History of Ladakh

History of Ladakh

Information on Ladakh before the birth of the kingdom (10th century) is scarce. The earliest layer in the population of Ladakh was probably composed of the Dardis. Herodotus mentions twice a people called Dadikai, first along with the Gandarioi, and again in the catalogue of king Xerxes's army invading Greece. Herodotus also mentions the gold-digging ants of Central Asia, which is also later mentioned in connection with the Dardi people by Nearchus, the admiral of Alexander, and Megasthenes. In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder repeats that the Dards are great producers of gold. Herrmann brings arguments to show that the tale ultimately goes back to a hazy knowledge of gold-washing in Ladakh and Baltistan. Ptolemy situates the Daradrai on the upper reaches of the Indus, and the names Darada is used in the geographical lists of the Puranas.

The first glimpse of political history is found in the Kharosthi inscription of Uvima Kavthisa discovered near the "K'a-la-rtse" bridge on the Indus, showing that in around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. A few other short Brahmi and Kharosthi inscriptions have been found in Ladakh. Hsuan-tsang describes a journey from "Ch'u-lu-to" (Kuluta, Kulu) to "Lo-hu-lo" (Lahul), then goes on saying that "from there to the north, for over 2000 "li", the road is very difficult, with cold wind and flying snow; thus one arrives in the kingdom of "Mo-lo-so", or "Mar-sa", synonymous with "Mar-yul", a common name for Ladakh. Elsewhere, the text remarks that "Mo-lo-so", also called "San-po-ho" borders with "Suvarnagotra" or "Suvarnabhumi" (Land of Gold), identical with the Kingdom of Women ("Strirajya".) According to Tucci, the "Zan-zun" kingdom, or at least its southern districts were known by this name by the 7th century Indians.

In the 8th century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between Tibetan expansion pressing from the East, and Chinese influence exerted from Central Asia through the passes. In 634/5 Zanzun acknowledge Tibetan suzernaity for the first time, and in 653 a Tibetan commissioner ("mnan") was appointed there. Regular administration was introduced in 662, and a unsuccessful rebellion broke out in 677. In 719 a census was taken, and in 724 the administration was reorganized. In 737, the Tibetans launched an attack against the king of Bru-za (Gilgit), who asked for Chinese help, but was ultimately forced to pay homage to Tibet. In 747, the hold of Tibet was loosened by the campaign of general Kao Hsien-chih, who tried to re-open the direct communications between Central Asia and Kashmir. After Hsien-chih's defeat against the Qarluqs and Arabs on the Talas river (751), Chinese influence decrease rapidly and Tibetan influence resumed. the geographical treatise Hudud-al-Alam (982) mentions Bolorian (Bolor = Po-lu, Baltistan) Tibet, where people are chiefly merchants and live in huts. Nestorian crosses, apparently due to Sogdian Christian merchants found in Drangtse is an evidence of the importance of trade in this region. After the collapse of the Tibetan monarchy in 842, Tibetan suzerainty vanished quickly.

The first dynasty

After the break-up of the Tibetan empire in 842, Nyima-Gon, a representative of the ancient Tibetan royal house founded the first Ladakh dynasty. Nyima-Gon's kingdom had its centre well to the east of present-day Ladakh. This was the period in which Ladakh underwent Tibetanization, eventually making Ladakh a country inhabited by a mixed population, the predominant racial strain of which was Tibetan. However, soon after the conquest, the dynasty, intent on establishing Buddhism, looked not to Tibet, but to north-west India, particularly Kashmir. This has been termed the Second Spreading of Buddhism in the region (the first one being in Tibet proper.) Little is known about the early kings of Nyima-Gon's dynasty. The fifth king in line has a Sanskrit name Utpala, who conquered Kulu, Mustang, and parts of Baltistan. Around the 13th century, due to political developments, India was ceasing to have anything to offer from a Buddhist point of view, and Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet.

