Buddhism

Ladakh followed a modified form of Indian Buddhism and at present you one can say it entirely following the Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism certainly reached Lhasa under the protection of some of the aristocracy in the 17th century A.D. and began to gain a hold from the following century onwards. The collapse of the old kingdom in 842 A.D. put an end to the hope of any royal protection of the new religion

In Central Tibet even before the immense task of converting the whole country properly under way. Thus the royal decedents who established themselves in western Tibet, took up the task anew, and this involved sending trained groups of scholars and artisans to India, mainly to Kashmir and the surrounding area of north-west India, in order to build up collections and translations of Buddhist literature and to import Buddhist cultic and artistic traditions. So one notes that while the inspiration for the foundation of these monasteries in Ladakh and elsewhere in western Tibet came from the new Tibetan rulers, the cultic and artistic requirements were inevitably largely Indian. This state of affairs continued in Tibet itself up to the 12th century or so, when Buddhism disappeared from India, and the Tibetans were left to develop into an art which peculiarly Tibetan all that they received earlier from abroad. A left to develop into an art, which is peculiarly Tibetan all that they had received earlier from abroad. A large number of temples and monasteries, which survive in Ladakh from the 16th century onwards, are decorated entirely in the later Tibetan style. The only places surviving where the Indian and Indo-Tibetan styles are preserved, presumably 11th century, at Lamayuru, in the whole Alchi complex, also at Mangyu, at Sumda and in various caves.

With the establishment of a Muslim dynasty in Kashmir very different influences began to penetrate Ladakh. Even under its Hindu rulers, when Buddhism and Hinduism existed side by side in Kashmir, cultural influences from neighboring Muslim lands, especially Persia and western Central Asia, must already have been present. An indication of this is the type of Buddhist art found in Alchi, which was largely carried out by Buddhist craftsmen from Kashmir. But after the political triumph of Islam in Kashmir in the 14th century Buddhist and Hindu art simply ceased to exist except for a few temples left in ruins.

From the 15th century onwards Ladakh had to submit to Muslim raids and to a steadily increasing conversion to Islam, which would be expected has moved steadily from west to the east of the country. Thus western part of Ladakh up to Mulbek, where the first Buddhist stupas begin to appear, is almost entirely Muslim. These Ladakhi Muslims continue for the most part to speak their western Tibetan dialect, but Tibetan literature has disappeared from their midst together with the Buddhist religion. Their sacred texts are written in Arabic together with which they have adopted Urdu as their everyday written language. In the 17th century the Mughal emperor in Delhi became the protagonist of the Ladakhi king against the great Tibetan invasion, instigated by a

New and powerful government in Lhasa ruling in the name of the 5th Dalai Lama, and efforts were made, not for the first time, to turn the Ladakhi king into a Muslim. It was not until the 19th century when Kashmir, together with Ladakh, was taken over by the Hindu rulers of the little state of Jammu, that the political pressure of Islam began to ease in Ladakh, and although the king was driven from his throne and the old aristocracy impoverished, the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh managed to achieve a comparatively privileged position for themselves, which has continued to the present day.