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JK Tourism Kargil



Much of present day Kargil district was once known as Purig. The region called purig included the areas around Kargil town, the Suru Valley, Shagh(k)ar Chiktan, Pashk(y)um, Bodh Kharbu and Mulbek(h). We have almost nothing to go by when we try to study the history of purig (pron, pu-reeg). However, the 20th century historians Moulvi Hashmat Ullah Khan and Kachu Sikandar Khan have been able to piece together a fairly satisfactory history. They have mostly relied on oral sources and some references contained in Tibetan chronicles of course, ‘Satisfactory’ mans sometimes accepting dates accurate to the nearest 1200 years. 

The name ‘Purig’: There are three theories about the name Purig itself. One is that it is a contraction of the Tibetan phrase ‘pot reeks’, which means ‘of Tibetan origin’. It probably dates to the year when a Tibetan dynasty first established a government in most of Purig. Another interpretation is that Purig means ‘tube' and refers to the tubular valleys that make up the inhabited parts of the region, Scholars like Francke feel that the word has been derived from ‘burig’, which means ‘the brave race’, The ‘race’ in question is the Dards.

The Ancient Period

The early setters: Dard and Lone

Human habitation seems to have been late in coming to this incredibly cold and rugged district perhaps as late as 500-0 BC. Drass, for instance, is the world’s second coldest, Inhabitants place, after Siberia.) The Dards of the various little valleys of Gilgit were perhaps the first to settle here. They belonged to the so called Aryan ‘race’.

Gilgit is in Dardistan, now in POK. Khan Bahadur, Ghulam Mohammad Khan, Dogra Maharajas, researched this belief in the first few decades of the 20th century. He concluded that the original home of the Dards of Da and Drass was the Bagrot valley of Gilgit. The Dards of Drass are certainly of the Sheeba(Shina) tribe. The people of Da speak a similar language. The Dards traveled to Kargil through Baltistan and Deosai, some of them staying on in Baltistan itself. They ruled over Purig till the Tibetan attack on Zanskar and the Tibetan rule that followed in Purig. (When did the attack on Zanskar take place? Moulvi Hashmat Ullah Khan says 180 BC. Kacho Sikandar Khan says 9th or 10th century AD. But then, what’s eleven or twelve hundred years between friends?

The language, customs, racial characteristics and religious practices of the Dards can still be found in some areas like Da-Hanu and Chiktan-Garkun, and to some extent in shanghy-shaghar. However, by and large, most of the Dards-m including some of their most ancient tribes got assimilated with the Tibetans. (The Government of India had, in the 1970s, restricted the entry of tourists in to the Da-Hanu area. This was partly to preserve the purity and antiquity of these ‘Aryan’)

The Dards were not the first people to settle in Shangshu-Shaghar and Drass. The pioneers here were the seven sons of Poyen Lone. They came over from the Chalaas region (near Nanga Parbat) through doeosai. Members of this clan spread all over the Kharmang valley (Baltistan, POK). They most settle din the Barsachal, Targon and Tarkati villages. Their culture and language are different from that of the Dards of say Da-Hanu or Garkun.

The Dards of Da Hanu etc, migrated there from the yanding and sachal areas of ancient Gilgit. Their language, Brushaski, is same as that spans in the fabled Hunza valley (also in POK). Hunza is considered the original Shangri la by many because of the very high life expectancy of the region.

Migration from the Indian Plains

Around the same period handful of people from the Indian plains, too, migrated to Purig. They rapidly assimilated with the Dards. Dastak Paldan and Seergaya Motik led them, (Sikandar Khan feels that the latter name corresponds to the Sanskrit Suryamati,)

Around the same time (the eight century AD according to Sikandar Khan) Lama Naropar and Guru Urgyan Padma came from Zanskar. They took seergaya Motik and Dastak with them to Kashmir. Kargil historians like Kacho Sikandar claim that these four ‘established the first human habitation in Kashmir, at Pampore, this being the era in which the great lakes of Kashmir were being drained and habitable land was emerging on their beds’

Now, this does seem a bit to much I have no problems with accepting that the first humans in Kashmir might have come from Kargil and Zanskar. Nor even that these four could have been the saints referred to in Kashmir’s own histories as the first humans to have lived there.

However, by the eight century AD we have evidence of sophisticated civilization in Kashmir, we have precise details beginning 1184 BC about which kind ruled Kashmir when, and for how many years, months and days. Therefore, even Hashmat Ullah’s 120 BC seems late by a thousands years.

However, it is possible that it was Seergaya Motik who constructed the fort near the Indus river in Stakna (Leh).

Later, some people migrated to purig from Leh. Among them were Teesug and Gangasug, who were considered goddesses by some. They built a fort on the Tolon hill near the Indus. Sikandar Khan says that they were Dards but according to Hashmat they were Mons. They also founded the Achinathang village. Ruins of that ancient settlement can still be found. This fort was then called the Tolonkhar. It was later taken over by the rulers of Chiktan, who also founded the Stakshan hamlet.

Teesug-Gangasug, and their colleagues Cho Paldan and Chocho Kunzum, decided to settle in ‘Stakchey. At that stage all Purig was ruled by the Dards. The Tibetans controlled only keteeka Phokar, (The house the ‘goddesses’ and their colleagues got constructed at Chiktan Khar was later subsumed by a 16th century AD building. However, On the ground floor there is an ancient, decaying window that is said to have been a part of the original.). Historian like Kacho Skindar feel that the history of Purig/Kargil is really the history of these two dynasties and clans: the Dards and the Tibetans. For these reasons of brevity we will only look at the fortunes of the central section of Kargil, leaving out the branches.

