Thursday, 31 May 2012

Ms.Rigzin Chodon

 (On literature of Ladakh) 

Ms.Rigzin Chodon have a penchant for Books on Ladakh. No not on the flashy magazines on Ladakh to lure domestic and international tourist , but the one which she feels every Ladakhi must  read , to see how the literature of ladakh evolved , in a way how  we evolved ! 

There are books written in English, German, French, Urdu, Bodyig and many more languages. I am going to take a closer look at the literature of Ladakh. We all know that Ladakh had a background of the Silk Route Trade. Ladakh was the hotspot where traders would meet, exchange goods; rest and hire ponies, overseers and potters for their journey either towards Kashgar, Yarkhand or towards Mongolia, Tibet, and Afghanistan. So along the trade route while important trading transactions took place the route actually played a vital role in integrating the kind of people that we are today, reflecting our glorious past as a meeting ground for various people. We have historians who say that Ladakhis are a blend of the Mons, the Dards, the Aryans and the Tibetans. If you look properly at our background, we can actually see that the Ladakhis from Nubra are different; while people from Changthang are similar to Tibetans. Ladakhis from Sham and the Hanu-Pas have Aryan features. Our identity can be shaped from how distinct we are even when we all call ourselves ‘Ladakhis’. We are a confluence of many races.

The first written source that I came across was Alexander Cunningham’s book ‘Ladak’ written in 1854. It was written in English and covers almost all aspects on the region of Ladakh. We have many other authors who wrote on Ladakh from the beginning of the nineteenth century. What I’m pointing out is that we had the German Missionaries and the British officials who employed people to survey and write chronicles on Ladakh. Since they saw a different and a unique culture in our region many more eager and enthusiastic lot got drawn towards Ladakh and from the 19th century onwards we have actually got a very good collection of books on Ladakh.That is just the contribution from the European side, the kind of books that are written by the westerners, the explorers and the adventurers.

Apart from that when we look at the religious aspects, we can see that we have lots of books on Tibetan Buddhism, we also have books related to Islam but I have really not looked into either of them in detail so I won’t discuss it right now.

 Ladakh also has archeological evidences to prove our historic pedigree, even now if you look carefully in your villages I’m sure you will be able to find one or two instances where signs on the rocks somewhere or some petrogylphs can be seen which is actually a marker of our past. I saw shapes of stupas carved into two boulders near the main road towards my village. After talking to the elders of my village, I found out that there was a particular trader who used to come and trade in and around my village (Kairy, Changthang, 110 kilometers away from Leh). I got to know from my elders that he came from Kashagar side (present People’s Republic of China). In order to communicate while trading they made use of ‘pidgins’ which can be defined as, ‘artificial language used for trade between speakers of different languages.

So I would like to request each and every individual to make it a point to get a copy of any books on Ladakh and read it and encourage others to read a book on Ladakh and see it for yourselves how we are depicted in those books. The kind of literature that is evolving on Ladakh is in its nascent stage, but I can see that we can contribute in our own special ways through magazines, novels, poems, articles etc. and develop a genre of literature in the English language, using English language as a medium to put across what some of us have not been able to do in our regional language i.e. Ladakhi/Bodyig.

Thank You.

Ms.Rigzin Chodon is doing her Mphil (Centre for English studies)  from JNU Delhi can reach her on and for more information join her facebook group page with the name ‘Books on Ladakh and More’ (