Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ladakh The Land of Lamas

The people of Ladakh belong to three distinct races, namely the Dards, the mons and the Mongolians. The first two belong to Aryan race where as Mongolians have close resemblance to Tibetans. They migrated some time in the 10th century AD from Central Asia. Majority of population of Ladakh is Buddhist. Lamas play an important role in the socio religious life of the people of Ladakh. Many of the big monasteries run schools where the monks are trained by Lamas in the Art of Worship performance of various ceremonies. The Lamas also act as astrologers and physicians. They are also responsible for organising festivals and fairs at the Monasteries. Women of Ladakh are equal partners in all walks of life. There is no Pardah system and they go about unveiled and run shops or work in the fields. They have love for dancing and dance is an essential feature of all festivals and religious ceremonies. Honesty and Straight forwardness is in their nature. They are very polite, gentle and hospitable.  ( Changpas of Ladakh )

Ladakh has poverty, mass ignorance and grave social evils. The total rainfall is 3 inch in a year and almost the entire population lives on agriculture. The land being sandy and unproductive, the average yield is generally about three to four times the quantity of the seed used. The methods of Agriculture are very crude and the Area a family can cultivate profitably is proportionate to its man power. There are no irrigational facilities. Transport, labour, weaving and knitting occupy almost all the time the people can spare from their work in the fields. Almost every house has its own loom on which it weaves the fabrics it needs. People sew their own clothes and make their own footwear. Business is mostly in the hands of foreigners domiciled or otherwise. Flocks of sheep and goat form the only wealth of the nomads living in the Area. Most of the shawl wool of Kashmir is from the region whose upland pastures support immense flocks of sheep and goats. Wheat and grain are the main crops grown in Ladakh. The latter in conjunction with tea, form the essential elements of the food of the people in the higher altitudes. Rice used on festival occasions by those who can afford the expense is brought from is brought from Kashmir. Foreign varieties of vegetables have been introduced in Leh where vegetables are cultivated for the market also. The vegetables grown in other localities being mostly meant for home consumption.

Ladakh is a problem province so far its communications are concerned. Distances are so great and communications are poor that certain localities are completely cut off from the rest of Ladakh during winter months and Ladakh itself is isolated from the outside world, when heavy snowfall blocks all the passes connecting Kashmir, Jammu with it for over five months a year. All this badly affects the material well being of the people.

Inspite of the fact that about 90% of the Buddhist population is literate in Bodhi Tibetan Language, Urdu continues to be the medium of instructions in the primary stage in Ladakh. Though children of Ladakh are going out for education.Still there is educational backwardness. People are out of touch with modern pol. and scientific thoughts. They are ignorant about the day to day happenings in the world. There is no printing press in the area and no daily news paper is published there. Since Bodhi is their mother tongue, it is essential that instruction should be imparted to Ladakhi children in that language as the Bodhi is a highly developed language.

The Shias form a majority among the Muslims of and Kargil. The Shias are well organised socially while the influence of Buddhist ethics and philosophy of life reveal itself impressively in the daily life of Buddhists. The formal religion practised by them is a mixture of Buddhism, Tantra and Bonism. The Lamas or Monks are held in high esteem and the recarnating Kushoks or heads of Monasteries regarded almost as divinities. The Lamas have to live as celebes and according to the prescribed discipline. They are therefore, admitted to the Gompas in very early life to enable them to adjust themselves to monastic life before they are subjected to influences antagonistic to that life. As the order of the monk is "fundamental to Buddhism" and as the social and religious life of the Buddhists revolves round the Gompas, the Buddhists love song and dance. The tolerance and liberality of the Buddhists is great.

The caravan serias maintained by the Gompas are open to people of all faiths and nationalities.
Two social evils, ugly and venomous, are eating into the vitals of Ladakh Buddhists. One is the custom of polyandry under which the brothers of a husband share the favour of his wife. The other is very common use of "Chang" and intoxicating beverage made from gram and barley. Polyandry has prevailed for generations past through out Ladakh amongst the Buddhists. This custom was certainly not introduced by Buddhism but Buddhism has not checked it so far. The "Chang" habit is gradually impoverishing the people mentally morally, physically and economically.

As the Ladakhi people have now educational awareness and are fully awakened, they are suffering for want of education. The children of Ladakh either come to Jammu or Srinagar for higher education, for this purpose, major portion of the income of their parents is spent on the education only and other areas remain neglected. There is need of providing the Ladakhies all educational facilities in their home land up to University education level. This will help in tension free education and their economic upliftment.

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