1902 Encyclopedia > Ladak and Balti

Ladak and Balti
(modern spelling: Ladakh and Balti)

LADAK AND BALTI. The name Ladzik (pronounced limits are between 75' 40' and SO' 30' E. long., and between :12' _'3' :tad 36' N. lat. It is bounded N. by the Knelllan range and the slopes of the. Karakorum, N.W. and W. by the Mussulman. state of Balti or Little Tibet, S.W. by 19,000 feet. The proportion of arable and even possible pasture laud to barren rock and gravel is very small.

The natural features of the country may be best explained by reference to two native terms, under one or other of which every part is included, viz., eha»gtany, i.e., " northern, or high plain," where the amount of level ground is considerable, and the hills proportionally further immense denudation, and their debris now forms secondary -• 1 Z./ deposits, flat bottoms, or shelving slopes, the only spots available for cultivation or pasture. These masses of alluvium are often found either metamorphosed to a sub-crystalline rock still showing the composition of the strata, or simply consolidated by lime.

Grand scenery is exceptional, for the valleys are confined, and from the higher points the view is generally of a confused mass of brown or yellow absolutely barren hills, of no great apparent height. The parallelism characteristic of the Himalayan ranges continues here, the direction being north-west and south-east. A central range divides the Indus valley, here 4 to S miles wide, from that of its north branch the Shayok, which with its fertile tributary valley of Nubm is again bounded on the north by the Karakorum. This central ridge is mostly syenitic gneiss, and north-east from it are found, successively, Silurian slates, Carboniferous shales, and Triassic limestones, the gneiss recurring at the Turkestan frontier. The indes lies along the line which separates the crystalline rocks from the Eocene sandstones and shales of the lower range of hills on the left bank, the lofty mountains behind them consisting of parallel bands of rocks from Silurian to Cretaceous.2 There are several lakes in the east districts at about 14,000 feet. They have evidently been of much greater extent, and connected with the river systems of the country, but they are now mostly without outlet, saline, and in process of desiccation.

The climate is intensely dry, practically rainless, the little snow which falls soon disappearing ; 3 above a certain height no dew is deposited. The alternations of temperature are great ; the sun's direct rays are hotter than in the Indian plains,( while the afternoon winds are piercingly cold; except in summer it freezes every night, even in the hewer districts, and nightly throughout the year at 15,000 feet.

Vegetation therefore is confined to valleys and sheltered spots, where a stunted growth of tamarisk and ily•iraria, Hippophae and Elreagnus, furze, and the roots of bu•tsi, a salsolaceous plant, supply the traveller with much-needed firewood. The trees are the pencil cedar (Junikerns excels«), the poplar and willow (both extensively planted, the latter sometimes wild), apple, mulberry, apricot, and walnut. Agriculture depends on irrigation, which is skilfully managed, the principal products being wheat, common and naked barley (from which the returns are usually small), millet, buckwheat, pease, beans, and turnips. Lucerne and • prangos (an umbelliferous plant) are used as fodder.

Among domestic animals are the famous shawl goat, two kinds of sheep, of which the larger (huniya) is used for carrying burthens, and is a principal source of wealth, the yak, and the dso, a valuable hybrid between the yak and common cow. Among wild animals are the kynne or wild ass, ibex, markhor, antelope, O•is Poli, marmot, hare, and other Tibetan fauna.

The capital, IA (population 1000), lies 4 miles from the river on the right bank, 11,540 feet above the sea, at the southern base of a spur from the central range, - a terraced slope, with scattered hamlets, extending thence to the Indus. It contains the palace of the old gvalpos, an imposing structure seven stories high, and a wide bazaar where polo is played. It is surrounded by poplar planta• tions, with !Innis 5 and chlordtens 6 beyond. The houses The numerous monasteries are built (as the houses used to be, for defence) in lofty and picturesque situations, and would be strategically strong but for the absence of water. They are supported partly by their own lands, but chiefly and their superiors often refined, intelligent., and genial. The religion is Buddhist, chiefly of the Dukpa or Red sect, but traces of an older faith linger, to which the aged by the Kashmir Government, its Hindu influence tending, as Hinduism has done in Nepal, to introduce caste ideas.

Polyandry is general, except among the rich.

The home trade is worth little over X4000 ; the chief exports are wool, dried fruits, salt, and small quantities of important, the chief routes from the Punjab, Afghanistan, obstacles have long engaged the attention of the Indian Government.

ifistory. - The earliest notice of Ladak is by the Chinese pilgrim Fa-hian, 400 A.D., who, travelling in search of a purer faith, found Buddhism flourishing there, the only novelty to him being the prayer-cylinder, the efficacy of which he declares is incredible. Ladak formed part of the Tibetan empire until its disruption in the 10th century, and since then has continued ecclesiastically subject, and sometimes tributary, to Lhasa. Its inaccessibility saved it from any Mussulman invasion until 1531, when Sultan Said of Kashgar marched an army across the Karakorum, one division fighting its way into Kashmir and wintering there. Next year they invaded eastern Tibet, where nearly all perished from the effects of the climate.

