Julay!

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 Monks survey the view from the stupa in Leh.

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Little girl from Testa.

Ladakh is contested territory. Lying in the furthermost northern tip of India, dozens of military bases defend the Himalayan region from the interests of Pakistan and China. Life at chest-tightening altitude, with severe winters and blinding UV levels, is a challenge for Ladakhis. But despite these struggles, the region flourishes with a fascinating Buddhist culture. Bustling monasteries sit like birds nests on hill-tops, bright prayer flags are shredded by the wind, and there are stupas and chortans at every turn (make sure you pass to the left).

 And blocked with snow for almost eight months of the year, the remote Zanskar Valley runs through this perilous mountain shadow. With no real road, it’s inhabitants, young and very, very old, must travel by donkey or foot to the nearest town, generally several days walk. You might even see an entire kitchen sideboard being carried from the town of Padum to a village two days away. And although people have to be tough to survive, their welcome is warm. The Budhishat greeting, ‘Julay!’ echoes through this jaw-dropping landscape, a place that is austere, but entirely alive. 

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A resident of Testa village, Zanskar.

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Himalayan mountains seen from Lamayuru monastery.

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 Prayer flags flying at the Phirtse Lah pass, 5,500 metres above sea level.

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Tunduk and his grandpa, near Purney.

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Dance festival at Hemis Monastery. 

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Trainee monk at Phuktar monastery.  

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A junior monk plays at Lamayuru Monastery, Zanskar.

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