History of Ladakh

History of Ladakh The region of Ladakh once formed part of the erstwhile Kingdom of Ladakh and for nearly 900 years from the middle of the 10th century existed as an independent kingdom. After 1531, it was periodically attacked by the Muslims from Kashmir, until it was finally annexed to Kashmir in the mid 19th century. The early colonizers of Ladakh included: - the Indo-Aryan Mons from across the Himalayan range, the Darads from the extreme western Himalayas, and the itinerant nomads from the Tibetan highlands. While Mons are believed to have carried north-Indian Buddhism to these highland valleys, the Darads and Baltis of the lower Indus Valley are credited with the introduction of farming and the Tibetans with the tradition of herding. Its valleys, by virtue of their contiguity with Kashmir, Kishtwar and Kulu, served as the initial receptacles of successive ethnic and cultural waves emanating from across the Great Himalayan range.

Its political fortunes ebbed and flowed over the centuries, and the kingdom, was at its best in the early 17th century under the famous king Sengge Namgyal, whose rule extended across Spiti and western Tibet up to the Mayumla beyond the sacred sites of Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar.

During this period Ladakh became recognized as the best trade route between the Pubjab and Central Asia. The merchants and pilgrims who made up the majority of travellers during this period of time, travelled on foot or horseback , taking about 16 days to reach Srinagar; though a man in hurry, riding non-stop and with changes of horse arranged ahead of time all along the route, could do it in as little as three days. These merchants who dealt in textiles and spices, raw silk and carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics entrusted their goods to relays of pony transporters who took about two months to carry them from Amritsar to the Central Asian towns of Yarkand and Knotan. On this long route, Leh was the half-way house, and developed into a bustling entreport, it bazaars thronged with merchants from far countries. This was before the wheel as a means of transport was introduced into Ladakh, which happened only when the Srinagar- Leh motor-road was constructed as recently as the early 1960s.