Leh About this sound pronunciation was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh
, now the Leh District in the state of Jammu
. Leh, with an area of 45,110 km sq, is the second largest district in the country (after Kutch, Gujarat) in terms of area.The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace
, former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace. Leh is at an altitude of 3524 metres (11,562 ft), and connects via National Highway 1D
in the southwest and to Manali in the south via Leh-Manali Highway.
Leh was an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley between Tibet to the east, Kashmir to the west and also between India and China
for centuries. The main goods carried were salt, grain, pashm or cashmere wool, charas or cannabis resin from the Tarim Basin, indigo, silk yarn and Banaras brocade.
Although there are a few indications that the Chinese knew of a trade route through Ladakh to India as early as the Kushan period (1st to 3rd centuries AD) and certainly by Tang dynasty,little is actually known of the history of the region before the formation of the kingdom towards the end of the 10th century by the Tibetan prince, Skyid lde nyima gon (or Nyima gon), a grandson of the anti-Buddhist Tibetan king, Langdarma (r. c. 838 to 841).
He conquered Western Tibet although his army originally numbered only 300 men. Several towns and castles are said to have been founded by Nyima gon and he apparently ordered the construction of the main sculptures at Shey
."In an inscription he says he had them made for the religious benefit of the Tsanpo (the dynastical name of his father and ancestors), and of all the people of Ngaris (Western Tibet). This shows that already in this generation Langdarma's opposition to Buddhism had disappeared."Shey, just 15 km east of modern Leh, was the ancient seat of the Ladakhi kings.
Leh District, which comprises the whole of Indian-administered eastern Ladakh (but not Kargil
) has a total population of 117,000 people according to the 2001 census. Of that 45.3% is Buddhist, 41.8% Muslim, 8.2% Hindu and 0.8% others.The Muslim presence dates back to the annexation of Ladakh by Kashmir, after the Fifth Dalai Lama attempted to invade Ladakh from Tibet. Since then, there has been further migration from the Kashmir Valley
due firstly to trade and latterly with the transfer of tourism from the Kashmir Valley to Ladakh.
Ladakh receives very large numbers of tourists for its size. In 2010, 77,800 tourists arrived in Leh. Numbers of visitors have swelled rapidly in recent years, increasing 77% in the 5 years to 2010. This growth is largely accounted for by larger numbers of trips by domestic Indian travelers.
Threats to The Old Town of Leh
The old town of Leh was added to the World
Monuments Fund's list of 100 most endangered sites due to increased rainfall from climate change and other reasons.Neglect and changing settlement patterns within the old town have threatened the long-term preservation of this unique site.
Mountains dominate the landscape around the Leh as it is at an altitude of 3,500m. The principal access roads include the 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway which connects Leh with Srinagar and the 473 km Leh-Manali Highway which connects Manali with Leh. Both roads are open only on a seasonal basis.Although the access roads from Srinagar and Manali are often blocked by snow in winter, the local roads in the Indus Valley usually remain open due to the low level of precipitation and snowfall.
Leh has a cold desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWk) with long, harsh winters from October to early March, with minimum temperatures well below freezing for most of the winter. The city gets occasional snowfall during winter. The weather in the remaining months is generally fine and warm during the day. Average annual rainfall is only 102 mm (4.02 inches). The temperature can range from −28 °C (-18.4°F) in winter to 33 °C (91.4°F) in summer.In 2010 the city experienced flash floods which killed more than 100 people.