The story of Shaghar-Chiktan and Sot-Pashkum

Gasho Ttatha Khan

In the eight(or may be early ninth) century AD, Gasho Thatha Khan started the dynasty that would rule over the Shakar and Chiktan area for almost a thousand years. He was a scion of the royal family of Gilgit(now in POK).

There are two theories about him. One is that he was an infant child when hunters found him atop a hillock, when he reached manhood they made him their king. To replace the cruel man who was ruling over them, An oracle had told the unpopular king about the man who would one day wrest his throne from him. Since the description fitted Thatha Khan, the king ordered his assassination.

The other tradition speaks of a Gilgit prince called Thankhan whom his stepbrother Shri Vagor Tham wanted killed,. This led to a civil war between the supporters of the two brothers,(Thankan’s looks suspiciously like a constriction of ‘Thatha Khan’ Shri’ is a part of the latter’s name.)

Either way, the story goes, our friend Thatha was sitting in a large hall watching a dance; Thatha’s rival, the king sent his men to kill him. The king thought that Thatha would be too busy enjoying himself to be able to resist the soldiers, However, the musicians, who loved Thatha, got to know of the plot, They started singing a song that warned him of the impending attack. Thatha pulled out his sword and planted if firmly in the ground, he then stepped on the hilt of his sword to reach the chimney, through which he escaped.

Thatha travels through Kargil

Thatha fled Baltistan (also now in POK). He was accompanied by his ‘milk father’ SaatiTam. (Milk-brothers are men who have shared the same wet nurse or foster mother). They entered Kargil through the Churbat La (pass). On the banks of the Indus river they found an uninhabited bur fertile place, with a natural spring. There was no bridge to cross the river on. However, since the river was frozen they walked across on the ice, Thatha had a walnut seed in his pocket, which he planted there.

They next went to Kokashu, which, too, they noticed was fertile. The staff Thatha carried had been taken from a bhoy tree and was still green. He planted it in the centre of the plains of Kakashu.

The three decided not to settle in any of these uninhabited villages. They sought the waters of the Indus at Chey Chey Tjhang. After that they went to Blargo where cats sitting on a rock welcomed them with a dance. A wealthy Brokpa had already settled there and had erected a tower of broken utensils of china and clay. Their next stop was Brolmo. There a senior female citizen warned them of the man eating lion that lived in the rocky mountains of Kharol. At the points where the Drass and Suru rivers met, she also taught Thatha how to kill this animal, which he did.

Thatha becomes the King

During Thatha’s reign several people migrated to Purig/Kargil. The first was the Ahmad-pa family (Interesting name. It helps fix dates. It indicates that these events took place after the founding of Islam) Then came Teesug and Gangasug. These goddesses were given the house in Chiktan mentioned above and over which area they later ruled, if briefly. The other contemporary sovereigns who then ruled in what is now Kargil District were Choo Paldan and Chocho Kunzum. From well before this era, ghe people of Turkmenistan were in the habit of attacking and raiding the Mon rulers of upper Ladakh. The time they took Teesug Gangasug, Cho Paldan and Chocho Kunzum back with them as hostages. Thatha moved in to the vacuum that was thus created and added their territories to his Sot and other principalities are united.

The ruler of Sot found himself caught between two aggressive, expansionist powers, the minority Tibetans and the majority Dards. He realized that he could’t resist both or even either, so he simply handed his kingdom over to thatha.

Now, many of Thatha’s supporters in Gilgit started migration to Sot, Thatha shifted his capital to Kokashu and built his palace where the former ruler’s house had stood.

After establishing power in sot, Thatha divertede his attention to development. He got forests cleared to establish Kargil and Poyen Shilikchay, where he persuaded people from Ladakh and Skardu to settle. Kargil was named after it pioneer, a noble called Kargeel. Thatha also established Oma Chak Thang, where his descendants still own land. After that he gradually brought Baru, Minji and Ground under his control. In time so were the Dard rulers of Khaltse.

He next turned to Suru Karchay, whikch were then ruled by the Tibetans. Their capital was at Phokar. The Tibetans administration had begun to show signs of decay. Thatha assigned this area to his son Navaldey. In turn, Navaldey sent his son Choraai Astan to establish an autonomous principality there with its capital at present day Sangrah. Their dynasty came to an end a few generations later with the immensely popular ruler.

Aldey Choo

(Navaldey’s eldest brother Boti Khan alias Moi Gasho was granted the main sot, Shaghar Chiktan territory. Their third brother was settled in Gund.)

The spread of Buddhism

A significant development during the reign of Abdal’s grandson Chahabza (C 1060-1090) was the spread of Buddhism. Lama Lotsava Rinchan Zangpo was goring back from the Indian plains to his native Guge (Western Tibet). He preached the Buddhist gospel wherever he passed. He got Lha Khangs (Buddhist temples: Lha=God) constructed at Chiktan and Wakha (Near Mulbekh). It is believed that it was he who got the stone idol of Chamba devi built at Mulbek.


