The Union Territory of Ladakh is one of the most elevated regions in the Himalayas that has been inhabited by humans since the Stone Age. The region of the upper Indus River has been of great importance for Central Asia and India since the ancient times. The influence of Buddhism, indigenous hunting tribes, Tibetan kingdoms as well as travellers and messengers from various settlements across Asia has left a deep imprint on the culture and heritage of this region. Ladakh is a treasure trove of petroglyphs (rock carvings) dating back to the historic and prehistoric period.
The oldest petroglyphs found in Ladakh are thought to be about 5,000 years old. Animal forms as well as hunting scenes, symbols and undetermined motifs are found on dark boulders that have withstood the harsh climatic conditions. Commonly seen are large-sized animals, hunting scenes of ibex and yak, horse riding, dancing, symbols of sun and spiral patterns and the earliest temple called chorten probably with the arrival of Buddhism amongst others.
These petroglyphs as well as inscriptions are found downstream of the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers with no such sites found in the Upper Ladakh region. There are many archaeological sites where petroglyphs have been discovered in Ladakh which are under the protection of the Archaeological Department such as Domkhar, Alchi, Kharu, Khaltse, Biama and Tangtse to mention a few. One can choose to follow the ancient tracks of earliest civilization across the length and breadth of Ladakh and still remain confounded as the wealth of inscriptions and petroglyphs is immense and subject matter is diverse.
Though the search is on to understand the rich history of this region, Ladakh continues to be shrouded in mystery as the Himalayas appear to have buried many secrets in their bosom.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)