These villages are many, scattered all over the high landscapes, each being a small cluster of people belonging to a like-minded community and sharing common customs and beliefs. Most of the villages date back to medieval or even earlier periods. Some are well-connected, yet others are isolated from the rest of the world, tucked away in the folds of the Himalayan terrain. Yet each village is a thriving hub of activity and life, with its own unique vibrancy. It is this zeal for living against odds, finding joy in small things amidst nature's harshness and adversity that keeps the spirits high and blood flowing through the veins of the local Ladakhis.
Fluttering prayer flags, ancient monasteries perched on hillocks and smiling children saying ‘Julley’ mark your arrival in to a Buddhist village. Each village has a concrete identity, a deep-rooted history and varied traditions. A village is essentially like a close-knit family. In fact, all Buddhists truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. As a community, they flourish in unity and they do it sustainably.
The Ladakhi people have lead a self-reliant way of life for centuries, dependent entirely on their land and what it provides. Agriculture is of primary importance but the harsh terrain and climate allows for a short season of cultivation. And then its time to prepare for the winter.
Turtuk is the last Indian outpost before Pakistan in Ladakh and the northern most village in India. Known as erstwhile Baltistan, it is predominantly inhabited by Noorbakshi Muslims people here who speak Urdu, Ladakhi, Balti, and Hindi. The landscape, culture, language, clothing, and even the physical features of people change quite drastically in this region.
To look at the landscape from a distance with squinted eyes, this village could just as well mimic the Italian countryside, with tall Viridian green trees contrasted against pale ochre patches of barley. There is a desire to linger on, the sense of being a part of a time warp into the past that would change if exited.
For them ethnicity defines status. They claim to be of pure Aryan stock and myth has it that they trace their genetic history to the members of the Alexander’s army which stayed back. Nestled in 4 villages of Ladakh, this 1800 strong Brokpa community has rather successfully been able to keep its gene pool intact, using strong social sanctions and rules. They have very distinct features from Ladakhis – tall and statuesque, with green eyes, high cheek bone, fair with flawless skin and some with blonde hair.
The community calls itself Minaro (meaning Aryan) , but are popularly known as Brokpa.
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