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This article is about the municipality in India. For its namesake district, see Leh district.
For other uses, see LEH (disambiguation).



The ruined Royal Palace at Leh


Coordinates: 340843.43N
773403.41ECoordinates: 340843.43N
Jammu and Kashmir
45,110 km2 (17,420 sq mi)
3,500 m (11,500 ft)
Population (2001)


0.61/km2 (1.6/sq mi)

Organised alphabetically:


Time zone




IST (UTC+5:30)

A view of Upper Changspa


/le/ (Tibetan alphabet: , Wylie: Gle), was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of

Ladakh, now the Leh district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Leh district, with an area
of 45,110 km2, is the second largest district in the country, after Kutch, Gujarat (in terms of area).
The town is dominated by the ruined Leh Palace, the former mansion of the royal family of
Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace-the chief residence
of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India, during the 1959 Tibetan
uprising. Leh is at an altitude of 3524 metres (11,562 ft), and connects via National Highway 1D
to Srinagar in the southwest and to Manali in the south via the Leh-Manali Highway. In 2010,
Leh was sorely damaged by the sudden floods caused by a cloud burst.


1 History

2 Administration
o 2.1 Coexistence with religions other than Buddhism

3 Threats to the Old Town of Leh

4 Geography
o 4.1 Climate

5 Agriculture

6 Demographics

7 Kalchakra in 2014

8 Attractions

9 Transport

10 Media and communications

11 Pictures

12 See also

13 See also

14 Footnotes

15 References

16 Further reading

17 External links

Leh was an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley between Tibet to the east,
Kashmir to the west and also between India and China for centuries. The main goods carried
were salt, grain, pashm or cashmere wool, charas or cannabis resin from the Tarim Basin, indigo,
silk yarn and Banaras brocade.
Although there are a few indications that the Chinese knew of a trade route through Ladakh to
India as early as the Kushan period (1st to 3rd centuries CE),[1] and certainly by Tang dynasty,[2]
little is actually known of the history of the region before the formation of the kingdom towards
the end of the 10th century by the Tibetan prince, Skyid lde nyima gon (or Nyima gon), a
grandson of the anti-Buddhist Tibetan king, Langdarma (r. c. 838 to 841). He conquered Western

Tibet although his army originally numbered only 300 men. Several towns and castles are said to
have been founded by Nyima gon and he apparently ordered the construction of the main
sculptures at Shey. "In an inscription he says he had them made for the religious benefit of the
Tsanpo (the dynastical name of his father and ancestors), and of all the people of Ngaris
(Western Tibet). This shows that already in this generation Langdarma's opposition to Buddhism
had disappeared."[3] Shey, just 15 km east of modern Leh, was the ancient seat of the Ladakhi
During the reign of Delegs Namgyal (16601685),[4] the Nawab of Kashmir, which was then a
province in the Mogul Empire, arranged for the Mongol army to (temporarily) leave Ladakh
(though it returned later). As payment for assisting Delegs Namgyal in the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal
war of 16791684, the Nawab made a number of onerous demands. One of the least was to build
a large Sunni Muslim mosque in Leh at the upper end of the bazaar in Leh, below the Leh
Palace. The mosque reflects a mixture of Islamic and Tibetan architecture and can accommodate
more than 500 people. This was apparently not the first mosque in Leh; there are two smaller
ones which are said to be older.[5]
Several trade routes have traditionally converged on Leh, from all four directions. The most
direct route was the one the modern highway follows from the Punjab via Mandi, the Kulu
valley, over the Rohtang Pass, through Lahaul and on to the Indus Valley, and then down river to
Leh. The route from Srinigar was roughly the same as the road that today crosses the Zoji La
(pass) to Kargil, and then up the Indus Valley to Leh. From Baltistan there were two difficult
routes: the main on ran up the Shyok Valley from the Indus, over a pass and then down the Hanu
River to the Indus again below Khalsi (Khalatse). The other ran from Skardu straight up the
Indus to Kargil and on to Leh. Then, there were both the summer and winter routes from Leh to
Yarkand across the Karakorum. Finally, there were a couple of possible routes from Leh to
Lhasa.[6] The first Englishman to reach Leh was William Moorcroft (explorer) in 1820.
The first recorded royal residence in Ladakh, built at the top of the high Namgyal ('Victory')
Peak overlooking the present palace and town, is the now-ruined fort and the gon-khang (Temple
of the Guardian Divinities) built by King Tashi Namgyal. Tashi Namgyal is known to have ruled
during the final quarter of the 16th century CE.[7] The Namgyal (also called "Tsemo Gompa" =
'Red Gompa', or dGon-pa-so-ma = 'New Monastery'),[8] a temple, is the main Buddhist centre in
Leh.[9] There are some older walls of fortifications behind it which Francke reported used to be
known as the "Dard Castle." If it was indeed built by Dards, it must pre-date the establishment of
Tibetan rulers in Ladakh over a thousand years ago.[10]
Below this are the Chamba (Byams-pa, i.e., Maitreya) and Chenresi (sPyan-ras-gzigs, i.e.
Avalokiteshvara) monasteries which are of uncertain date.[8]
The royal palace, known as Leh Palace, was built by King Sengge Namgyal (16121642),
presumably between the period when the Portuguese Jesuit priest, Francisco de Azevedo, visited
Leh in 1631, and made no mention of it, and Sengge Namgyal's death in 1642.[11]
The Leh Palace is nine storeys high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, and the
stables and store rooms are located on the lower floors. The palace was abandoned when