The Mediaeval Era

The advent of Islam

The next important era is that if Amrrod Cho, also known as Mureed Khan (C 1450-1475). This was when Islam first spread in Purig, through the efforts of the saint Ameer Kabeer Syed Ali Hamdani and his disciple Syed Muhammad Noor Bakhsh. (According to some historians, Syed Mohammad was a disciple of Khawaja Ishaq of Khatlan and that it was the Khawaja who was a Khalifa or disciple of the Ameer Kaboor). That Amrood Cho had a alternate Islamic name seeds to indicate that he, too had converted to Islam, or followed two religions (as twelve percent of India does even today) Khan. Incidentally, is not an Islamic surname (Genghis to take a particularly celebrated example was not a Muslim).

The 15th Century: Disintegration

The people gave Amrood’s ender son and successor Dooroo Choo the nickname Ald-dor Cho meaning the “Lax and administrative structure one” he was cruel as well. Not surprisingly under him the administrative structure of the state collapsed.

So, the Gyalpo of Tingmo (s) gang annexed the areas between the Khaltse bridge and the Kanji Nallah. The king of Astor, possibly Maqpon Shah Sultan. Helped himself to Drass. Gyalbom Aldey Raja Phokar took Suru and Karchey (Kartse). That left just Chiktan and Sot with Dooroo. His angry subjects punished him for his incompetence. They ensured that he was allowed to ear only half as much as he used to before. (He was under some kind of house arrest).

Dooroo died childless. He was succeeded by his younger brogher Habin Choo (C 1490-1510). During Habib’s reign Mir Shams ud Din, propagated Islam in Purig and Baltistan. Some historians says that the Mir advocated the Imamiya or Shia School in particular, the Mir was a saint from Iraq and a disciple of the son of the great Syed Muhammad Noor Bakhsh of Khurasan. Habib Cho accepted shia (Shiete) doctrines. His father has already converted to Islam. (Other missionaries from Kashmir and Baltistan carried the massage of Islam from village to village. Their descendants are known as Agas on the exalted ones. Till say the 1950s, before election began to be held in Kargil. The District was informally divided into turf controlled by two major and several minor Aghas. The Aghas were religious as well as temporal leaders. On festivals each family would present a small tribute, in cash a title to wit to the Agha it owed allegiance to. The system still continues but the hold is quite informal now, and much weaker, Real power has shifted to the state.

Habib allied with the kings of Khalpu, Shaghar and Skardu, Together they attacked Leh in order to recover the territory Dooroo had lost to the Gyapos. The Gyapoo agreed to pay a heavy tribute. However, this tribute was paid mostly to the king of Shaghar and not to the other three allies. Habib’s son Ahmed Malik Khan (C 1510-1535) succeeded him. During his reign, Sultan Saeed Waai, who was a Turkmen attacked Leh, Zanskar, Suru and Sot. (He also invaded Kashghar and Kashmir). Ahmed accepted the sultan;s superiority.

The Turkmens must have stayed in purig for awhile, because they left some major landmarks behind. Among them is the Hor Lam. The Turkmen road that runs between Bund Mangalpur and Salskot. The Turk mens left a deep impring on the culture of Ladakh including its songs and folk-tales.

The Ambitious Tsering Malik

Khokhor Badhram (C 1535-1555) inherited the throne from his father Ahmed. He made friends with Gyapo Tsewang Namgyal in order to buy peace of his eastern borders. His younger son Tsering Malik was the Governor of Chiktan. Tsering was an amnitious young man. Abit too ambitious. He wanted to be king. So he started going to the court of Gyapo Janyang Namgyal.

Now Jamyang fancied Tserings wife. So Tsering divorced her and handed her over to Janyant, who made an honest woman of her. She is best known by the hybrid name Tsering Gigyalmo (Lit.Queen Mother Tsering) The historian Maulvi Hashmatullah says that she was pregnant (presumably by Jamyang himself) when she married the Gyapo. The child thus born was Nawang Namgyal. The sordidness didn’t end there. In exchange, Jamyang gave his own daughter in marriage to Tsering promised to help him and asked him to go home. Jamyang was happy that he has ow obtained a foothold in purig.

According to tradition, en route the Gyapo got Tsering impriosoned at Matho and jailed Tsering’s new queen at Stok. Tsering’s supporters restored to arms, attacked Leh and got the royal couple freed. Subsequently perhaps the Gyapo and Tsering patched up on his return to purig. Tsering declared Chiktan independent. This could have led to a civil war between Tsering and his brother Rigyal Malik, their father Khokhor Baghram, acted wisely and saved the kingdom from ruination by partitioning it between the two.

Around this time, Ali Sher Khan the heir apparent of Skardu, conqured parts of Baltistan. In those days the Gyapo of Leh would post a representative (a resident of Sorts) as well as soldiers, at Khataksha (Baltistan). Ali Sher personally chased both the Residents and the soldiers out of Baltistan. 

Now Tsering controlled the Chiktan area and Rigyal the Sot area. Relations between the two were tense. Tsering ever the ambitious not in touch return, Tsering gifted Bodh Kharbu and some neighbouring villages to Ali Sher. Ali stationed his soldiers at the Bodh Kharbu fort and left. On its way home his army burnt and destroyed several Ladakh villages.

An enraged Jamyang Namgyal and his army suddenly showed up at Bodh Kharbu. They had traveled through the Fatu La. It was a Friday. The Balti soldiers were offering prayers at Chhorbas spang. The people of Bodh Kharbu were Buddhists. Like Janyang they helped him seize the Bodh Kharbo fort. The areas was thus liberated from Ali Sher.

The Gyapo received Tsering at Bodh Kharbu. He wasn’t particularly angry with his son in law. He even allowed Tsering to retain his independence.

