at 3600m altitude, is a northern Indian region along the Sino-Tibetan
border that belongs to the Autonomous Region of Jammu-Kashmir, an Indian
Panorama... Its name comes from the Tibetan la-dags, meaning Land of Peaks. This immense, sparsely populated region has a very harsh climate: temperatures can plunge to 40°C during the eight month-long winter, rain is rare, and strong winds regularly sweep the country.
An independent country
from 950 to 1834 A.D., when it was annexed by India, Ladakh has been a
strategic area subjected to various tensions since China invaded Tibet
In the beginning of the 1960s, the first cultural shock wave to shake up this country that had always been practically sheltered from outside influences, was the massive arrival of the Indian army following a skirmish with China. Presently, 130,000 soldiers are stationed on Ladakhi soil.
The second wave of culture shock was the opening of Ladakh to tourism in 1974. Since that time, the capital, Leh, abounds in shops specialized in local crafts and a surprising number of hotels and restaurants. There, like elsewhere, modernism tends to show an aggressive, destructive face as it inevitably gains ground. Many Ladakhis have been uprooted from their highly coherent and supportive traditional agricultural lifestyle, but are unable to find work within the modern economy which is just beginning to develop. At the same time, they are progressively losing their understanding of the ancestral values inspired by Buddhism, although these used to permeate every aspect of their lives. Ladakh is now going through a crucial period, which explains why it is so important to supply assistance as quickly as possible.
life... The country is sorely lacking in resources, excepting
the tourism sector. The arid soil traditionally produces enough crops
to feed resident families, but local agriculture is not adapted to the
growing national and international markets. The famous Ladakhi apricots
are the only crop suitable for exporting.
is one of the economic mainstays. Animals contribute to every aspect of
life: their dung is used as fuel (there are no forests in Ladakh) and
their strength, milk and meat are vitally important. Sheep, goats, donkeys,
horses, cows and yaks abound, along with the dzo, a cross between the
yak and the cow, an excellent draft animal. Children are raised in the
bosom of the community. They accompany their mothers everywhere until
they are about five years old, and then rapidly gain a certain independence
and learn to share responsibilities with adults. At school they learn
to read and write and, within the community, learn the particular lifestyle
specific to this microcosm where generosity is central to survival. Participation
in the different chores within the community is an essential element.
The distinction between rich and poor was minimal for many centuries,
but since the western model made its appearance, society evolves in a
more fragmented manner. In schools where the education reproduces the
schemas of traditional society, children can find elements crucial to
social cohesion and the longevity of Ladakhi culture.