Kashmiri forces besieged it in the mid-19th century. The royal family moved their premises
south to their current home in Stok Palace on the southern bank of the Indus.
"As has already been mentioned, the original name of the town is not sLel, as it is now-adays spelt, but sLes, which signifies an encampment of nomads. These [Tibetan] nomads
were probably in the habit of visiting the Leh valley at a time when it had begun to be
irrigated by Dard colonizers. Thus, the most ancient part of the ruins on the top of rNamrgyal-rtse-mo hill at Leh are called 'aBrog-pal-mkhar (Dard castle). . . . "[12]

Unlike other districts of the State, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) is
in charge of governance in Leh. The 'Deputy Commissioner, Leh' also holds the power of 'Chief
Executive Officern LAHDC'.
LAHDC was constituted in 1995. The conception of the council was conceived so as to provide a
transparent development in the area. It has 30 councillors, 4 nominated and 26 elected. The Chief
Executive Councillor heads and chairs this council.

Coexistence with religions other than Buddhism

Since the 8th century people belonging to different religions, particularly Buddhism and Islam,
have been living in harmony in Leh. They co-inhabited the region from the time of early period
of Namgyal dynasty and there are no records of any conflict between them. But with the opening
of Ladakh to the outside world and politics creeping into peaceful Ladakhi society, the issue of
religion has emerged and strained this long tradition of co-existence and co-evolution.
In recent times, relations between the Buddhist and Muslim communities soured due to the petty
conflicts motivated by political interest. With the visit of the Dalai Lama in August 2003 and his
strong appeal to the masses regarding religious pluralism and peaceful coexistence, the situation
has ameliorated and normalcy has been restored. Thus, Ladakh resumed its age-old tradition of
Besides these two communities there are people living in the region who belong to other
religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism, who too live in harmony and form a vital
part of the society. The small Christian community in Leh are descendants of converts from
Tibetan Buddhism by German Moravian missionaries who established a church at Keylong in
Lahaul in the 1860s, and were allowed to open another mission in Leh in 1885 and had a sub
branch in Khalatse. They stayed open until Indian Independence in 1947. In spite of their
successful medical and educational activities, they made only a few converts.[13]
Every year Sindhu Darshan Festival is held at Shey, 15 km away from town to promote religious
harmony and glory of Indus (Sindhu) river. At this time, Leh is packed with thousands of tourist
coming from all over India, as well as foreign countries.[14]

Threats to the Old Town of Leh

The old town of Leh was added to the World Monuments Fund's list of 100 most endangered
sites due to increased rainfall from climate change and other reasons.[15] Neglect and changing
settlement patterns within the old town have threatened the long-term preservation of this unique
The rapid and poorly planned urbanisation of Leh has increased the risk of flash floods in some
areas, while other areas, according to research by the Climate and Development Knowledge
Network, suffer from the less dramatic, gradual effects of invisible disasters, which often go

Mountains dominate the landscape around the Leh as it is at an altitude of 3,500m. The principal
access roads include the 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway which connects Leh with Srinagar and
the 473 km Leh-Manali Highway which connects Manali with Leh. Both roads are open only on
a seasonal basis.[18] Although the access roads from Srinagar and Manali are often blocked by
snow in winter, the local roads in the Indus Valley usually remain open due to the low level of
precipitation and snowfall.

