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Demystifying the status of a Ladakhi woman!
Leh, Friday, March 13, 2015 : What do they say about self love? That it should be accompanied by self critique. We Ladakhis give ourselves a lot of credit when it comes to thinking positive for and about women in Ladakh. We like to believe that our society is one where women enjoy equal rights more or less in every sphere of life. To some extent the benefit of doubt we give ourselves is true; our women do enjoy a very good status as compared to women outside Ladakh.

With the same perception of equality, independence and growth, 64 women from different walks of Leh including members of Panchayat, Self Help Groups, 2010 Leh flash flood victims, journalists, teacher and members of different NGOs and women representative of two major political parties of Leh set out for an exposure tour on ‘Women Leadership’ to various places in India like Rajasthan, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

By Hajira Bano Balkhang
Ladakh : ephemeral beauty with mounting challenges.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014 : Folk Lore of vicitimsation
Deelip Padgaonkar, Chairman of group of interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir had very rightly labeled the three regions playing the cards of “Competitive victimization”. Though the report created only an ephemeral noise, it lies now in cold storage of north block. Ladakh has been playing this card since independence but using this card now would be naive as argument without any credible proof and statistic would be lost in air. Any sane advice would be if you are victim fight for it within the means and parameters. The report also spilled some beans, on the functioning of the autonomous district hill councils. It noted the two district hill councils never had single joint meeting. Perhaps this was the reason that now the two councils have started to talk and talk together with Srinagar.

By Rinchen Tundup
Ladakh 1994 – Number that Rings!
Tuesday, December 30, 2014 : Numbers; we can hate them, but never ignore. No matter how much we try to keep them at bay, they would creep in; for counting, is one of the fundamental faculties of human psyche. ...
By Lhundup Gyalpo
HALF WIDOW, HALF WIFE- The story of Kashmiri women
Delhi, Thursday, December 18, 2014 : As per Hannah Ardent “Violence stands in opposition to power and nothing is worse than combination of violence and power. Gender is a system of social hierarchy in which masculine characteristics are more valued than feminine ones. So violence based on gender share deep relationship. Women all over India faces physical as well as mental violence which is either domestic (patriarchal family) or other factors like war, military rule, communal, caste and ethnic identity e.g., in Gujarat riots 2002 mass rape in Surat of Muslim women. Also in states like Bihar and Haryana atrocities against Dalit women is done by upper caste men. In north-eastern states like Manipur and Nagaland women face violence by military. Kashmiri women tales of violence is horrifying and long lasting. Kashmir lies at heart of India and Pakistan and it is important to understand that Kashmir conflict poses a complex humanitarian issue and it is also important to understand that preventing gender violence goes hand in hand with establishing lasting peace in the state.

By Jegmet Spaldon
Karbala: A universal philosophy
Leh, Wednesday, November 5, 2014 : In the annals of history, every now and then we come across events and personalities that affect and shape human belief and faith for centuries to come. The teachings of Christ, Buddha and Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) brought about paradigm shifts in people’s abstraction of religion. Saints and holy men have swayed people’s cogitation throughout history. But few events and personalities are as powerful and as tragic as the event of Karbala and the personality of Imam Hussain (A.S)
With the appearance of new moon of Moharram, grief and pain is evident on the faces of Muslims worldwide and particularly the Shia community. The incident of karbala goes much beyond the supreme sacrifice of Imam Hussain (A.S) and also teaches about humanity, truth, justice, tolerance and a life full of dignity.

Although the event of Karbala is a long narrative and extremely tragic, I will for the sake of respecting spatial limits, try to keep it simple and focus more on the philosophical aspect of it and the message it carries. I will discuss what little I have understood from the event of Karbala and leave the religious aspects of it for the learned scholars Ulmas of Islam....
By Hajira Bano Balkhang
The changing face of Ladakhi marriages
Leh, Wednesday, October 22, 2014 : Imagine lavish expenditures, loud crackers, the bustle of relatives of all sorts, glistening jewellery and huge piles of food. Welcome to the world of obscenely festive Indian marriages. Marriages here are synonymous with festivals; Indian marriages are often accompanied by adjectives such as boisterous and pompous. May be it is our way of celebrating the significant occasions of our lives in the most memorable and perfect way possible, but saying that it goes a little overboard wouldn’t be wrong.

