Often called “Little Tibet,” Ladakh is one of the last societies where a Tibetan Buddhist way of life is unrepressed. Long an independent Buddhist kingdom, today Ladakh is part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ladakh is a land renowned for its austere beauty and unique culture. Perched among the towering peaks of the western Himalayas, in the past it has been a crossroads of vital trade routes. But since China closed its borders with Tibet and central Asia in the 1960s, international trade has largely disappeared. Today Ladakh relies heavily on tourism for its economic survival.
Given the current Chinese occupation of Tibet, the preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture and ethics depends upon Ladakh. Buddhism in Ladakh actually predates its establishment in Tibet, and Ladakh’s monastery system today encompasses all four of the principal Tibetan Buddhist lineages.
Besides the Great Himalaya, three other major mountain ranges pass through Ladakh: the Karakoram, Zanskar and Ladakh. The terrain holds massive glaciers and numerous peaks above 20,000 feet. Nowhere does the elevation dip below 8,000 feet. The largest city, Leh, is at about 12,000 feet. Access to the region by road is limited to the four warmest months.
Rainfall here averages just a few inches annually. Life depends on the summer snowmelt and agriculture on centuries-old communal irrigation systems. The main areas of human habitation are in the valleys of the mighty Indus River and its tributaries.
Ladakh has an area of about 38,000 sq. mi. and a sparse human population of perhaps 270,000. Most of the people are Tibetan Buddhists, especially in the eastern part of the region near the Tibetan border. Many Tibetan refugees live in Choglamsar, near Leh.
Living close to nature in one of the world’s harshest landscapes, the Ladakhi people have much to teach the rest of the world about maintaining a sustainable, harmonious balance with the environment.
But Ladakh’s magnificent traditional culture is threatened -- in great part by the failure of its outmoded educational system. Indian government schools, especially in the isolated villages, are simply not equipped to educate children for their fast-changing world or to foster respect for their vital heritage in the face of globalization and a market economy.
This is why your support of the Siddhartha School and its forward-looking curriculum is so vitally important.