Just then Ali Sher was told about the defeat of his soldiers, he allied with balti princes and attacked Leh. So Jamyang had to rush back (See also “Losar” in the chapter on “The Buddhist Festivals of Leh and Zanskar.)

In the event, both Jamyang and Tsering retained their throunes, and kept their kingdoms intact, indeed Tsering added Pashkum to his territories by intervening in a dispute that centred on a loved affair. Encouraged by his closeness to the Gyapo, he also annexed villages like Kannaur. These villages had thitherto been under Pashkum.

Sot, Pashkum and Chiktan are united for a while

Sultan Malik (C 1600-1610) inherited from his father Rigyal Malik both the throng of Sot and the grudge against Tsering. He attacked and annexed Chiktan and Pashkum. Tsering and his son Sankhan fought bravely but both were killed. Sultan imprisioned Sankhans’s minor sons Adam and Chhosaraang MalikYoukma Kharboo.

Most of the Chiktan were Buddhists. Some of them were related by blood to the kings of Leh. They started agitating against the people of and control by Sot. They sent a delegation to Ali Sher Khan who by then was the Maqpon of Skardu. They also contacted senge Namgyal of Leh, who did not seem interested in helping them.

Ali Sher

In those days there lived in Skardu a Doctor from Chiktan. His name was Chhozaang Kashi. He had cured Ali Sher’s queen of som disease, instead of a reward all he asked of Ali Sher was that the delegation from Chiktan be listened to sympathetically. The Maqpon did just that. He even sent his vizier and nobles to sultan Malik who freed the two minor princes.

Under pressure from the Valtis of Skardu, Sultan even restored Adam to his ancestral throne. Once again Pashkum and Chitkan became independent of Sot.

Now Senge Namgyal attacked purig, Ostensibly to avenge the then recent invasion of Chiktan. He wrested Wakha and Mulbek and after a while Kartsey (Karchey) and Suru from different kings.

Senge the prepared to attack Sot, Sultan Muhammad (C 1610-1650) the son of Sultan Malik, was the king of sot by then, he sought the help of Skardu’s Adam Khan. At Adam Khan’s request Ali Mardan Khan, the Mughal Governor of Kashmir, sent a detachment of the Mughal army to help our purig.

The Mughal-Balti force met senge at Karpokhar. By most accounts – at least according to the credible ones – the Mughals won. Thus Suru and Karchey were freed from the control of Leh. However, Wakha and Mulbekh continued to remain under Lerh. (So the historians of Leh were at least partly right when they claimed that the Leh army had defeated the Mughar – Balti combine.)

The Kargil’s believe that when the Turkmens (Mughals) invaded Kargil at pasri Khar, Muammad Sultan repulsed their attack in alliance with the Leh Army. (So the historians of Leh (and Badherwah) are not alone in claiming victory over the Mughals of their attack in alliance with the Leh army (So the historians of Leh (and Badherwah) are not alone in claiming victory over the Mughals for their Kings.)

This was the first time that the Mughals of Delhi Agra had sent their forces in to Ladakh. Or any other Indian power had.

The Last Independent Kings

Muhammad Sultan’s son Mirza Sultan (C 1650-1660) was the next king of Sot. Mirza Sultan’s throne, in turn, passed on to his descendants Mirza Being Baghram Big, Jangeer Bing and Yahya Khan, in that order, of folk – songs are to be believed, them of all these kings. Srbab shah was the best peace and prosperity marked his reign. During Badhram Khan’s tenure Sot Karchay allied against Leh. Together they captured Kharol, Chhotok and some neighbouring villages. However some influential people of sot were secretly working for the Gyapo of Leh. The Gyapo launched a counter attack with their help. Baghram Khan had to surrender the gains he has made only recently. (When the history of this period the late seventeenth / early eighteenth century is viewed from Leh, it appears that Leh exercised some king of control over Kargil).

Yahya Khan (C 1780-1810) succeeded his father Jangeer Bing His Mother was perhaps the sister of the king of Karchey. His son Salaam Khan (1810-1834) was the next and last king of Sot. It was during Salaam’s reign that the Dogras conquered Purig, Baltistan and Leh. (For more details See “The History of Leh”).


The Modern Age

The Dogra Conquest

In the summer 1834, Maharaja Gulab Singh of Jammu sent Zorawar Singh, his legendary army Chief to annex Ladakh.,

Officially Gulab was conquering Ladakh for his Maharaja. However, he sought (and received) the blessings of British to add Ladakh to Jammu, an al;armed kind of Ladakh sent numerious massages to the Birth that he would ally with them. He was ignored. Zorawar’s army traveled to Ladakh through Kishtwar and Zanskar.

Ladakh did not then have a proper army, just a civil deffence system. At Sankoo in Kargil’s Suru Valley volunteers got together and offered some resistance. The Dogra army brused them aside. By the time the invaders reached Pashkum Kargil’s dreaded winter announced itself. The Dogras of the scorching plaings of Jammu sent word to the king of Leh that they would withdraw if he would pay them Rs. 15,000. The kind rejected the offer, on his wife’s advice.

Snubbed, Zorawar retreated to a place near Sankoo, where his army and he decided to camp for the winter, biding their time, the ladakh army waited till the next April to attack Zorawar’s men. The Ladakhis were defeated. In 1839 rebellion broke out against the Dogras. Sukamir Rahim Khan of Chiktan and Hussain of Pashkum led the resistance, Zorawar rushed to Kargil and subdued the movement with an enormous show of force.