Following suit, Ladakhi marriages too have taken a turn in the same extravagant direction. Although we do retain a traditional fervour in our marriages but the cost of maintaining the tradition has gone up several notches. The picture of parents anxiously counting expenditures and checking bank passbooks trying to figure out a way to get through the marriage smoothly is just too probable. Gone are the days when marriages were considered a sacred union of two souls; now it is more about the quality of clothes, lavishness of feasts and the amount spent on the marriages, all tending to inch towards the higher side. The idea of marriage has now disgustingly become that of a business deal between two families rather than a chance at making and cherishing new relations. Thankfully our society is yet to be counted among the ones nurturing dowry system as a much loved son, but that still doesn’t do anything to cover the fact that the expenditure incurred on marriages is no less than the ‘formal dowry’. This is just a path leading to strengthening of the roots of this much debated, much detested evil in the soil of our culture as well. And then sooner than we will realise, the girl child, who is as revered, as cherished in Ladakh as the boy child, will bear the brunt of a reputation that she never wanted or deserved; that of being a burden on her parents, of being a liability than an asset she is.

By Hajira Bano Balkhang
An audience with an Oracle
My first witness of a spirit-medium in her trance
Choglamsar, Friday, October 17, 2014 : She was chanting the invocation prayer of Gangs ri' lha brtsen, while ringing rhythmically a bell which she held in her left hand and a drum, damaru, in the right. The invocation was sung to induce the spirit to assume possession of her body....
By Tenzin Menkyi
Chorten: the landmark of Ladakh
Its evolution from a mound of dirt to a king’s burial tomb, to a religious monument
Leh, Friday, October 17, 2014 :

He had build 207 Stupas or chortens in Ladakh. When asked how many more he intended to build, he said: " I don’t have a target. But I can't build it alone anymore without other's help, I am too old to climb the top of  a Stupa to carve it". Well, to Ladakh's dismay, those were the last words Tsering Tundup Tsamskhangpa, Ladakh's stupa connoisseur, spoke on stupa. He passed away recently at the age of 90.

By Tenzin Menkyi
The first Ladakhi's expedition to Antarctica
Changspa, Leh, Friday, October 17, 2014 : At the pinnacle of the world of adventure sports, lies the ascent of Mt. Everest and close at it heels is a ski traverse to the geographic South Pole (Antarctica), which is equally challenging task than that of climbing Mt. Everest.

Logistically, it was certainly much more complex, coupled with the fact that cross country skiing, using Nordic Telemark skiing technique, faces some of the most hostile and inhospitable terrains and weather conditions in the world, while manually pulling sleds weighing around 80-100kg. The expedition involves active walking for 10-12 hrs each day, facing temperature from -20 to35 degrees with winds averaging 50knots with occasional gust and blizzards of 80-100knots covering a distance of over 200km to the geographic South Pole, where the base of US Amundson-Scott located.   ...
By Sonam Tamchos
Floral and Faunal Diversity of Ladakh
Thursday, August 21, 2014 : Ladakh, the northern most part of India, a region in Jammu & Kashmir covers more than 92000 Sq. Kms (more than 70%) geographical area of the state.  It is the highest inhabited plateau of the world known for its inaccessible remoteness and cold climatic conditions with human population approximately 150 000, is one of the least populated area in the Indian Subcontinent.  ...
The achey (good) winter days in Ladakh
Leh, Thursday, July 31, 2014 : In the media world where news is made often for facts that are stranger than fiction, a PIL against the newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stating criminal breach of trust and seeking the whereabouts of the much elusive, utopian achey din. The amusing nature of the news notwithstanding had me wondering if we Ladakhis probably need to follow suit. We live in a place that remains untouched by the unholy shadows of development and the virgin beauty of which has people outside Ladakh viewing it as a living paradise for vacation. And yes maybe that is what it has been reduced to; a holiday destination for six months, or even less in some years. The rest of the time, which happens to be the raw, harsh winter season, the region seems to get buried somewhere in the unreachable corners of minds of both governance and people. The six months that see us trapped in the bubble of our own existence, cut off even from our own state, not to talk of the country or the world. Who do we hold accountable? Our immediate elected representatives, the state or the central government, just who among them will own up the responsibility?

For far too long the buck has been passing from one stakeholder to another with the people of Ladakh being reduced to helpless spectators in the whole scheme of things. We seem to have understood and accepted the annual ‘routine’ in the run up to the ‘hibernation season’ if I may put it. For the rest of the country, hibernation might be a word often used to tease each other for being lazy, but for us it is an enforced way of living, not even a valid choice. Very ironically, we have accommodated into the neglect that seems to be a special gift of governance to us. The Centre ensures that its armed forces are well supplied while the state and local government scrambles to get resources to ‘build the stock’ for the winter. It almost comically reminds me of the story of the ant and the grasshopper, and their attitudes towards storing things for winter. Looks like we are neck deep in grasshoppers! Ladakh is being administered in this ‘ad hoc’ manner since India gained independence. Living in distant dreamland has its curse I guess. What else explains the longing we Ladakhis have for the summer that quite matches the longing of a Ladakhi mother waiting for her son to come back home after completing his education outside, separated by years of painful loneliness.   

