Himalayan Headstones from Ladakh Kashmir

by Eileen Hewson FRGS

Since the mid-1800s, Ladakh has attracted many travellers who have attempted to unravel the secrets of its Himalayan vastness. The main town is Leh, once a principal market place for the old trade route from Kashgar to Kashmir. There was money to be made here and the European traders wanted their share. The Ladakhis' belief in Tibetan Buddhism presented a challenge to the German Moravian missionaries who had hoped to reach Tibet. Permission to enter the country had been refused so they decided to settle in Leh, bringing with them medicine, education and Christianity. They were the only foreigners to form a community and their presence was seen on the whole to be beneficial.

The explorers confined their activities to the mountain regions, mapping the uncharted valleys. Army officers came to hunt rare game in the remote hills. With an increased European activity in the area, Leh soon had a British Residency which provided accommodation to some of the visitors.

The main burial ground in Leh was the European Cemetery, then part of the British Resident's garden. The Moravians had their own cemetery a little way out of the town and later some land was acquired for another at Khalsi on the Leh-Srinigar road. There are some isolated graves in the valleys south of Kargil, north of Baltistan and at the Karakorum Pass on the route to Kashghar.

Although few of the graves remain, it has been possible to compile the epitaphs and biographies for each person from written sources which, with the illustrations, provide a fascinating insight of these remarkable men and women in this corner of the world.
Eileen Hewson FRGS Kabristan Archives 2002 PB pages 40 ISBN 978-0907799795

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