He then set up a joing command of Dogra and ladakh forces, Together they conquered Baltistan, reuniting that area with the rest of ladakh after a long while.

Kargil Joins Kashmir and Jammu

The Dogras appointed Salaam Khan, the defeated king as the Chief Administrator of the areas over when his father and their ancestors before that had ruled. (His descendents continued to occupy senior positions in the Gopvernment even in the sednd half of the twentieth century, after the state acceded to India.) The fortunes of Purig indeed of al Kargil, now merged with those of Leh and Jammu. Soon Kashmir would join the lot. Therefore, the history of Kargil after that would substantially be the same as that of Leh, Kashmir or Jammu.

Source : Tourism Department, Kargil


The people of Kargil are generally quite different from those of the rest of India. Racially the people of Kargil have descended from the Mongols, the Dards of Central Asia and the Indo-Aryan Mon people. Some might even have Tibetan ancestors. Pashkum is believed to be the first village to be inhabited in all of ancient Purig. image
image But immigration from Tibet largely overwhelmed the culture of the Dards and obliterated their racial characteristics. In and around Kargil, the people's appearance suggests a mixed origin.


There are ancient Buddhist rock carvings all over the region, even in the areas like Drass and lower Suru Valley which today are inhabited by an exclusively Muslim population. The divide between Muslims and Buddhists Kargil passes through Mulbekh(on the Kargil-Leh road) and between the villages of Parkachik and Rangdum in the Suru Valley, though there are pockets of Muslim population further east, in Padum (Zanskar) Imambara at Trespone (Suru Valley)
image The people of Kargil like those of neighboring Leh district, were Buddhists till the 14th Century, when all the people of present day Kargil minus Zanskar and some bordering Leh, converted to Shia Islam. In the centuries immediately preceding this conversion Kargil's Buddhism like Leh's had come under the influence of Tibet.

Source : Tourism Department, Kargil

Zanskar (Penzila to Padum Karsha and Zangla)

Two small, turquoise, high altitude lakes with camping sites, and views of the surrounding permafrost mountains are the highlights of the Penzi La pass, which is 160 Km from Kargil and at an altitude of 4,401 to 4,450 meters, the highest point on the Kargil – Zanskar road. This pass is more of a table land and, unlike the Zojila, has plenty of flat spaces and things to see, the Drang-Drung, for instance. Kishtwar is behind the mountains of the right.

Zanskar being half way through the pass, some 35 km, after Rangdum. It is spread over more than 5,000 Sq.Km. Zanskar remains cut off from the rest of the world for more than eight months a year due to blockade of the Penzi La. Besides there are no air service. Today Zanskar is one of the least interfered with microcosms of Ladakh and one of the last surviving cultural settlers of Tibet. Put simply, systems such as polyandry, which are more or less extinct in Leh town and in the more advanced villages of Leh district, still survive in some pockets of Zanskar. In 1999 around a quarter of Zanskar still practiced polyandry. By then several shops and spring up in Padum and you could actually by things with money


Sani Monastery

Emperor Kanishka (Aka Kanika) had got 108 chortens constructed in the first century AD. One of them is in Sani. The holy site at Sani is called Turtot Gyat and is one of the 8 holiest Buddhist sites in the world. That is why most of the Luminaries of Himalayan Buddhism including Padma Sambhava, Naropa and Marpa have visited Sani. This venerable monastery had ancient and medieval frescoes.


Rangdum Monastery

Rangdum: (3,657 meters, 130 km from Kargil town, 65 Km from Panikhar). The Rangdum monastery has tiny museum with interesting Tibetan and other artifacts. Around forty monks live in the gompa. It is difficult to agree with accounts that date the Gompa to the 8th century. 18th century is more likely. The villagers who live near the Gompa are basically the agriculture shrifts of the monastery, a guidebook informs us.


Zongkhul Monastery

This monastery is built in a spectacular cave, lies on the Padum-Kishtwar trekking route, just before the ascent to the Omasi-La Pass begins. Situated like a swallow's nest on the rock face of the Ating Gorge, the monastery is associated with Naropa, a famous India Yogi. The two caves around which the present monastery has developed are said to have been used by Naropa for solitary mediation. The frescos on the cave walls are very old and reflect a high degree of artistic achievement.


Karsha Monastery

The largest monastic establishment of Zanskar, Karsha Gompa is an imposing complex of neatly white-washed adobe blocks comprising several chapels, besides residential rooms for its nearly 150 resident monks. Karsha is 4-6 Km from Padum. Built picturesquely along the steep gradient of the mountainside above the Stod river, the monastery can be seen from far and wide. The Gompa, founded by Phagspa Sherab in the 11th century, has the largest library (Kahgyur Khang) in Zanskar and even beyond, there are eight temples and two assembly halls in the complex, which also houses a famous, large and priceless Thangka and smaller but valuable scrolls and precious idols.


The Thabrang (room of God and religion)has frescoes dating back to around the 15th century. There is a 14th century Chomo Gompa (Nunnery) called the Dorje Dzong at the other end of Karsha. The nuns go over to the main Gompa for all major festivals. Karsha is the biggest and richest monastery in all Zanskar.


Stongday Monastery

Stongday Gompa is built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the oasis-like village below. It lies 20 Km to the north of Padum, on the road leading to Zangla. Stongday is now the second largest monastic establishment of Zanskar with 60 resident Gelukpa monks. The highlight of this monastery is its Gon Khang (temple of guardian deities).


