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Characteristics of the Inhabitants
 
The original population is believed to have been that of Dards, an Indo-Aryan race from down the Indus. But over years, a huge influx from Tibet overwhelmed the culture of the "Dards" and obliterated their racial characteristics. In eastern and central Ladakh, today's population seems to be mostly of Tibetan origin. Further west, in and around Kargil , there is much in the people's appearance that suggests a mixed origin. The exception to this generalization is the "Arghon", a community of Muslims in Leh, the descendants of marriages between local women and Kashmiri or Central Asian merchants.
 
Prominence Of Buddhism
 
Buddhism reached Tibet from India via Ladakh, and there are ancient Buddhist frock engravings all over the region, even in areas like Drass and the lower Suru valley which today are inhabited by an exclusively Muslim population. The approach to a Buddhist Village is invariably marked by 'Mani' walls, which are ling chest-high structures faced with engraved stones bearing the Mantra "Om Mane Padme Hum" and by 'Chorten', commemorative cairns, like stone pepper-posts. Many villages are crowned with a 'Gompa' or monastery, which may be anything from an imposing complex of temples, prayer halls and monks' dwellings, to a tiny hermitage housing a single image and home to a solitary Lama.
 
 
Other Inhabitants - The Muslims
 
Islam too came from the west. A peaceful penetration of the 'Shia' sect spearheaded by missionaries, its success was guaranteed by the early conversion of the Sub-rulers of Drass, Kargil and the Suru Valley. In these areas, 'Mani' walls and Chorten are replaced by mosques often-small unpretentious buildings, or 'Imambaras' imposing structures in the Islamic style, surmounted by domes of sheet metal that gleam cheerfully in the sun.
 
Women of Ladakh
 
In Leh area women of both the communities, Buddhist and Muslim, enjoy a greater freedom than other parts of the region. They not only work in the house and field, but also do business and interact freely with men other than their own relations. In Kargil and its adjoining regions on the other hand, it is only in the last few years that women are merging from semi-seclusion and taking jobs other than traditional ones like farming and house-keeping.
 
Rituals & Ideal-time Activities
 
The natural joie-de-vivre of the Ladakhis is given free rein by the ancient traditions of the region. Monastic and other religious festivals, many of which fall in winter, provide the excuse for convivial gatherings. Summer pastimes all over the region are archery and polo. Among the Buddhists, these often develop into open-air parties accompanied by dance and song, at which 'Chang', the local brew made from fermented barley, flows freely.
 
The Ceremonies
 
Ceremonial and public events are accompanied by the characteristic music of 'Surna' and 'Daman' (Oboe and drum), originally introduced into Ladakh from Muslim Baltistan, but now played only by Buddhist musicians known as "Mons".
 
Child Birth Celebration
 
The first year of childbirth is marked by celebrations at different intervals of time, Beginning with a function held after 15 days, then after one month, and then again at the end of year. All relatives, neighbors and friends are invited and served with 'Tsampa', butter and sugar, along with tea by the family in which the child is born.
 
Wedding Process
 
There is a mix of music and dance, joy and laughter, in the air whenever a marriage is held. The first day is spent in feasting at the bride's house, the second at the groom's place. The bride goes to live in the house of bridegroom after marriage. Boys are usually married or promised for marriage at about 16, girls at about 12. To make a proposal a relative of the boy goes to the house of the girl and gives a ring together with presents of butter, tea and 'Chang'. If the gifts are accepted then the marriage follows some months later. The boy offers a necklace and clothes to the girl. The parents of the girl give the couple clothes, animals and land if they are rich. These gifts are known as a "Raqtqaq" or dowry.
Ladakh Tourism
 
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