Leh is the second largest Indian district area wise. It is situated in Ladakh, one of the three regions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the early days, Leh used to be a stopover on the trade route between India and China. Most of the city is about mountains and lakes. Its climate is like that of a cold desert with the extreme winter season between October and March. The main tourist attraction in Leh is Trekking and the historical palaces, the Japanese and the Tibetans built.
Art and Craft of Leh
Most of the Ladakhi artifacts were imported from other places. The whole region adopted them as a part of its culture. Here are some most popular handicrafts of Ladakh and Leh.
- Metal Crafts
In the early seventeenth century, some metal artisans were brought in from Nepal to construct a large Buddhist Temple in Leh. Since then, most of them stayed back. Their descendants continue to live and make metal artifacts here. They use silver, copper, and brass to carve out exquisite pieces for religious and domestic purposes. They also shape up beautiful teapots, teacups, stands, hookah stands, ladles, bowls, and silver chorten (a mound like shape) for use in temples and shrines. These artists depend on local blacksmiths called garas to make cheaper vessels and pots (for daily use) and agricultural equipment. The garas also make ornamental iron stoves. You can see them in most well to do houses in Leh.
- Woven Cloth Crafts
Another popular art form in Ladakh is hand-spun woolen clothing. Pashmina (a fine variety of Cashmere wool) shawls are a specialty from Srinagar. Weavers in Leh also make them. However, they are not as soft as those from Srinagar are. Similarly, you can buy the Tibetan style of carpets from the Tibetan Refugee Centre in Leh.
- Stick Baskets
Handmade baskets of willow twigs and a particular type of grass, are very common in Ladakh. The locals use these to carry vegetables, fruits, and even babies.
- Wood Carving
Ladakhis use carved pillars and low tables for domestic use. You can spot these in most houses in Leh.
Tangka Painting is another specialty of Ladakhi art forms. The painters mostly use embroidered silk cloth to enhance durability. You can roll the light painted cloth for a convenient storage and portability. The monks mostly use these paintings as a teaching tool. In addition, commoners and monks paint the murals in the gompas (Buddhist temples). These murals describe the various aspects of Buddhism.
Buying Ladakhi Handicrafts
You can buy the artifacts and handicraft items from the District Handicrafts Centre at Leh. The organization trains the locals in traditional art and craft forms to keep the rich Ladakhi art and culture, alive. It even helps to market their products through sale depots and exhibitions. The Centre targets tourists from all parts of the world.