By Hajira Bano Balkhang
With prayers for the oppressed in Palestine, Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr at Leh
Leh, Thursday, July 31, 2014 : After keeping fast in the Holy month of Ramazan, and like in all parts of the world Eid ul Fitr was celebrated by the muslim community of Leh on 29 August 2014 at Imam Bargah Leh and Eidgah Leh under leadership of Sheikh Abdul Qasim and Hafiz Ghulam Mohammad, Imam Jamia Masjid Leh.

With violence and killings in Palestine escalating at an alarming rate, the Muslims of Leh like their brethren the world over, expressed solidarity with the sufferings of the people of Palestine and also with those fighting oppression and tyranny anywhere else on the globe irrespective of religion. They offered special prayers for the people of Palestine for their sufferings and general peace in the region and elsewhere.

This day is celebrated with all traditional festivity and with great enthusiasm. People participated in the Eid prayers and prayed for the innocent victims of Iraq, Syria and Gaza, an end to Zionist regime and freedom of Majid Al Aqsa and expressed solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza. Signifying the fact that Eid brings with it the message of peace and brotherhood both the leaders prayed for the welfare of all humanity particularly for the maintenance of peace and a sense of belonging and unity among all the communities of Ladakh, which has since ages set an example of communal harmony to the whole world....
By Hajira Bano Balkhang
Colloquial hampers in learning Classical Language
Leh, Friday, July 25, 2014 : Bhoti language was formed in 7th century in Tibet by Thunmisambhota. Throughout Tibet it is known as Tibetan language. The term Bhoti is given by Himalayan scholars and it has been spoken by people of Himalayan region from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. From many years we are seeking recognition from the Government to include this language in the 8th Schedule. Bhoti language originated from Sanskrit language. Sanskrit language was one of the most crucial languages of ancient India. Lord Buddha preached his sermon mostly in Sanskrit language.

Nalanda University was one of the biggest universities in ancient India and many Indian scholars graduated from this university.  Five major and minor educations were taught in the University. The medium of instruction was Sanskrit language. Buddhist texts were also written in Sanskrit but later many of them got translated into Tibetan. So, in India’s point of view it is a very important language. Tibetan or Bhoti language was derived from Sanskrit language. There are fourteen vowels and thirty six consonants in Sanskrit language.

Only four vowels and twenty four consonants were taken from Sanskrit language including ‘Aa’ which is a vowel in Sanskrit but put it in consonant in Bhoti. In addition six more letters of consonants in Tibetan was found from Tibet itself and finally there are thirty consonants and four vowels. After inventing the alphabets of Bhoti language Thunmisambhota wrote eight main Tibetan grammar books but due to constant changes in the Tibetan society six of them were lost forever. The remaining two are Sumchupa and Takjuk.  Likewise we have another grammar books such as Dakyik which is very important for correct spell writing.  Those grammar books have great significance in translating or writing classical Tibetan from seven century to the present. Therefore, we have to learn those grammar books for the preservation of our great culture and language.

By Sonam Paljor
Ladakh Celebrates Kalachakra Initiation
Leh, Friday, July 25, 2014 : A long awaited Kalachakra empowerment (dus-’khordwang-chen) is coming into reality during this beautiful summer of Ladakh. Once again, this mass sacred gathering is presided by the Vajra Master, His Holiness, 14th Dalai Lama rGyal-wabsTan-’bdzinrGya-mtso.  There cannot be better auspicious day for us when the Buddha Kalachakra himself set to bestow Kalachakra initiation upon his chosen and faithful disciples. We pledge to obey the vows of Kalachakra initiation.  

Looking back to its long cultural history of Ladakh, one hardly finds instances parallelto present ones in term of spiritual as well as material ascendant. Indeed, ongoing momentum has commenced with the first visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Ladakh  combined withLadakh’s easy access to mainland India-both the events, co-incidentally, taking place in early 1960s.Indeed, Ladakh is re-discovering the lost Shangrila, the paradise, once said to have existed in vicinity of the great Himalayas. His Holiness comes calling us with a message of peace and prosperity and Ladakh has become a field of His Holiness’s dharma mission laboratory where the Tibetan culture and civilization takes culturing for the future.

