Protection, Development and Education of Traditional Tibetan Medicine Plants in the Himalayas

One of the primary aims of the foundation is to strengthen and promote traditional healers found in every village in Ladakh and their invaluable knowledge on herbal plants. This programme will now be continued in Ladakh and gradually expended in other parts of the Himalayas.

The traditional healers of the region, who follow the Tibetan systems of medicine, are the key repositories of knowledge related to medicinal plants and their use. Fortunately, still there are many traditional healers, especially in the villages but the younger generation fail to receive their knowledge as with the introduction of western medicines and practitioners, people started to overlook the traditional healers. Realizing the importance of preserving and promoting the invaluable knowledge of traditional healers HCHF has proposed to undertake a project to document the knowledge of traditional healers in villages of Himalayas.  This project will help to revitalize the traditional system of medicine with more healers returning to the practice of traditional medicine and a revival of faith in the system among the patients/clients as well.

Training Workshop on Restoration and Preservation of Buddhist Stupas in Ladakh

There is a large number of monasteries and temples in Ladakh, housing varied types of Buddhist Heritage materials, like wall-paintings, wooden carvings, thangka paintings, manuscripts, metal images, textiles, paper drawings, block prints and so on. Besides these the landscape of Ladakh is dotted with symbols of their Buddhist heritage and the chortens (stupas) is characteristic to the region.

Stupas in Ladakh are religious structures venerated by Buddhists, and many of them said to have house corporal remains of high Lamas or mark an important place associated with the religion. Due to time factors and modernizations the ancient stupas were neglected and started to decay.

For various reasons, most of the stupas in the villages built by the ancestors are deteriorating and are in various stages of preservation. Some of them may still be in good condition, but a good number of them have well past the stage of recovery and rehabilitation. According to our observation, one of the main reasons of damage to stupas is lack of knowledge on the part of local people, about the possibilities of conservation. Time factor and climate change are some other reasons for deterioration of stupas in Ladakh. At the same time there is only couple of Chorten experts found in whole Ladakh. Hence it is very much felt that more masons/trainees from different parts of Ladakh need to be trained and more awareness campaign be organized. It is not understood by people that a little attention towards maintenance of art heritage may save it from later destruction. Much of it can be saved, by taking certain conservation steps. Obviously there is an urgent need of providing training to all those who are interested in saving stupas in Ladakh and other parts of Himalaya.

Keeping in mind the social conditions and the countless number of stupas present in the region, there is a requirement of a very specific kind of conservation training. First and foremost it must be understood that any long term effect on the region is only possible through good training of the local people. A large number of outside agencies come and work in Ladakh, which often leads to non uniform approaches in conservation. It is therefore important to train the locals well so that they are in a position to carry the concern for their heritage forward and do so by being technically adept at conservation.

Almost all the stupas in the region are living, and under worship.  The Buddhist devotees worship and circumambulate the stupas as an act of merit but give very little attention on maintenance. The climate change is another factor, that can not be stopped totally, although but their effect can be minimized.  These are some of the elements that need to be incorporated in a training programme in Ladakh. At present there is not conservation centre in Ladakh region. In order to make the effect of training sustainable, it would be desirable to set up a conservation centre, possibly in Leh.

Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF) initiated series of training workshops for local masons on Stupa restoration and conservation in Ladakh and is proud to announce that some masons have been trained and have started to restore old stupas in their own areas. However, they still need more professional training and deep insight of Buddhist texts. HCHF would be grateful if any individual/company/organization wish to contribute to support our initiative, especially for restoration and conservation of important and historical stupas in Ladakh.

My Culture, My Heritage

My Culture-My Heritage is a project designed for young people that will study culture and heritage through talks, visits to heritage sites, discussions, documentary films, interviews, writing competitions and other activities. Under this project the youth will have chance to write and express their views and concern about their culture and heritage. Their works and researches will be published in the heritage magazine “Heritage Himalaya”. We propose to conduct many different workshops and take them to places of interest during holidays. During these field trips, young people will lead interviews with the public in different areas of Ladakh about their culture and heritage. At the same time they will be taught to do video and photo documentations.

These field researches will encourage young people to learn about their culture and heritage from their elders. Under the project  they will also have chance to express what they already know about their culture and heritage and more importantly it will persuade them to work for safeguarding them.

We hope active participation of youths in this exciting project and also advice and support from individual, organizations and well-wishers.

Rock Art Unit

HCHF is pleased to announce the establishment of an autonomous “Rock Art Unit (RAU) under the aegis of HCHF, to bring focussed attention to the Research, Conservation and Documentation of this precious cultural heritage in Ladakh. The Convenor of the RAU, Mr. Tash LdawaThsangspa, who is based in Leh, is the local pioneer of Rock Art research, and he is assisted by the Co-Convenor, Mr. Viraf Mehta, a Delhi-based social anthropologist who has been documenting the rock art of Ladakh since 2009. Both Tashi and Viraf bring invaluable field experience and a rich database of the rock art of Ladakh through their own personal efforts, and through their contacts with other scholars, researchers from across the world.

 Most visitors to Ladakh are unaware of the richness and uniqueness of rock art of Ladakh-a living tradition from prehistoric to historic and modern times. Rock Art in Ladakh comprise carvings or incisions on rock surfaces that are called petroglyphs (there are very few instances of painting or pictographs having been made or survived the harsh climate) which display a very wide range of themes and motifs, and provide us with crucial information about Ladakh’s prehistory, where otherwise very little is yet known.

The rock art of Ladakh, whilst concentrated around the Indus River and its tributaries, is represented in all parts of Ladakh and Kargil districts, including Zanskar, Changthang and Nubra. However, the Rock art of Ladakh at several locations are under severe risk of damage and outright destruction though road, housing and other development projects, and we are confident that the establishment of the RAU will play a key role with other interested organisations, to create local community level awareness and ownership of this precious cultural heritage.

 Recently, His Holiness XIVth Dalai Lama, provided a personal handwritten appeal to all to help preserve the rock art heritage of Ladakh, for which we are deeply grateful.

About Author: Stanzin Choron