The Namgyal dynasty

Continual raids on Ladakh by the plundering Muslim states of Central Asia lead to the weakening and partial conversion of Ladakh. Petech, Luciano. "The Kingdom of Ladakh c. 950 - 1842 A. D., Istituto Italiano per il media ed Estremo Oriente, 1977. ] Loram, Charlie. "Trekking in Ladakh", Trailblazer Publications, 2004 ] Ladakh was divided, with Lower Ladakh ruled by King Takpabum from Basgo and Temisgam, and Upper Ladakh by King Takbumde from Leh and Shey. Bhagan, a later Basgo king reunited Ladakh by overthrowing the king of Leh. He took on the surname Namgyal (meaning victorious) and founded a new dynasty which still survives today. King Tashi Namgyal (1555-1575) successfully managed to repel most Central Asian raiders, and built a royal fort on the top of the Namgyal Peak. Tsewang Namgyal temporarily extended his kingdom as far as Nepal.

During the reign of Jamyang Namgyal, concerted efforts were made to convert Ladakh to Islam and destruction of Buddhist artifacts. [ Rizvi, Janet. "Ladakh - Crossroads of High Asia, Oxford University Press, 1996 ] Today, few gompas exist from before this period. Sengge Namgyal (1616-1642), known as the 'lion' king made efforts to restore Ladakh to its old glory by an ambitious and energetic building programme which rebuilt several gompas, the most famous of which is Hemis. He expanded the kingdom into Zanskar and Spiti, but was defeated by the Mughals, who had already occupied Kashmir and Baltistan. His son Deldan Namgyal (1642-1694) had to placate the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by building a mosque in Leh. However, he successfully defeated the Mughal army in Baltistan.

Modern times

By the beginning of the 19th century, the Mughal empire had collapsed, and Sikh rule had been established in Punjab and Kashmir. However the Dogra region of Jammu remained under its Rajput rulers, the greatest of whom was Maharaja Gulab Singh whose General Zorawar Singh invaded Ladakh in 1834. King Tshespal Namgyal was dethroned and exiled to Stok. Ladakh came under Dogra rule and was incorporated into the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1846. It still maintained considerable autonomy and relations with Tibet.

In 1947, partition left Ladakh a part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, to be administered from Srinagar. In 1948, Pakistani raiders invaded Ladakh and occupied Kargil and Zanskar, reaching within 30km of Leh. Reinforcement troops were sent in by air, and a battalion of Gurkhas made its way slowly to Leh on foot from south. Kargil was a scene of fighting again in 1965, 1971, and 1999.

In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Sinkiang, blocking the 1000-year old trade route from India to Central Asia. In 1950, China invaded Tibet, and thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama sought refuge in India. In 1962, China occupied Aksai Chin, and promptly built roads connecting Sinkiang and Tibet, and the Karakoram Highway, jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar to Leh from 16 days to two. Simultaneously, China closed the Ladakh-Tibet border, ending the 700-year old Ladakh-Tibet relationship.

Since the early 1960s the number of immigrants from Tibet (including Changpa nomads) have increased as they flee the occupation of their homeland by the Chinese. Today, Leh has some 3,500 refugees from Tibet. They hold no passports, only customs papers. Some Tibetan refugees in Ladakh claim dual Tibetan/Indian citizenship, although their Indian citizenship is unofficial. Since partition Ladakh has been governed by the State government based in Srinagar, never to the complete satisfaction of the Ladakhis, who demand that Ladakh be directly governed from New Delhi as a Union Territory. They allege continued apathy, Muslim bias, and corruption of the state government as reasons for their demands. In 1989, there were violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims, provoking the Ladakh Buddhist Council to call for a social and economic boycott of Muslims, which was lifted in 1992. In October 1993, the Indian government and the State government agreed to grant Ladakh the status of Autonomous Hill Council. In 1995, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council was created.