Phugthal Monastery

Phugthal is the most spectacularly located monastic establishment anywhere in Ladakh. The Phugthal complex spills out of the mouth of a huge cave high up in the sheer mountain face of a lateral gorge through which a major tributary of the Lungnak River flows. Perhaps the most isolated monastery in Zanskar, its foundation dates back to the early 12th century. The monastery has frescos and ceiling decorations reflecting strong Indian artistic and oceanographic influence.



Padum: Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar. Padum (3,505 Mtr) is the present-day administrative headquarter of the region. Padum is 240 Kms from Kargil and almost 80 Kms from the Penzila. It has a decent government tourist bungalow and several private hotels and restaurants. Today Zanskar has telephones with the facility to call any part of India- and perhaps the world, a facility not available elsewhere in the Suru valley. The Town’s highlights include the mud “Palace” of the local “Raja”. There is also small monastery in the town. There are 8th century rock carvings near the river bank in Padum (There are 25 villages in Zanskar which had two “Kings”. One each at Padum and Zangla. Each ruled over six or seven villages, because there were several villages that were under neither “King” through they might have loosely allied with either of these. It is doubtful if either “King”  ever had more than three thousand subjects. Across the expanse of cultivation lies the old village of  Pibiting, dominated by its picturesque hilltop monastery, a superb manifestation of Stupa architecture.



Zangla is 35 km from Padum. The Zanskar river, which leads from Padum to Zangla and then Leh freezes so hard in the winters that for a few weeks one can walk on it. This is known as the chaadar. The trek from Padum to the motorable road in Leh district can take a week. There are little caves by the frozen river in which travelers camp at night. Zangla is base camp for in which travelers camp at night. Zangla is base camp for trekkers in the summers. There is a nunnery nearby. There are no formal hotels in the village, but some families take in guests.


Mulbekh Chamba & Monastery

Mulbekh is 25 Kms ahead of Bodh Kharboo, as we travel on the National Highway from Leh to Kargil, but another way, it is 45 Km from Kargil. It is 190 Km, from Leh.The monastery itself has been built atop at high rock, 200 Mtr above the main road. It contains precious relics, however, right next to the road there is a 9 Mtr deep relief idol of the Maitreya Buddha, carved out of a rock. This is the future Buddha. Maitreys is also known as Chamba.

The sculpture dates to the time which the missionaries who brought Buddhism to Ladakh were from Kashmir, not Tibet, it was probably carved in the 8th century AD.This explains why where are shaiite influences in the Idol and the artwork in the monastery, which was built a few centuries later. There is a monastery at the other end of the valley. It is at the bottom of a large phallus-shaped rock.Wakha (Rigyal) is a twin village of Mulbekh. It has nunnery (Chomo-Gompa) – called the Jungchup Chosling monastry, very close to the highway. If you are traveling from Leh, Wakha comes just before Mulbekh, it is located in the Wakha river valley.


Shargole Monastery


Shargole is another 10 Kms ahead of Mulbekh, or 35 km, before Kargil, it's small but old Ge-Lugs Pa Buddhist monastery has fellow but interesting frescoes. Inside the Gompa is an icon of an Avalokiteswar. There in the Gompa is also three images of Tara, caved in wood by Tibetan artists. It just out of a brown, granite cliff and appears as if it is suspended in the middle of the mountain. This architectural quirk makes it an object of curiosity among local people, too. The panoramic view from the verandah of the “cantilever monastery” is stunning and helps the worshipper concentrate better. There is a tiny Buddhist nunnery below.



Phokar, (also Fokar) is 4 Km ahead of the Shargole Monastery. A tall hill rises from the Phokar plain. Youwill have to climb it to get to the Phokar Rizong / Urgyang Dzong. Apparently, at the Rizong one can meditate with greater concentration because that spot has some special qualities. The Phokar Rizong is one such place. It consists of a flat, circular plain, surrounded by hills and caves, there is a tiny temple in the middle, eminent Buddhist saints, including the great Padma Sambhava, are said to have meditated in these caves. There are two routes from the plain to the Rizong. The cave route, at around 1 Km, is much shorter. However, in June and July, when the snow melts, it is not possible to use this route and you will have to take the longer (3-4 Km) route instead.

Kargil Festival

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Zanskar Festival

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Padum- Lamayuru Trek

Day 1 Padum to Pishu

The sane trek can be done in the reverse order, with slight variations, thus: This is a difficult trek. It could take between nine and ten days. The recommended season is July to October. Passes normally don’t close till the last week of October. However, it gets very cold (even sub-zero) by mid- October. You will have to climb up to 5,060m, You should be able to get ponies and porters at Lama Yuru.

Day 2 Pipsha to Hunamur
Day 3 Hunamur to Snertse
Day 4 Snertse to Lingshet
Day 5 Lingshet to the base of the Singhey La
Day 6 Base to the Singhey La and then to Photoksar
Day 7 Photoksar to the Sirsir La and then Hanujpata
Day 8 Hanupata to Phanji La
Day 9 To Wanla
Day 10 To the Prinkiti La

Lamayuru - Leh Trek

Day 1 4 Hours from Lama Yuru to Wanla
Day 2 5 hours to Ursi/ Urtsi
Day 3 Night halt at Tar
Day 4 5 hours to Mangyour
Day 5 Trek to Saspol. Night halt at Saspol or if you have a vehicle waiting even in Leh town.

Padum - Hemis Trek

Day 1

(3 hours to Stongday) Padum (3600 M) is on the bank of River Zanskar. You need to cross the river using the rope bridge. After a 3 hour walk along the river you will reach Stongday.

