Ladakh Culture

Although Leh was a major bazaar and stopping point on the famed Silk Road, Ladakh is a predominantly agricultural society. Ladakh is also called "Little Tibet", because culturally it has more in common with Tibet than the rest of India. Religion occupies a central part of life, much more so than in the West. Prayer wheels and Chortens (the local word for a stupa, the Buddhist devotional towers) are dotted everywhere. Many villages have a monastery nearby, usually built high up on a rocky outcrop or hill, and many members of society become Buddhist monks. People enjoy attending the religious festivals, and we saw many locals at events like the Leh Festival, even though this is a new festival introduced mainly to slightly extend the tourist season past its traditional beginning of September close. Each Ladakhi family typically owns about 2-4 acres of land which is irrigated by snow meltwater through a complex network of irrigation ditches. Leh only receives 60 mm of rain per year, and the non-irrigated areas are completely arid.Ladakh CultureThe farming all occurs in the four month-long hot summer, allowing a single barley crop to be grown which is used for bread, tsampa (roasted barley flour used to make dumplings and so on), animal fodder and chang (rough Tibetan beer; tastes rather like a weak scrumpy). The other eight months of the year are very cold, and the Manali-Leh Highway officially closes on 15th September. (Camps like Sarchu close at this time). Although this is rapidly changing due to the influence of tourism and soldiers stationed in Ladakh, traditionally the Ladakhis had a largely money-free economy, being completely self-sufficient from their agriculture. To maintain this state of affairs, land would not be divided up amongst children, with a second son typically becoming a Buddhist monk rather than a farmer, and even polyandry being practised to avoid having to split up a farm into pieces too small to support the extended family.
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