Rock carvings have been found in many parts of Ladakh, showing that the area has been inhabited from the Neolithic times. Ladakh's earliest inhabitants consisted of a mixed Indo-Aryan population of Mons and Dards, who find mention in the works of Herodotus,[γ] Nearchus, Megasthenes, Pliny,[δ] Ptolemy,[ε] and the geographical lists of the Puranas. Around the 1st century, Ladakh was a part of the Kushana empire. Buddhism came to western Ladakh via Kashmir in the 2nd century when much of eastern Ladakh and western Tibet was still practising the Bon religion. The 7th century Buddhist traveler Xuanzang also describes the region in his accounts.[στ] Hemis Monastery in the 1870s
Hemis Monastery in the 1870s
In the 8th century, Ladakh was involved in the clash between Tibetan expansion pressing from the East and Chinese influence exerted from Central Asia through the passes, and suzerainty over Ladakh frequently changed hands between China and Tibet. In 842 Nyima-Gon, a Tibetan royal representative annexed Ladakh for himself after the break-up of the Tibetan empire, and founded a separate Ladakh dynasty. During this period Ladakh underwent Tibetanization resulting in a predominantly Tibetan population. The dynasty spearheaded the "Second Spreading of Buddhism" importing religious ideas from north-west India, particularly fromKashmir. [ζ] Faced with the Islamic conquest of South Asia in the 13th century, Ladakh chose to seek and accept guidance in religious matters from Tibet. For nearly two centuries, till about 1600, Ladakh was subject to raids and invasions from neighbouring Muslim states, which led to weakening and fracturing of Ladakh, and partial conversion of Ladakhis to Islam. Tikse Monastery, Ladakh
Tikse Monastery, Ladakh
King Bhagan reunited and strengthened Ladakh and founded the Namgyal dynasty [η] which survives even today. The Namgyals repelled most Central Asian raiders and temporarily extended the kingdom as far as Nepal, in the face of concerted attempts to convert the region to Islam and destroy Buddhist artifacts. In the early 17th century efforts were made to restore destroyed artifacts and gompas, and the kingdom expanded into Zanskar and Spiti. Ladakh was, however defeated by the Mughals, who had already annexed Kashmir and Baltistan, but it retained its independence. In the late 17th century, Ladakh sided with Bhutan in its dispute with Tibet, which resulted in an invasion by Tibet. Kashmiri help restored Ladakhi rule on the condition of that a mosque be built in Leh and that the Ladakhi king convert to Islam. The Treaty of Temisgam in 1684 settled the dispute between Tibet and Ladakh, but its independence was severely restricted. In 1834, the Dogras under Zorawar Singh, a general of Ranjit Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh. A Ladakhi rebellion in 1842 was crushed and Ladakh was incorporated into the Dogra state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Namgyal family was given the jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day. Starting from the 1850s, European influence increased in Ladakh — geologists, sportsmen and tourists started exploring Ladakh. In 1885, Leh became the headquarters of a mission of the Moravian Church. At the time of the partition of India in 1947, the Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh was undecided whether to accede to the Indian Union or to Pakistan. The Indian government sent troops into the princely state after the ruler signed the Instrument of Accession. In 1949, China closed the border between Nubra and Xinjiang, blocking old trade routes. The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 led to a large influx of Tibetan refugees to the region. In 1962 China invaded and occupied Aksai Chin, and promptly built roads connecting Xinjiang and Tibet through it. It also built the Karakoram highway jointly with Pakistan. India built the Srinagar-Leh highway during this period, cutting the journey time between Srinagar to Leh from 16 days to two. The entire state of Jammu...
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