View all 16 photos

Ladakhi

Ladakhi
Ladakh (meaning ‘land of the passes’) is a cold desert in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is divided into the mainly Muslim Kargil district and the primarily Buddhist Leh district. The people of Ladakh have a rich folklore, some of which date back to the pre- Buddhist era.
“The land is so harsh and the passes so numerous, that only the best of friends or the worst of enemies would visit you”
As the Himalayan farming season is short, Ladakhi only work for 4 months of the year. All ages can join in and help. During the 8 winter months work is minimal and festivals and celebrations are almost a continuous affair, giving them the opportunity to display Goncha, the traditional dress.

Temple Dancers at Thikse Monastery

February 2012

The Ladakhi share the beliefs of their Tibetan neighbours. Tibetan
Buddhism, mixed with images of ferocious demons from the
pre-Buddhist Bon religion, has been the principal religion in Ladakh
for more than a thousand years. 

Lamayuru Monastery

February 2012

Festivals and celebrations are unmissable opportunities for the Ladakh to
display goncha, the traditional dress. Typical costumes include gonchas of
velvet, elaborately embroidered waistcoats and boots and hats. Well-to-do
Ladakhi women have a striking and opulent appearance.


Perak Lady, Lamayaru Village

February 2012

The people of Ladakh are conservative and traditional, and their lifestyle is much the same as it was 2,000 years ago. They have a rich folklore, remarkable for its songs and legends, some of which date back to the
pre- Buddhist era.
Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Lekir Monastery

February 2012

Buddhism has very deep roots in Ladakh, as this region was introduced
to the faith as far back as the 7th century AD. The culture and lifestyle of
the people of Ladakh are quite deeply influenced by their Buddhist religion,
with ancient Buddhist inscriptions and rock engravings scattered liberally
throughout this mountainous region. 

Lekir monastery was established by Lama Dhwang Chosje in the 14th
century, who was a master of meditation art. 

Ladakh Monastery, Ladekh

February 2012

Many of the local people of Ladakh are farmers, and the produce of their
fields are used to make traditional Ladakhi cuisine. Vegetables such as
potatoes, pumpkins, beetroots and beans are cooked in a variety of different ways and accompany meat dishes of mostly mutton and chicken.
The staple food includes sku (noodles), thukpa (thick soup with vegetables),
pava and khambir (bread made from wheat flour).

Perak Ladies

Most of the Ladakhi festivals fall in winter, and serve as an excuse for
social and convivial gatherings. In summers, archery competitions and
a native version of polo are common. Folk songs and dances add to the
jovial atmosphere and chang, the local barley wine, flows liberally.

The folk musical instruments surna (oboe) and daman (drum)
accompany the ceremonies and public events. Performers adorned
with gold and silver ornaments and turquoise headgear throng the
streets. Monks wear colourful masks and dance to the rhythm of cymbals,
flutes and trumpets. Dances depict the many legends and fables of Ladakh.

Lamayaru Village, Ladakh

February 2012

Because of the harsh mountain environment of Ladakh, helpfulness and
cooperation are essential for survival. Ladakhi society is structured in
phasphuns, a cooperative group of several unrelated families
maintaining alliances of friendship, cooperation, and helpfulness.
The six to ten families in the phasphun usually live in the same
village, participate in group religious ceremonies and worship a
common god. Neighbours help each other, especially during
harvest season, when workdays begin at dawn and end at dusk.
Even then, the work is done at a relaxed pace, so all ages can join
in and help. There is laughter and song, and the distinction 
between work and play is not rigidly defined.

Perak lady, Lamayaru Village

February 2012

Newborn children are given a warm welcome, with celebrations on their
15th and 30th day in the world, as well as on their first birthdays.
The family invites friends, relatives and neighbours and serves tsampa
(roasted barley flour) mixed with butter tea.
Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Perak ladies at Thikse Monastery

February 2012

Leh, the capital of Ladakh, was the home of an independent monarchy for
a thousand years. The Ladakhi royal family, which traces its lineage back
to 300 BC, still lives in Leh, but since India’s independence in 1947, its
influence has been merely symbolic.
Ladakh is a cold desert, with winter temperatures of minus 30°C, rainfall
of no more than eight centimetres per year and very limited sources of
water. Despite this, it has been home to a thriving culture for more than a
millennium. 


Artprint available

- Jimmy Nelson

Kashmiri Pashmina

February 2012

Weaving is an important part of traditional life in eastern Ladakh.
Both women and men weave, although they use different looms.
The nomadic tribes of the Changpa rear longhaired goats and
sheep, whose under-fleece is used for the famous Kashmiri
Pashmina shawls. They are keenly interested in trade.
Raw wool is their chief commercial product

Ladakh celebrations

February 2012

Weddings in Ladakh are occasions for music, dance and feasting.
Boys are generally promised or married by the age of 16 and girls
by the age of 12. The relatives of the groom bring gifts to the bride’s
home. If accepted, the wedding takes place within a few months.
New wives move in with their husbands and - depending on their
status and wealth - her parents offer clothes, animals and land to the
couple as a dowry or raqtqaq.

Stakna Monastery

February 2012

The people of Ladakh live in very high mountain valleys between the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. 


Basgo Village, Ladakh

February 2012

Leh, the capital of Ladakh, was the home of an independent monarchy for a thousand years. The Ladakhi royal family, which traces its lineage back
to 300 BC, still lives in Leh, but since India’s independence in 1947, its
influence has been merely symbolic.
Ladakh is a cold desert, with winter temperatures of minus 30°C, rainfall
of no more than eight centimetres per year and very limited sources of water.
Despite this, it has been home to a thriving culture for more than a millennium.
The self-sufficiency of the Ladakh, having developed unique irrigation systems
over many centuries, is essentially based on an economy of small agricultural
communities.

Lekir Monastery, Ladakh

February 2012

Men are the head of the family and the eldest son inherits the property of his father, which passes to the next brother after him. If there are no sons in the family, the father brings in the husband of the eldest daughter and property gets transferred in the daughter’s name and then passes on to her first son.


Masked Dancers

February 2012

Their gonchas are made of heavy Chinese silk and they wear impressive
jewellery, with baroque pearls, turquoises, coral and amber bedecking
their necks and ears. The gonchas of the less fortunate are made of coarse,
home-spun, woollen cloth in a dark shade of maroon.

Lamayuru Village

February 2012

Many villages are crowned with a gompa or monastery, which may be
anything from an imposing complex of temples, prayer halls and
monks’ dwellings to a tiny hermitage which houses a single icon and is
home to a solitary lama. Lamas are believed to be the messengers
between the physical and the spiritual world and often act as astrologers
and oracles, predicting the auspicious time to start any major enterprise.