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Drokpa

Drokpa
Around 2,500 Drokpas live in three small villages in a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The only fertile valley of Ladakh. The Drokpas are completely different– physically, culturally, linguistically and socially – from the Tibeto-Burman inhabitants of most of Ladakh.
“Boast during the day, be humble at night”
For centuries, the Drokpas have been indulging in public kissing and wife-swapping without inhibitions. Their cultural exuberance is reflected in exquisite dresses and ornaments. Their main sources of income are products from the well-tended vegetable gardens.   
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- Jimmy Nelson

Dha Village, Kashmir

February 2012

Around 2,500 Drokpas live in three small villages in the Dha-Hanu valley
of Ladakh, which is situated in Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory
between India and Pakistan.

The valley lies 163 kilometres south-west of Leh, the capital of the former
Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh.

"The key to profoundly connect with someone is trust. Only when one is stripped of wealth, class, colour and culture disparities, true humanistic communication can start flowing."

- Jimmy Nelson

Dha-Hanu Valley, Kashmir

February 2012

The Dha-Hanu valley lies 163 kilometres south-west of Leh, the capital of
the former Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. Historians have identified
the Drokpa people as the only authentic descendants of the Aryans left in
India. One theory is that the original Drokpas were a group of soldiers
from Alexander’s army who lost their way while returning to Greece after
having been defeated by the Indian king Porus in 326 BC, while another
- less romantic but probably more accurate - is that the Drokpa descend
from the Dards, an Aryan tribe that centuries ago moved into western
Ladakh from the Hindukush mountains (in Gilgit Baltistan, now a region
of Pakistan).

Kasgar in Dha Village, Kashmir

February 2012

For centuries, the Drokpas have been indulging in public kissing and
wife-swapping without any inhibitions. Groups of women and men
from the tribe would queue up in lines and kiss openly and fervently
without any consideration for marital relationships.

As the practise was deemed uncivilised by the army, the civil
administration, and by the ‘urbanites’ of Leh – and therefore banned –
the Drokpas now only conduct this passionate display in the absence of
outsiders.

Dhagi in Dha Village, Kashmir

February 2012

The Drokpas are completely different – physically, culturally, linguistically
and socially – from the Tibeto-Burman inhabitants of most of Ladakh.
Drokpa men and women are tall and fair, with big, lightly coloured eyes,
full lips and distinctive noses and eyebrows. As a result, they consider
themselves superior and do not marry into other communities.
This insularity is how the tribe preserves its ethnicity.

Dha Village, Kashmir

February 2012

The Drokpas are fond of music, dancing, jewellery, flowers and barley
wine. Their cultural exuberance is reflected in exquisite dresses and
ornaments, worn particularly at festivals such as the latesummer
Bonano festival, when both men and women dance for three nights
in a row. 

Kunjura in Dha Village, Kashmir

February 2012

Daily life consists of husbandry and (primarily subsistence) agriculture.
The fertility and temperate climate of the valley makes for lush greenery.
The Drokpas’ main sources of income are apples, grapes, walnuts, dried
apricots, oil from apricot kernels, and other products cultivated in the
Drokpa’s welltended vegetable gardens.

"As with all relationships in life, the key to profoundly connect with someone is trust. Only when one is stripped of wealth, class, colour and culture disparities, true humanistic communication can start flowing."

- Jimmy Nelson

Bisati in Dha Village, Kashmir

February 2012

Drokpa males wear a large woollen dress held at the waist
over woollen trousers. The women don special woollen dresses and
adorn themselves with shells, beads and silver jewellery.
Goatskin capes complete the traditional dress. Both men and women
wear unusual headdresses decorated with flowers, coins and seashells.