Ladakh literally meaning the "Land of Passes" (La – Pass, Dakh – Land) is characterized by jagged peaks and barren landscape. This land of haunting beauty, popularly known as "moon land", when viewed high above its surface appears a vast monotony of three colours – the brown of the earth, the white of the snow and the black of the dark shadows in the valleys. But as one lands on its surface a beautiful kaleidoscope of colours unfolds, of effervescent streams, flower – decked meadows, gaily dressed Ladakhis, serene Lamas and fleet footed mountain sheep.
The sparsely populated Ladakh accounts for two-thirds of the state's area. It straddles four main ranges – the Great Himalayas, Zanskar, Ladakh and Karakoram and is the highest inhabited region in India. The great river Indus along with its tributaries flows right through Ladakh. Despite its tough terrain the land has been inhabited since ancient days.
The highest Indian plateau situated in the Indian state of Kashmir, Ladakh is perched at an altitude of 9000ft. The ancient capital of Ladakh region is perched at an altitude 3350 meters amidst starkly beautiful mountains, which gently blend into an oasis of lush fields. Today, Leh has emerged as an important tourist destination with marvelous opportunities for an unusual holiday.
The famous Silk Route of yore traversed through Ladakh. Traders carried spices, brocades, pearls, carpets, tea etc. and Leh and Kargil were thriving trading centres.
Buddhism was introduced in Ladakh during 7th century A. D., by sage Padmasambhava. It spread further and by 11th century A. D. there were 108 monasteries established there. The monasteries add to the landscape of Ladakh, mostly situated on highest points of the region they are great pieces of artifacts. The cultural heartland of Ladakh lies in the upper Indus valley, the region around Leh. The people of western Ladakh – the regions of Drass, Kargil and Suru Valley are predominantly Muslims. Buddhism is the most popular religion being followed in Ladakh.
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