Saturday, November 16, 2013

Buddhist nomads of India (photos)

Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; photographer Dietmar Temps (
Nomadic Buddhist children in Himalayan Ladakh, India (DietmarTemps/
Lamayuru monastery under a full moon, Ladakh, Himalayas (
Changtang in Ladakh (Buddhist India in the Himalayas) is the home of the Changpa nomads, a semi-nomadic Tibetan ethnic group.

When the nomadic children grow older, they are lucky to get the chance to attend school, usually a year-around boarding school. Their parents would welcome the opportunity of a better life afforded by the education.

Although their elders are proud of their traditions, they realize that the new generation will probably not follow the difficult nomadic life once they have an easier option. Childhood education opens up the possibility of a job in the capital of Leh or other cities in Ladakh, the "rooftop of the world."
On the one hand from the viewpoint of a tourist it is, of course, a bit sad that the traditions of the nomadic people might disappear entirely in the future. But it is completely understandable that nomads might also like to participate in the educational system to get a fair share of a growing economy.

On the other hand, there is almost no industry in Ladakh, other than the tourist industry. Many of the youth work in the sprawling tourism business in their early 20s. But the season in Ladakh, perched high in the Himalayas, is very short. The tourism industry cannot offer all of the people good jobs to earn enough money to raise a family.

When I asked young people about their dreams, I often got the answer of dreams of office jobs in public administration. Only a desperate few would consider going into the military, which has a presence in Ladakh as India attempts to fend off China to the north and Pakistan to the west.

Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, northern India
The days when a family's youngest son inevitably started life as a Buddhist novice (samanera) in a local monastery (gompa) are over. These are interesting developments in Ladakh, in general, not only for the nomadic children of Changtang. More

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