Early in the 17th century Ladak was invaded by its Moham. medan neighbours of Balti, who plundered and destroyed the temples and monasteries; and again, in 1685-88, by the Sokpa or Cahnueks, who were expelled only by the aid of the lieutenant of Aurangzeb in Kashmir, Laddk thereafter becoming tributary. The gyalpo or king then. made a nominal profession of Islam, and allowed a mosque to be founded at Le, and the Kashmiris have ever since addressed his successors by a Mohammedan title. When the Sikhs took Kashmir, Ladzik, dreading their approach, offered -allegiance to Great Britain. It was, however, conquered and annexed in 1834-41 by Ghulab Singh of Jamu - the unwarlike Ladakis, even with nature fighting on their side, and against indifferent generalship, being no match for the Dogra troops. These next turned their anus successfully against the Baltis (who in the 18th century were subject to the Mogul), and were then tempted to revive the claims of Ladak- to the Chinese provinces of Iludok and Ngari. This, however, brought down an army from Lhasa, and after a three days' fight the Indian force was almost annihilated - chiefly indeed by frostbite and other sufferings, for the battle was fought in mid-winter, 15,000 feet above the sea. The Chinese then marched on Le, but were soon driven out again, and peace was finally made on the basis of the old frontier. The widespread prestige of China is curiously illustrated by the fact that tribute, though disguised as a present, is paid to her, for Laddk, by the maharaja or Kashmir.

The adjoining territory of Balti - possibly the Byltm of Ptolemy - forms the west extremity of the vast region Aryan tribes beyond. Mohammedan writers about the lfith century speak of Balti as "Little Tibet," and of Ladak as "Great Tibet," thus ignoring the really Great Tibet altogether. The Balti people call Gilghit "a Tibet," and Dr Leitner says that the Chilasi, a Dard people west of the Indus, call themselves Bate, or Tibetans ; 2 but, although these districts may have been, like Kashmir, overrun by the Tibetans, or have received rulers of that race, the ethnological frontier coincides with the geographical one here given. Balti is a mass of lofty mountains, the prevailing formation being gneiss. In the north is the Baltoro glacier, the largest out of the arctic regions, 35 miles long, contained between two ridges whose highest peaks to the south are 25,000 and to the north 28,265 feet. The Indus, as in Lower Ladak, runs in a narrow gorge, widening for nearly 20 miles after receiving the Shayok. The capital, Skardo, a scattered collection of houses, stands here, perched on a rock 7740 feet above the sea. The house roofs are flat, occupied only in part by a second story, the remaining space being devoted to drying apricots, the chief staple of the main valley, which supports little cultivation. But the rapid slope westwards is seen generally in the vegetation. Birch, plane, spruce, and Finns excelsa appear ; the fruits are finer, including pomegranate, pear, peach, vine, and melon, and where irrigation is available, as in the North Shigar, and at the deltas of the tributary valleys, the crops are more luxuriant and varied.

Population. - The Ladhkis, numbering about 21,000, are Tibetan, with a slight Caucasian admixture, and there are numerous Baltis and Dards (the latter superficially Buddhist) in the western districts. The Changpa, i.e., "mountaineers," in the east are also Tibetan. They are singularly hardy, good-humoured, not stupid though simple and clumsy, dirty (washing, it is said, once a year, but not regularly), fond of social gatherings. The national drink, chang, is a sort of beer made from barley. The Balti type contains a much larger Aryan element, the isolated Bard (or Shin) communities being probably relics of an early Aryan population, subsequently overlaid by a Tibetan. The cross is a good one, the Baltis being more intelligent, if less genial, than the Ladakis, and equally industrious. They are taller, less beardless, and their noses less flat. They eschew pigtails. Polo is played more generally, and with more spirit, than in Ladak. The two languages are mutually intelligible. Like many Tajik and other mountain tribes westwards, the Baltis are Shialf Mohammedans. The women are thus more secluded than in Ladak, where they are particularly independent. They have abandoned polyandry, and (possibly in consequence) their numbers - some 58,000 in I3altifand western Laddk - are larger than the country can support. Many emigrate to Kashmir and to British territory, where they do well. In the west the Dards are numerous, and a Bard element is especially observable in the families of the chiefs, some of whom, as in Ladak, were semi-independent before the annexation.

The principal works consulted have been Mr F. Drew's excellent book on The Jummoo mat Kashmir Territories; a valuable paper by General H. Strachey " On the Physical Geography of Western Tibet," in the Roy. fhmog. Soc. fount., vol. xxiii.; Cmmingbam's Lotted; The Tribes of the _llindoo Koosh, by Major J. Biddulph; the travels of Vigne, and of Moorcroft and Trebeck; papers by P. Lydekker, in Records of the Geological Survey of India, vols. xiii. and xiv., and by Dr F. Stolicza, in Report of Sir T. D. Forsyth's mission to Yarkaud. (C. 'P.)

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