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 LdawaTsangspa, 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.