Religious Background of Ladakh and Baltistan

In the 14th century the Buddhist population of Baltistan, Kargil and some villages of Ladakh converted into Muslim as a result of preaching of Syed Ali Hamdani (714-786 al hija) – a saint and Islamic scholar of Kobravi sufi order followed by preaching of Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh (795-859 alhijra) a disciple of Khawaja Ishaq Khatlani himself the principal successor of Syed Ali Hamdani of same Kubravi Sufi Order. Thus a Muslim society developed first time in the Northern Areas of subcontinent

This Muslim society apart Quran and Sunnah follows Al-Fiqatul Akhwat comprising of legal provisions (furu) and Usool Aitaqadia comprising of principles (Usool-e-Islam) written by Syed Mohammad Nurbakhsh. Therefore they are named Sufia Nurbakshia such as Shia Jafferia and Sunni Hanifia.

Nurbakhshis fundamentally believe in Allah, Malaie-ka ( angle) Holly Books, Holly Prophet and last day judgment with oral declaration of Kalma-e- Shahadatain and practically offering of five time prayers, fasting during Ramdan, Zakattul Mall ( charity of wealth) and performance of Hajj, subject to availability of resources.

As interpreted by Arabic Dictionary Ul-Monjid in the Alfiqatul Ahwat a middle way between Shia and Sunni teachings is shown as a Shariat-e-Islmia. Mission of Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh as proclaimed by both Shia and Shinn School of thoughts because of their teachings as introductory page Al-Fiqatul Ahwat has been to unify all different sects of Islam, by following Shria prevailing during abeying the lifetime of Holly Prophet (peace be upon him).

Nurbakhshis are known as peaceful, tolerable and moderates, who not only equally respect other Muslim school of thoughts but also stress upon to behave human beings lovely – In the chapter relating to Mrar-bil- Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkar Alfiqatual Ahwat the aim of Islamic pravaling is defined to be obeying Almighty Gods order and becoming kind to His creature.

In the Zikharatul Malook by quoting a Saying (HADITH) of Holly Prophet ( peace be upon him) reported by Hazarat Imam Hussain ( A.S.) the prime wisdom after accomplishment of religious duties is to love human beings and without regarding his being good or bed to do good deeds to every one.

Syed Ali Hamdani by quoting a Hadith of Holy prophet says that thoe who are protectors of lives and properties of human being are Momin ( real believers) while Syed Mohammad Nurbakhsh says that a Momin ( believer) refrains himself from great sinful deeds ( Gona-e-Kabira) like Shireek, killing/ Murder, docorty theft forgery and cheatings etc.

Syed Ali Hamdani and Syed Muhammad Nurbakhsh are claimed by both Shia and Sunni probably because of their teachings stressing upon the Moadat-e- Ahlibeit and the need of following Sunnah of Holly prophet ( peace be upon him) apart fiqatual Ahwat permits different style of praying preachers agreeable to Shia and Sunni as optional.

Syed Ali Hamdani wrote about 170 books, pamphlets leaf lets handouts of which about 70 are traced in either published or unpublished shape. Similarly Syed Mohammad Nurbakhsh is an author of about one and half dozen books in Arabic or Persian.

In the Nurbakhshi Mosque called Khanqah adjacent to main praying halls small rooms are provided for the purpose solitary praying (Atikaf). These Khanqahs have been using as a central couching and preaching place by the Nurbakhshia.

It is said that followers of Nurabkhshis Maslak do exist in central Asia specially Tajkistan, Siangkang and Yarqand provinces of China, Turkey Kurdistan and Iran. But present day Nurbakhshis do not have any linkage with Nurabkhshis living in other parts of world out side sub-continent.

Barat Library Khaplu and Suffa Islamic Library Madarasa Shah-e-Hamdan Sufia Noorbakhsh can become main source for searching further detail about Nurbakhshisium.


* [http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1845113,00120002.htm Minser Enclave was part of Ladakh since the 1684 Treaty of Temisgang signed between Tibet and Ladakh]

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