Day 2

(5 hours to Zangla) Continue along the Zanskar river, still on mostly flat land, till you reach Zangla.

Day 3

(6 hours to the base of the Sher Sher La (3940M). The trek to the Zangla Gonpa is steep uphill. After that you will enter the gorge of a knee deep river. You will cross the river at least 15 or 20 times on the same day, while travelling through the gorge. You will come to place where two rivers meet. Take the left valley at this point. Walk till you reach the base of the Sher Sher La Pass(also Char Char La - 5170m). You will find a green camping ground with water.

Day 4

(6.30 hours to Chup Cha - 4700M). There will first be a very steep climb up to the Sher Sher La Pass, on an uncomfortable, stony path, past boulders. After you cross the pass, you will go down to the green Chup Cha (or Chhup Chhak) Plateau where two streams meet. The camping ground is quite good.

Day 5

(5 hours to Shang Kongma 3970m) Today it will mainly be descent to yet another meeting of two rivers. You will go down into a gorge and cress- cross the river more than 10 times.

Day 6

3.30 hours to a nameless, meadow, 3800m) Go down the valley, cress cross the waist-deep river several more times. Please be careful and use a rope anchor. Don't even try to cross the river in the afternoon, it's just not possible. Once again you will find a meadow where two rivers meet, it's a good camping site. The water gets muddy.

Day 8

(6 hours Nari Narsa 4270m) Your trek today will begin with the little valley on the left. There will be a very steep climb up a path of stones and boulders, (can I still dessuade you from this trek? And today isn't even the toughest day). If you don't unload the ponies they might slip. Once again you will have to cross the water several time mercifully, though, the river is shallow today. Nari Narsa is a high altitude valley, it has many camping sites, water and bushes are plentiful.

Day 9

(6 hours to Lang Tang 4800m) First climb through the valley to the Rubrung(or Rebrang) Plateau. Take the valley on the right. There is a narrow gap in the range through which you will be cross it. This passage will take to the Zalung Karpo La(5160m). Go up the ridge(5200m). After that it's all the way down to the Lang Tang valley. There is a decent camp site to be found. 

Day 10

(5 hours to Hankar, 4200m) Go down the valley till you reach river Markha. Hankar village is nearby. There is a camp site here. Hankar also has the ruins of a Fort. (Depart/branching off) From here you can trek to the Markha valley, from there you can follow river Markha down stream and cross into the Indus Valley at Spituk.

Day 11

(5 hours to Nimaling, 4900m) Go up the Markha Valley. The path is good almost right up to the Numa Ling Plateau. You will find nomads in small huts. You will not be welcome in case you want to stay in  their huts, so just camp in the open. Water is available but wood is not.

Day 12

(6 hours to Shakdo, 4100m) Climb upto the Kangmaru La(5030-5300m) is surprisingly easy, given the formidable height of the pass. Go down the gorge on the other side to get to Shakdo.

Day 13

(5 hours to Hemis, 3760m)Now it will be downhill till Martseling. After that it is a pleasant walk up to Hemis, which is on a motorable road.

Hemis - Zangla - Padum  Trek

Day 1 4 to 5 hrs from Hemis to Martseling & Chhogdo(or Shakdo)  

Here is a slight variant of the above trek and in the reverse order.

Day 2

2 to 4 hrs to the base of the Kangmaru La(Kong Maru La) which is at 4710m

Day 3

3 hrs to the Kangmaru La Pass and Nima Ling

Day 4

4 hrs to Umlung (3900m) and Rebrang

Day 7 4 hrs to Kurma Sumdo (3900m)
Day 8 5 hrs to Tilat Sundo and Tomto (4250m)
Day 9 4 hrs to Chhup Chhak (4700m)
Day 10

7 hrs to Char Char La (5170m) and the base of the Char Char La

Day 11 3 hrs to Zangla
Day 12

35 Kms to Padum (do this stretch in one or two days)

Sankoo - Drass Trek

Day 1 3 hrs from Sankoo to Umba. The trek is bad. you have to faced a stream midway

It;s a 2 Days but a difficult trek, especially when the snow either falls or melts or become slippery). There are buses from Kargil(and Padam) to Sankoo.

Day 2

10 hrs / 30 Km to Drass. The first stretch involves a tough climb from around all the way upto the Umba La Pass(14800). The 3-5 Km, downhill trek on the other side is relatively comfortable, though, you will come to a greenish valley. This stretch is quite easy. So is the gentle, 2 hrs descent to the Drass Valley. The village serves as a base camp for trek in all direction: within the Suru Valley to inner Ladakh and to Kashmir

Nun-Kun Trek

Day 1 The shortest satisfying trek, up the hill opposite tourist bungalow, takes less than 5 hrs return. We now are even closer to the twin Nun-Kun Peaks Nun-Kun

The Nun is 7,135 meters high and the Kun is at 7,035 meters. They are around 21 Kms east of the Bhot Kol pass and are 1,000/3,000 meters higher than the other mountains around them. July and August are the best moths to attempt these twin peaks. April can be very dangerous because a number of services would be open. October is tricky, too, because of the likelihood of snowfall. The base from which the ascent begins is called 'Gualmo Throngos'. It is between the stones that mark 112 Kms from Kargil. Don't always count on finding the stones. They are buried under several feets of snow for almost half the year.

Day 2

The Nun view saddle (3810m) is a short trek from Panikhar. So, if you aren't up to going to the peaks themselves, trek to the 'saddle' from which you can get a fine view of the majestic peaks and the glacial valley around.