Leh has a cold desert climate (Kppen climate classification BWk) with long, harsh winters from
October to early March, with minimum temperatures well below freezing for most of the winter.
The city gets occasional snowfall during winter. The weather in the remaining months is
generally fine and warm during the day. Average annual rainfall is only 102 mm (4.02 inches).
The temperature can range from 42 C (-43.6 F) in winter to 33 C (91.4 F) in summer.[19] In
2010 the city experienced flash floods which killed more than 100 people.[20]
[hide]Climate data for Leh (19511980)

Month Jan

Feb Mar Apr May Jun

12.8 19.4 23.9
high C
(46.9) (55) (66.9) (75)


Aug Sep



28.9 34.8 34.0 34.2 30.6 25.6 20.0

(84) (94.6) (93.2) (93.6) (87.1) (78.1) (68)

Dec Year



12.3 16.2 21.8 25.0 25.3 21.7 14.6
high C
(28.4) (34.7) (43.7) (54.1) (61.2) (71.2) (77) (77.5) (71.1) (58.3) (46.2) (36.1) (55)

14.4 11.0 5.9 1.1
10.5 10.0
1.0 6.7 11.8 1.3
low C
(6.1) (12.2) (21.4) (30) (37.8) (45.3) (50.9) (50) (42.4) (30.2) (19.9) (10.8) (29.7)

Record 28.3 26.4

19.4 12.8 4.4 1.1
4.4 8.5 17.5
low C (18.9 (15.5
(2.9) (9) (24.1) (30) (33.1) (34.7) (24.1) (16.7) (0.5)

15.2 15.4
rainfall 9.5
4.6 105.5
(0.433 (0.358 (0.354 (0.138 (0.598 (0.606 (0.354 (0.295 (0.142
mm (0.374) (0.319)
(0.181) (4.154)













Source: India Meteorological Department (record high and low up to 2010)[21][22]


A view of agriculture around Leh.



Leh is located at an average elevation of about 3500 metres, which means that only one crop a
year can be grown there, while two can be grown at Khalatse. By the time crops are being sown
at Leh in late May, they are already half-grown at Khalatse. The main crop is grim (naked barley
- Hordeum vulgare L. var. nudum Hook. f., which is an ancient form of domesticated barley with
an easier to remove hull) - from which tsampa, the staple food in Ladakh, is made.[23]

As of 2001 India census,[24] Leh town had a population of 27,513. Males constitute 61% of the
population and females 39%, due to a large presence of non-local labourers, traders and
government employees. Leh has an average literacy rate of 75%, higher than the national average
of 59.5%: male literacy is 82%, and female literacy is 65%. In Leh, 9% of the population is
under 6 years of age. The people of Leh are ethnic Tibetan, speaking the East Tibetan Dialect.

People of Leh
The Muslim presence dates back to the annexation of Ladakh by Kashmir, after the Fifth Dalai
Lama attempted to invade Ladakh from Tibet. Since then, there has been further migration from
the Kashmir Valley due firstly to trade and latterly with the transfer of tourism from the Kashmir
Valley to Ladakh.
Ladakh receives very large numbers of tourists for its size. In 2010, 77,800 tourists arrived in
Leh. Numbers of visitors have swelled rapidly in recent years, increasing 77% in the 5 years to
2010. This growth is largely accounted for by larger numbers of trips by domestic Indian

Kalchakra in 2014
Kalachakra in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India from 3 to 14 July: During the first three days of the
Kalachakra, from 3 to 5 July, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, along with the monks of Namgyal
Monastery and senior lamas, will conduct rituals which prepare and consecrate the venue. These
include chanting of prayers, creation of the sand mandala and other rituals. From 6 to 8 July, His
Holiness will give preliminary teachings. On 9 July, the Kalachakra Ritual Dance will be

performed by the monks of Namgyal Monastery. His Holiness will confer the Kalachakra
Initiation from 10 to 13 July. On 14 July, a long life empowerment (tsewang) and a ceremony
offering prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be performed.


Shanti Stupa at Leh

Leh Palace at Leh

1. Shanti Stupa.
2. Leh Palace.
3. Hemis gompha
4. Leh Trekking Trails.
5. War Museum.
6. Chamba Temple.
7. Jama Masjid.
8. Gurdwara Pathar Sahib

9. Jo Khang Gompa.
10. Namgyal Tsemo Gompa.
11. Sankar Gompa.
12. Stok Palace.
13. The Victory Tower.
14. Zorawar Fort.
15. Magnetic hill
16. Pangong Lake
17. Tsomoriri Lake
18. Khardongla
19. Hunder Valley
20. Alchi Monastery
21. Sand Dunes Nubra
22. Siachen Glacier
23. Ti-suru
24. Turtuk



Leh is connected to the rest of India by two high-altitude roads both of which are subject to
landslides and neither of which are passable in winter when covered by deep snows. The
National Highway 1D from Srinagar via Kargil is generally open longer. The Leh-Manali
Highway can be troublesome due to very high passes and plateaus, and the lower but landslideprone Rohtang Pass near Manali.

