The present day population of Ladakh is the result of blending together of the Dards, the Mons, and the Mongolians cites Ladakh District Census Handbook, 1961. It further explains that except for some stray commentaries and hazy accounts the past history of the district is shrouded in mystery.
In any case, it is believed that the district was first inhabited by a tribe of nomads who tended their herds in the small valleys of Ladakh. The rock carvings which have been preserved to this day indicate that they chased the Kiang or the Wild Sheep.
The present day Ladakhis claim that they are the descendants of a blended race of Mons of North India, Dards of Baltistan and Mongols of Central Asia. It is said that the Mons were the first immigrants and were followed by Dards who founded different settlements in the Indus valley. The Mongols are supposed to have migrated to the district early in 10th Century A.D.
Dr. Ashok Jerath in his book titled Mystic Land of Half Moon, Ladakh explains how the three tribes found in Ladakh which can be distinctively recognized due to their peculiar traditions were; the Mons of Indian Origin, nomads of Tibetan origin and the people of coming from the central Asia, a pure Aryan breed, the Dards.
He supplemented the fact by explaining that among the three, the nomads of Tibet, popularly known as Bhots, might have come earlier. Green tuft of the meadows stretched for miles together at Gumri and Drass might perhaps attract the Bhots. With their flocks, they might have reached these meadows and stretched valleys densely covered with foliage.
To make use of these splendid meadows, unlimited sources of water and fertile lands of Mons of Indian Origin, also might have been attracted towards Ladakh. They were also the nomads in the beginning but subsequently started cultivating the fertile lands thus they settled near these lands by the sides of the streams and ditches. They might have entered Ladakh through Kishtwar owing to the presence of their localities in the area of Zanskar situated on the border of Kishtwar.
The third tribe was of Aryan which came from central Asia through Gilgit and settled nearby Khaltsi and Drass. This tribe also came to Ladakh in search of better pastures in the beginning but in due course of time, like Mons, started cultivating and settled near the rivers and streams. Their settlements can be seen in the most fertile piece of land of Ladakh which is also supposed to be health resorts.
However, Parwez Dewan in his research says it is possible that 'Arayan' Dards originally inhabited all of Ladakh. For the first few hundred years, they followed Bon religion, the indigenous religion of Tibet. Later, some Dards of Da-Hanu converted to Buddhism while some accepted Islam.
According to Reeve Heber (1923), the Tibetan nomads were the first to come. They were shepherds and followed the old Bon religion. Since they were nomads, they did not found town or village. Thus, though they came first, they were the last to settle. Mon people of north India were the next. To him, they probably came here to propagate Buddhism. They were the best known for the castles that they constructed. They also developed the ancient irrigation system. The Mons has ever since formed a substantial portion of the population. They were the carpenters, masons, and musicians. The Dards were the third group of settlers. They introduced agriculture and polo in Ladakh. They also carved figures on rocks. France assumed that there were marriages between the Tibetan nomads and Dards agriculturist. A mixed race was the result.
Ladakh: Land of Possessive Powers and Charm, M. Amin Pandit
A History of Ladakh, Gilgit, Baltistan, Parwez Dewan
Mystic land of half moon, Ladakh, Dr. Ashok Jerath
Reeve Heber, 1923
Ladakh District Census Handbook, 1961