Day 3

Or you climb the sentik ridge above Tangole valley and go the glacial plateau from the ridge

Day 4 & 5

You can trek from here to Pahalgam in 5 days and Kishtwar in 6 days.

Padum - Phuktal Trek

Day 1 Walk from Padum to Mune : 6 hrs.

On all Six days you can begin your trek around 7.00 or 8.00 or even 9.00 AM

Day 2 Walk from Mune to Purne : 8 hrs
Day 3 Pune to Phuktal Gompa : 4-5 hrs
Day 4 Phuktal to Purne
Day 5 Purney to Mune
Day 6 Mune to Padum
Day 7 Mune to Padum

Source: Tourism Department, Kargil

Main Statistics of the District


14,036 Sq. Km


140802 (2011 Census)


Purgi, Balti, Dardic, Ladakhi, Zanskari and Sheena, Urdu / Hindi

Ethnic composition

Mongoloid /Tibetan, Dardic and assorted Indo-Aryan elements


2,676 to 2,740 Mtr


Islam, Buddhism

Kargil includes Zanskar, which is across the Penzila. Zanskaris predominantly Buddhist, with a small minority of Kashmiri, Sunni Muslims from Kishtwar. The rest of Kargil is almost entirely Shia Muslims, except some villages (Wakha, Mulbekh, Shargole, Foker, Bodhkharboo, Heniskote, Darchik) where Buddhist population are present.


26 cm (Annual Average)

Average temperatures in
different seasons

Drass, currently the District's main attraction (because of the war sites of Tololing, Mushkoo and Tiger Hill), is the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Winter temperature drops down to minus 45 degree Celsius at night. Including wind-chill it could drop to as low as minus 50 degree Celsius. Night temperatures in winter merely drop to minus 35 degree Celsius.

In both Drass and Zanskar, it is several degrees below zero even during the day from November to March. In the summer, nights are cool, a light woolen sweater is sometimes needed. Sunny summer days can be quite hot. T-shirts are sufficient.

The rest of the District is slightly warmer. Winters are colder than in most of Europe, but it rarely drops below minus 12 degree Celsius. Summer nights warrant a light woolen sweater except perhaps for a few days in July. Even in July, if it rains or gets cloudy, a sweater is required in the afternoon as well.

Annual Snowfall

2 to 5 Feet

How to Access

The only way to reach landlocked Kargil is by roads. You can take a Taxi or Bus.

The main pass between Srinagar and Kargil is like to to be blocked by snow from November to May. However the road between Kargil and Drass is open almost throughout the year.

The road between Leh and Kargil too is open almost throughout the year.

The road into Suru Valley is functional around the year till Sangra. After Sangra it is prone to landslides between December and March.

The main pass to Zanskar is blocked from November to mid June. During this period it is possible to walk on the snow (or the frozen river) between Kargil and Zanskar depending on weather conditions.

When the roads are functional government buses ply between Kargil and Padum (Zanskar) on alternate days to most places in Suru Valley (Upto Panikhar) twice a day and to places on the national highway at least once a day. The bus to Zanskar serves Rangdum as well. The road to Sangra Panikhar – Zanskar is closed between November and June. The other roads are functional more or less thoughout the year.

Whom to Contact

District Tourist Officer
Tourism Department
Phone Nos. : 01985 - 232721 Office
  01985 - 232266 Residence

Source: Tourism Department, Kargil


A family-operated, Public Museum dedicated to preserving the life and legacy of Munshi Aziz Bhat A Silk Route trader, pioneer, visionary, social entrepreneur, collector, patriot, husband and father.

This museum offers anyone who visits a rare glimpse into the Indian and Central Asian trader culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Through its collection of artifacts and mercantile items, the museum exhibits the range of goods and services that were transported on the many maritime and overland trajectories of the Silk Routes. Apart from the commerce, the Silk Route memorabilia at the museum is an enduring peek into the lives of the many merchants, horsemen, herders, pilgrims, artisans, nomads and farmers who traversed these trader routes and evolved a culture that saw its ultimate demise with the growth of mechanised trade and reorganization of boundaries in the post-independence era.

The artifacts range from day to day household items, coins and currencies, jewellery, carpets, hosiery, utensils, clothing items, armory to paintings and manuscripts. The museum will give you a glimpse of the treasure trove from Kargils Silk Route Trade heritage.

museum is located at Gulzar Hussain Munshis residence at 147, Munshi Enclave, Lankore, overlooking Kargil town.  Tiled steps lead up from a winding road to the hilltop Museum, offering breathtaking views of snow-covered mountains and the swift-flowing snow-fed Suru River which winds through the town.

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Copper Coin Anna Chamak Embroided Slik
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Ltarchak Munshi Aziz Bhat Chinese Hubble Bubble
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Papu-Local Ladakhi Boot Thrugo Actual Sarai Site

Entry Fee

While it is a non-profit organization, a nominal fee of Rs 20/- for Indian visitors, Rs 10/- for students and Rs 30/- for foreign tourists is charged. The proceeds go into the maintenance and security of the set up. It is open through every day from 9am to 7pm

Contact us at :

Gulzar Hussain Munshi
Managing Director
Mobile No.+91 9419176061

Ajaz Hussain Munshi
Mobile No. +91 9469730109

Muzammil Hussain Munshi
Director Outreach, Research and Design
Mobile No.+91 941928927

Visit us at : www.kargilmuseum.org

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