Ladakh literally means the Land of High Passes and it has been known by various names such as The Moon Land, Little Tibet and The Last Shangri La. It has a population of around 186,000 with the area of approximately 978000 sq. km. Leh is the capital and headquarter of the local government administration. The main language spoken is Bhoti (they prefer to call it ‘Ladakhi’). It is a variant of Tibetan Language spoken all across the Himalaya regions bordering Tibet. Ju-le (pronounced Joo-Lay) is the most popular all-purpose word meaning “hello”. It can be uttered at any time on all occasions. Natives of Spiti (Himachal) also use this word for greetings. The literacy rate here is 34% and the region’s economic prosperity relies heavily on tourism and the Indian Army. Modern school education is spreading fast effecting dramatic changes in their age-old traditional lifestyle leading to its gradual erosion and rise in general unemployment for the new generation youngsters. The eco-tourism needs to be given a thrust to balance employment generation with protection of fragile eco-system and natural bio-diversity of the region.
Located between the Himalayas in the west and Tibetan plateau in the east and the Karakoram in the north, it is one of the most secluded areas in India. It is a huge region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir situated at an elevation between 3300 m and 4500m above the sea level and is sparsely populated. The villages are scattered and perched in the valleys with the high passes rising between 3900m and 6450m above sea level.
The area has predominantly Buddhist and Tibetan influence all around as shown by the ubiquitous presence of prayer wheels, Chorten (stupas), Colorful prayer flags and gompa (Buddhist monasteries). And visitors describe the people as friendly, helpful, deeply religious and polite by nature.