passed through a dark age during which, for reasons that remain unclear, its rulers switched allegiances from Indian to Tibetan Buddhism, a form of the faith deeply invested with esoteric practice drawn from the Tantra texts, and possibly influenced by the animated celebrations common to born. This coincided with the rise to prominence in Tibet of Tsongkhapa, who is accepted as founder of the Gelug-pa or " yellow hat" school. With the Dalai Lama at its head, Gulek-pa is today the most popular school in Ladakh with many more monasteries than sects, such as Kagyu, which is closely linked with Milarepa, a tantric practitioner (11th -century) whose ideas and sonnets have stuck with many Ladakhi Buddhist. Under Tashi Namgyal ( 1555-70) , who re-unified the kingdom, Ladakh became a major Himalayan power and the ascent to the thrown of the "lion" Sengge Namgyal, in the 17th century, signaled further territorial gains. After being routed by the Mogul-Balti army and Bodh Kharbu in 1639, he turned his energies to civil and religious matters, founding a new capital and palace at Leh, as well as a string of monasteries that included Hemis, seat of the newly arrived Brugpa sect, a branch of Kagyu school.
Sengge's building spree created some fine monuments, but it also drained the kingdom coffers, as did the hefty annual tribute paid to the Moguls after the both Kharu debacles. Finances were further strained when Delden, Sengge's successor pickled a quarrel with his ally, Tibet. The fifth Dalai lama dispatched an army of Mongolian horse men to tech him a lesson, and three years of conflict were only ended after the Mogul governor of Kashmir intervened on Ladakh's behalf. This help, however, came at a price : Aurangzeb demanded more tribute, ordered the construction of a mosque in Leh, and forced the Ladakhi king to convert to Islam.
Trade links with Tibet resumed in the 18th century, but Ladakh never regained its former status. Plagued by feuds and assassinations, the kingdom teetered in to terminal decline and was an easy target for the Dogra (Sikh) general Zorawar Singh, who annexed it for the Maharaja of Kashmir in 1834. The Ladakhi royal family were banished to Stok Palace where they reside to this day.
Ladakh became a part of independent India in 1948, following the first of the three Indo-Pak wars fought in this region. However, both the international frontier, and the so called" Cease Fire Line" that scythes through he top of Jammu and Kashmir remain "unauthenticated": even today, the two armies take periodic pot-shots at each other across the disputed Siachin glacier in the Karakoram, 100 km north. When you conceider the proximity of China, another old foe who annexed a large chunk of Ladakh in 1962, it is easy to see why this is India's most sensitive border Zone- and why it remained off- limits to tourists until 1974.
Today, Ladakh comprises over 60 percent of the state of Jammu and Kashmir as it stands, and like the other two state districts, Kashmir Valley and Zanskar, has its own distinct culture and boundaries formed by mountain ranges that have ensured independent development over several centuries. Long dissatisfied with centralized government from Srinagar, in September 1995 the Ladakhis finally saw the establishment in their region off an autonomous Hill Development council, localizing government control. It's hoped that Ladakh's particular needs, dictated largely by climate and traditions, will be better met under the new system. In 1995, agitating Zanskaries, hoping a for a similar Hill council, were making travel in the region awkward, but things have calmed down since a compromise reached in early 1996.