Bound by one culture and one Master, there is absolute cultural and historical affinity between the greater Tibet and little Tibet (Ladakh). This relation is not a new development. In ancient times, Ladakhi lamas and pilgrims used to make months and months long trekking on foot through a vast Tibetan plateau to avail glimpse of the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama and the Jovo of Lhasa. Topics of talks among the Ladakhis on those days centered on rGyal-wa Rinpoche, Panchen Rinpoche and Jovo Rinpoche. They knew nothing about then their rulersMaharaja Gulab Singh in Jammu, Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore and Emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi. Ladakh has remained living Buddhism for more over than one millennium without interruption. ...
By Dr. Nawang Tsering
Leh, Monday, June 30, 2014 : In a war that involves thousands of fighting men, there were bound to be hundreds of act of gallantry performed by amazing individual that went un-noticed. Volumn has been written and spoken about Col.Rinchen but People of Ladakh have long forgotten the other “The Savior of Ladakh”.

But not today, so grab your bottle of whiskey and shot glass – you‘ll want to raise many a toast to the men who has saved us.

Ask any Elderly person in Ladakh: “Who saved us from Pakistani army invading us?” They will unanimously answer ‘it was Col. Prithvi Chand, Subedar Bhim Chand, Sher Jung Thapa, Dakota and of Course, Col Rinchen”. Unfortunately, they seem to be fading away from the mind of people of Ladakh. Let us pay tribute to them and let every Ladakhi speak about them with joy, honor and pride.

It was in 1947-48, Soon after the independence, Karachi decided to invade Ladakh while the raiders from Pakistan were already in Kashmir valley. They named it as “Operation Sledge” the main objectives of this operation was the treasures of the Buddhist Gonpas (monasteries), which were a great lure for finance-starved Pakistan.
Col.Sher Jung Thapa:

A company of 6th J&K Inj Battalion which was then located at leh, was sent to defend Skardu under the command on Maj.Sher Jung Thapa. They reached skardu in the first week of December 1947 inspite of heavy snowfall. Sher Jung set up his camp in Kharpoche Fort. He knew that Pakistan was gearing up to launch a fierce attack soon after the chilly winter, so he stocked up enough of ration to last for few months....
By Nordan Otzer
Leh, Monday, June 30, 2014 : Kalachakra belongs to the class of highest yoga tantra and was originally given by Shakamuni Buddha to the dharma king of Shambala, Suchandra (Dowa Zangpo). While the Buddha was on Vulture peak (tib. Chargo Phungpoe Re) teaching the Prajnaparamita sutra (the perfection of wisdom sutra), he was simultaneously emanating himself in a place in the south of India where, in the form of Kalachakra, he was giving the Kalachakra teachings. The linage was maintained in Shambala and later passed back to India and then to Tibet where it has been preserved until present day. Engaging in the practice of Kalachakra leads to one’s rebirth in Shambala where the tantras have greatly flourished and are very widespread. By putting these teachings into practice, the path is open for our full enlightenment.
It is of very great importance to cultivate a proper motivation for receiving these teachings. Not just any motivation will do. Since the Kalachakra tantra is means of attaining full enlightenment of Buddhahood within one short lifetime, the motivation to be cultivated is to listen to the teachings with the intent of reaching enlightenment ever so swiftly for the great benefit of all sentient beings. Rather than listening to the teachings as mere words check your own mind and actually cultivate this motivation.
By Dr. Tsewang Dorjay
Economy versus Ecology
Why not a profitable environmental synergy?
Leh, Monday, June 30, 2014 : Born in an absolute flat country, I turned out to be a mountain freak roaming around the great Himalaya. Very logically I ended up in Ladakh to experience the freezing but ecstatic walk on the frozen Zanskar river, nicknamed Chadar during its winter metamorphose.

Since ages, Zanskarpas have been using this natural icy trail to reach Ladakh when the only motorable road is closed due to massive snowflakes bombardment. At such times all the trekking paths have totally vanished under a tricky confederation of dangerous inches of snow. Sure enough, during the harsh and long Himalayan winter passes are unreachable with avalanches becoming a serious bet after snowfalls or any weather’s change.

If Zanskarpas and Ladakhpas are used to walk on the frozen surface of the turbulent  Zanskar waters, it was only about a decade ago that some westerners adventurers started to venture on the blue path as well, following the steps of the local pioneers. Pretty soon after that this very unusual way became a challenging winter adventure for the enthusiasts of the extreme.

So, in January 2010 I found myself highly thrilled to put my footprints on that pristine and unspoilt way.  The beauty of the experience was so intense that I actually started dating the Zanskar River, being back the four following winters for that strange icy flirt.