National Highway 1D

The overland approach to Ladakh from the Kashmir valley via the 434-km. Srinagar-Leh road
typically remains open for traffic from June to October/November. The most dramatic part of this
road journey is the ascent up the 3,505 m (11,500 ft.) high Zoji-la, a tortuous pass in the Great
Himalayan Wall. The Jammu & Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) operates
regular Deluxe and Ordinary bus services between Srinagar and Leh on this route with an
overnight halt at Kargil. Taxis (cars and jeeps) are also available at Srinagar for the journey.

Leh-Manali Highway

Since 1989, the 473-km Manali-Leh road has been serving as the second land approach to
Ladakh. Open for traffic from June to late October, this high road traverses the upland desert
plateaux of Rupsho whose altitude ranges from 3,660 m to 4,570 m. There are a number of high
passes en route among which the highest one, known as Tanglang La, is sometimes (but
incorrectly) claimed to be the worlds second highest motorable pass at an altitude of 5,325 m.
(17,469 feet). See the article on Khardung La for a discussion of the world's highest motorable


Leh's Leh Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport has flights to Delhi at least daily on Jet Airways
and/or Indian Airlines and/or Air India which also provides twice weekly services to Jammu and
a weekly flight to Srinagar. Connect in Delhi for other destinations. Go Air operates Delhi to Leh
daily flights during peak time.


There are no railways currently in Ladakh, however a railway is proposed. See Bilaspur-MandiLeh Railway for more information.[26]

Media and communications

State-owned All India Radio has a local station in Leh, which transmits various programs of
mass interest.


View of Leh

Leh, capital of Ladakh ca.


The city-square in 1909

See also


Sindhu Darshan Festival



See also



Hill (2009), pp. 200-204.

Francke (1977 edition), pp. 76-78
Francke (1914), pp. 89-90.
Francke (1977 edition), p. 20.
Francke (1977 edition), pp. 120-123.)
Rizvi (1996), pp. 109-111.
Rizvi (1996), p. 64.
Francke (1914), p. 70.
Rizvi (1996), pp. 41, 64, 225-226.
Rizvi (1996), pp. 226-227.
Rizvi (1996), pp. 69, 290.
Francke (1914), p. 68. See also, ibid, p. 45.
Rizvi (1996), p. 212.
Sindhu Darshan Festival
"Tourist Boom Brings Threat to Leh's Tibetan Architecture". AFP. 19 August 2007.
Tripti Lahiri (23 August 2007). "Ethnic Leh Houses Falling Apart". AFP.

Local approaches to harmonising climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction: Lessons
from India, Anshu Sharma, Sahba Chauhan and Sunny Kumar, the Climate and Development
Knowledge Network, 2014
The Journey from Kashmir
Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Leh
Polgreen, Lydia (6 August 2010). "Mudslides Kill 125 in Kashmir". The New York
Times. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
"Leh Climatological Table Period: 19511980". India Meteorological Department.
Retrieved April 11, 2015.
"Leh Climatological Table Period: 19511980". India Meteorological Department.
Retrieved April 11, 2015.
Rizvi (1996), p. 38.
"Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns
(Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16.
Retrieved 2008-11-01.

"How to Reach Leh". The Indian Backpacker. December 2012. Retrieved 2

January 2013.


Janet Rizvi. Ladakh: Crossroads of High Asia. Second Edition. (1996). Oxford
University Press, Delhi. ISBN 0-19-564546-4.

Cunningham, Alexander. (1854). LADK: Physical, Statistical, and Historical with

Notices of the Surrounding Countries. London. Reprint: Sagar Publications (1977).

Francke, A. H. (1977). A History of Ladakh. (Originally published as, A History of

Western Tibet, (1907)). 1977 Edition with critical introduction and annotations by S. S.
Gergan & F. M. Hassnain. Sterling Publishers, New Delhi.

Francke, A. H. (1914). Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Two Volumes. Calcutta. 1972 reprint:
S. Chand, New Delhi.

Hilary Keating (JulyAugust 1993). "The Road to Leh". Saudi Aramco World (Houston,
Texas: Aramco Services Company) 44 (4): 817. ISSN 1530-5821. Retrieved 2009-0629.

Hill, John E. (2009). Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during
the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina.
ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.

Further reading

Lonely Planet: Trekking in the Himalayas (Walking Guides)

External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Leh.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Leh.

Population Figures

City of Leh Thrives as Oasis of Peace in Kashmir

Leh & Ladakh Travel Guide


Leh-Manali Highway

Cities and towns in Leh district

Geography of India


Hill stations in India

Leh district

Tourism in Jammu and Kashmir

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