Lingshed, Ladakh, India
The northernmost state of India, called Jammu Kashmir, currently disputed territory among China, India, and Pakistan. We work in the Ladakh region, in the Zanskir Mountains, also known as “Little Tibet”.
Ladakhi (northern India, near Tibet)
Ladakhi (similar to Tibetan, although not ethnically related)
Visiting the Ladakh region of northern India is like visiting Tibet one thousand years ago, before the Tibetan culture was disrupted by the Chinese invasion. The geography – the high desert and snow-covered peaks of the Himalayan Range – is stunning, as evidenced by its sometimes being called “Shangri-La” – the mystical, mythical place described in the novel Lost Horizon.
While it has recently been a volatile region, in dispute among India, Pakistan, and China, it was historically its own autonomous region, governed by its own royalty. Today, it is a trove of history about the Tibetan Buddhist culture, maintaining the religious traditions, and traditional dress and music.
Our liaison is Geshe-la Ngawang Jangchup, a Ladakhi monk from the village of Lingshed. Now over 60 years old, he has been a monk since he was 6. His goal is to preserve the culture of his community, which he hopes to accomplish by using community-based tourism. Crooked Trails co-founders Tammy Leland and Chris Mackay met him in England in 1995, where the three of them were among the attendees at a course called “Rethinking Progress.” Geshe-la had been sponsored to attend the course due to the rapid changes in his region with the opening of a road to the capital city of Leh (situated at 12,000 feet elevation).
Our first program to the Ladakh region was in 2001. We have worked with two groups in the region, the Lingshed Area Cultural Troupe and the Lingshed Area Education Project. Every year, we make a large donation to the Lingshed Area Cultural Troupe to help them carry out their work of maintaining traditional culture, including music, songs and dances, clothing, and musical instruments. The Troupe meets monthly with the children of the region, to ensure that the cultural patterns are passed to future generations. Some of the funding is used to procure additional musical instruments and clothing, which is often lavishly decorated with precious gemstones such as turquoise.
The Education Project provides support for students from the Lingshed area to attend school in the capital city of Leh. Schools in Lingshed only run through the 8th grade – and that only if teachers can be enticed to stay in the remote region for a full school year. For students to attend school in Leh, they need a place to live and support such as food and homework help, which the Education Project provides.
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