By Charlotte Bochkoltz
A strange Political situation
Leh, Saturday, May 24, 2014 : We belong to Ladakh, a part of largest democratic country India. Like all other parts of our country we are also bestowed with certain rights of Indian constitution. One of the important rights is, Right to vote or adult franchise. But are we using this in the right way? Or are we still following the old dictatorship kind of system. Are people of Ladakh ignorant about this right or they may be knowing but do not want to enjoy this right in a meaningful way!

Whatever the reason may be, I see most of the people are not using this in the right way or how it should be used! It is really a wonderful right and we are getting an opportunity to choose our right representative.

Like in other parts of India, here in Ladakh also member parliament (MP) election campaign is going on. By voting one can give power to someone or take that power back. To do so, it is our responsibility to listen to the contested candidates, whether the candidate is contested for the first time or they may have contested earlier or may even have won earlier....
By Kunzang Dolma Stakmo
Is there a golden future for them?
Leh, Saturday, May 24, 2014 : Yes! I agree that there had been a number of cases in which people are bitten but rarely killed by dogs. But you just think when a child is killed or even bitten by some dogs how much havoc or rumour is created, it just spreads like a wild fire clearing everything that comes in its way and similarly the rumour washes the brain of the people making their hearts black and hard like a coal and just then a hasty flood full of hatred towards the dog, splashes the heart making it stubborn and injects such a venom which is enough to make a man brutal, but all this calamities had never occurred, not occurring and will never occur when an innocent young of a donkey roaming the streets at night with its mother killed brutally by dogs. When I wrote this I shaded tears of blood. Let's just keep the emotions away.

Now let's look at the problems faced by dogs in the past few years. Let's take the example of Spituk where a small girl was killed mercilessly by dogs and then everyone in that area were armed with knives and wooden clubs with the intension of killing them. Tell me, did the killers of Rajiv Gandhi got death sentence in the court. NO! They were awarded with life imprisonment. But what about the dogs who hardly can distinguish between the right and the wrong? Now remember the havoc cause by the flood in 2010, did that kind of disaster happens every day. It took a life toll of more than 150 people and left the rescue team probing for more hundred people, so according to me the cloud burst should be punished, it should be tied to a car and dragged, after that it should be hanged on a gibbet in front of everyone. On reading the above sentences your tummy would ache by laughing and will say "what nonsense". Now let's come back to dogs....
By Stanzin Zyanfan
Question to the Nation: Does India Care about Ladakh?
Leh, Saturday, May 24, 2014 : At this juncture, wherein wave of election is all around which propelled me to write this article to highlight certain issues regarding the alienation of Ladakh with rest of India. Being a convener of Ladakh Connectivity Movement (LCM) I have some empirical field experiences and participated in the series of protests held in National Capital to assert our grievances to the Government of India. The movement was organized in collaboration with many associations like Ladakh Student Welfare Society Delhi (LSWSD), All Ladakh Tour Operator Association (ALTOA) and New Ladakh Movement (NLM). This movement started against the excessive airfare from Delhi to Leh which was higher than Delhi to Beijing and many other international destinations. The first protest at ministry of civil aviation on 28th February 2014, followed by second protest rally on 4th march 2014 at Jantar Mantar and memorandum was presented to the President of India and the prime minister, but sadly they did not respond to it nor did media covered the rally. The third protest held on 9th march 2014, at Connaught Place and blocked the jam-packed traffic for almost 40 minutes, but that time interestingly people came out of their cars and supported us, it was heartwarming when we heard people whispering saying ‘their demands are genuine’.

Unlike typical traditional protests with shouting catchphrases, this protest is different in many ways. I think it was the most creative rally which the nation has ever seen, with an alien mask on face or painted faces, all the participants chained themselves with locks so that the police could not scare them. The rationale behind the alien mask was to express that “Ladakhi feels like an alien in our own country”.  Furthermore, each one was equipped with flowers to be given to the policemen while explaining them about the problems and grievances, without shouting even a single slogan, message was conveyed through banners, placards and handouts. The main purpose of all these was to convey our message through media, but unfortunately, again media turns deaf ears to us. Moreover, an irony was that on the same day of our protest on 9 March 2014, Media gave full coverage to congress vice president Rahul Gandhi when he gifted his new Jacket to one of his fan. It seems that his jacket is more important than the people who are longing to reach out their voice to our fellow citizens and concern policy makers. This is the situation of world largest democratic country, even after 64 year of our independence where media is accessible only to certain section of society.      ...
By Tashi Lundup
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