Buddhism is the way of life in Ladakh. There are ancient Buddhist rock engravings all over the region, even in areas like Dras and the lower Suru Valley which today are inhabited by an exclusively Muslim population. The divide between Muslim, and Buddhist Ladakh passes through leh (on the Kargil-Leh road) and between the villages of Parkachick and Rangdum in the Suru Valley, though there are pockets of Muslim population further east, in Padum (Zanskar), in Nubra Valley and in and around Leh. The approach to Buddhist village is invariable marked by mani walls which are long chest-high structures faced with engraved stones bearing the mantra in mane paddle hum and by shorten, commemorative cairns, like stone pepper-pots. Many villagers 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 solitary lama. 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 Dras, Kargil and the Suru Valley. In these areas, mani walls and shorten are placed 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.
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.
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”.
Courtesy by : gaffarakashmir