Ladakh is made up of two words: La meaning mountain pass and Dak meaning country. Ladakh is a cold desert in India, lying in the Great Himalayas, on the eastern side of Jammu and Kashmir.
It is enclosed in the north by the Karakoram Range and in the south by the Zanskar mountains. Several rivers flow through Ladakh. The most important river is the Indus. The rivers form deep valleys and gorges. Several glaciers are found in Ladakh. The Gangri glacier is an example. The altitude in Ladakh varies from about 3000 m in Kargil to more than 8000 m in the Karakoram.
The Cold Desert: Ladakh
Climate of Ladakh
Due to high altitude, it is freezing cold and dry in Ladakh. The air is so thin that the sun's heat can be felt intensely. In summers the temperature during the day is just above zero degree and the night temperature is much below -30 degree. In winters the temperature remains as low as -40 degrees most of the time. The rainfall in this region is low. It is as low as 10 cm annually. This is because it lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas. The area experiences freezing winds and burning sunlight. Consequently, if someone sits in the sun with his hand in the shade, he will experience sunstroke as well as frost bite at the same time.
Flora and Fauna of Ladakh
Flora: Because of extreme dryness, the vegetation is sparse. There are scanty patches of grasses and shrubs for animals to graze. The valleys have groves of willows and poplars. During summer season, trees of fruits such as apples, apricots and walnuts bloom.
Fauna: Several species of birds such as robins, redstars, Tibetan snowcock, raven and hoopoe are common. Some of these are migratory birds. The animals include wild goats, wild sheep, yak and special kinds of dogs. The animals are reared to provide
- Milk: Yak's milk is used to make cheese and butter.
- Hair: The hair on the sheep and goats is used to make woollens.
People of Ladakh
The people here are either Muslims or Buddhists. Many Buddhist monasteries dot the Ladakhi landscape with their traditional gompas. Some of the famous monasteries are Hemis, Thiksey, Shey and Lamayuru. The people of this region resemble the people of Tibet and Central Asia.
Cultivation: In the summer people are busy cultivating barley, potato, beans, peas and turnip. In the winter months, due to the harsh climate, people keep themselves engaged in festivities and ceremonies. The women are very hard-working.
Business: The women in this region mange small business and shops, in addition to working in the house and fields.
Infrastructure: Leh, the capital of Ladakh is well connected by road as well as air. The National Highway 1A connects Leh to Kashmir Valley through the Zoji la Pass.
Tourism: This is a major tourist attraction for tourists across the globe. The tourists visit the gompas, do trekking to see the meadows and glaciers and witness ceremonies and festivities.
Changes in Area: Due to modernization, the life of the people is undergoing a change. The people of Ladakh have over centuries learnt to live in harmony with nature. Due to the scarcity of resources, they understand their value and conserve them. They do not waste resources and use them very judiciously.
The Manali-Leh highway crosses four passes which are: Baralacha la, Rohtang la, Lungalacha la and Tanglang la. The highway opens only between July and September when snow is cleared from the road.
Do You Know?
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