The people of Ladakh region have
Mongoloid or more accurately
Turanian features. People of this region have a cheerful disposition and are
peace-loving. According to the 1971census, the population of Ladakh was
estimated at 105,000. Fifty-five percent of the Ladakhis are Buddhist by faith
and the rest are Muslims.
Ladakh is known as the 'land of the Lamas' and the Buddhist of Ladakh prefer to
call their religion Lamaism - which is much the same as Mahayana (or Great
vehicle) form of Buddhism. Religion pervades the life of Ladakhis and dominates
their life-style. The people of Ladakh have a system of dedicating at least one
person from each family to priesthood, i.e. to be a Lama. The female monk is
called Chomo. The Dalai Lama of Tibet is to them the chief spiritual head.
Ladakhis call themselves
'Bo-pa' i.e. ancient Bhauttas. They speak a Tibetan language
which is a dialect of Tibetan. It is written in the Tibetan script. Many words
in the Ladakhi language, especially in religious terminology are derived from
are sincere and honest. About 90 percent of them depend on agriculture for
their livelihood. Barley, wheat, buck-wheat, peas, rapeseed and beans are
the main agricultural products. Apples and apricots are grown in warmer regions
of low altitude.
occupation of the Ladakhis is sheep-rearing. The herdsmen are called Chang-pas.
They rear long-haired goats and sheep from whose under-fleece the famous
Kashmiri Pashmina shawls are made. Chang-pas live in tents and are nomadic,
going from place to place in search of pastures.
are keenly interested in trade. Wool, in raw form is their chief commercial
product. The men travel long distances, seeking favourable prices for their
wares, which consist of salt, dry fruits and cultured pearls and semi-precious
stones. In return they get tea, tobacco, grain, sugar and other essential
wear long, grey, woolen gowns fringed with sheep-skin and tied at the waist
with girdles of blue colour, multi-coloured velvet caps, fringed with black
fur earlaps. Their women wear colourful clothes. Their special turquoise-studded headgear called
Perak, is made of red cloth or goat skin and hangs up
to the forehead and tapers down to the waist at the back. Brooches of turquoise
and other semi-precious stones embellish their headgear, bangles and ear
The staple food of the Ladakhis is
'grim' - a kind of barely grown
abundantly even at high altitudes - which is eaten as bread or mixed with
butter and tea as a paste. They are invariably meat-eaters. A local drink called
Chang is consumed in ample quantities at festive occasions and reception
following marriages and births.
Polyandry used to be a common feature among the
Ladakhis. The elder brother's
wife was the wife of all brothers. This system was mainly with an aim to keep
the population steady and patrimonial property undivided. This system has been
discarded by the young Ladakhis, but there is no law yet against polygamy.
Playing polo on fast-racing ponies is the most popular entertainment in
The horse is not changed with each Chukkar (Chukka) as in western style polo but
each player carries on with the same sturdy pony. Primitive wooden balls are
still used for the game played on rough, uneven pitch whose popularity
persists in Ladakh.
the hunters exotic hunts of markhor, ibex, red bear, snow leopard,
wild sheep, antelope, gazelle and marmot. Ladakh is also rich in minerals like
gold, copper and semi-precious stones.
There is a system of medicine known as Amchi system of
medicine which is based on Ayurveda. Amchis, as the Ladaki
doctors are known, have been handling down their medical knowledge from father
to son down the years. Recently, however, an Amchi college has been
started in Ladakh for training and certification of Amchis, It is a well
developed system of medicine which treats the individual as a whole and remedies
include mostly herbal extracts from plants which grow in the high altitude
region of Ladakh. Some minerals and animal products are also used as
remedies which treat a whole spectrum of physical and mental problems. The Indian Army has taken up a unique project to examine the usefulness of the
Amchi system of medicine found in Ladakh.