Ladakh, History of

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  • Texts in bold print are points of departure.
  • Rock carvings found in many parts of Ladakh show that the area has been inhabited from Neolithic times. Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards, who find mention in the works of Herodotus, Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny, Ptolemy, and the geographical lists of the Puranas. Around the first century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushan Empire. Buddhism spread into western Ladakh from Kashmir in the second century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practicing the Bön religion. One of the five principal spiritual schools of Tibetan Buddhism, it remains the predominant religion of the rajadom. The seventh century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang also describes the region in his accounts.
  • In the eighth century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between Tibetan expansion pressing from the east and Chinese influence exerted from Central Asia through the passes. Suzerainty over Ladakh frequently changed hands between China and Tibet.
  • In 842, upon the dissolution of the Tibetan empire, Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal representative, annexed Ladakh for himself and founded a separate Ladakhi dynasty. During this period Ladakh acquired a predominantly Tibetan population. The dynasty promoted the second spreading of Buddhism (the first being the one in Tibet itself), importing religious ideas from northwest India, particularly from Kashmir.
  • In 912, Nyi-ma-mon, a great-grandson of Langdarma, the last king of the Tibetan Kingdom of Tubo, established a kingdom in Ngari and annexed Purang and Guge. Before dying, he divided his lands into three parts. His eldest son, Dal-gyi-mon, became the ruler of Mar-yul (Ladakh), his second son, Bra-shis-mon, received Guge-Purang, and the third son, Le-tsug-mon, received Zanskar.
  • Faced with the Islamic intrusions into South Asia in the thirteenth century, Ladakh sought guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries, until the beginning of the seventeenth century, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states, which led some Ladakhis to convert to Islam who then fled to India.
  • In 1470, Lhachen Bhagan, the king of Basgo, overthrew the king of Leh, reuniting and strengthening Ladakh. He took the surname Namgyal and founded the Namgyal dynasty which survives to today. The Namgyals repelled raiders from Central Asia and temporarily extended the rajadom as far as Nepal.
  • In the early seventeenth century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gompas and the rajadom expanded into Zanskar and Spiti. In 1616, Sengge Namgyal conquered many parts of the Tibetan Plateau to the west. He died in 1642 on his return from an expedition against the Mongols who had occupied the Tibetan province of Tsang and were threatening Ladakh. However, despite a defeat by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, Ladakh retained its independence.
  • In the late seventeenth century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet which resulted in its being invaded by Tibet. During the reign of Delegs Namgyal (1660–1685), the King of Kashmir, at the time a province in the Mogul Empire, arranged for the Tibetan army to leave Ladakh. As payment for the assistance, the king made conditions, one of which was to build a large Sunni Muslim mosque in Leh. He also required that the Ladakhi king convert to Islam. The Treaty of Tismogang in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh, but severely restricted Ladakh's independence, although the king returned to the Bön religion.
  • In 1834, the Dogras under Zorawar Singh, a general of Ranjit Singh, invaded and annexed Ladakh.
  • In 1842, a Ladakhi rebellion re-established the rajadom's independence and restored the Namgyal raja to the throne. During the period of occupation, the deposed raja had been given the jagir of Stok. This remained the personal property of the Raja of Ladakh.
  • In 1984, Ladakh joined the Himalayan Confederacy.
  • In 1986, Ladakh became a member of the Himalayan Postal Union.