Rulers of Ladakh

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Rulers of Ladakh

Leh Fort

The early history of Ladakh was influenced by its large neighbour Tibet This was fact not only of political events but also true of its religious influences. The Chief Lama of Lhasa played a major role in the day to day existence of the Ladakhi’s. All Buddhists of the region paid him respect and obeyed. The political influence was however nominal. The Ladakh is asserted their independence through out its history. Palayai Gon of the tenth century and the Singee Namagayal during the seventh century were very strong and independent rulers.

The former king had a great liking for women and could lift a horse himself, he had so much strength. The Chinese pilgrim, Fa-Hian who visited India in 400 AD travelled through Ladakh going upto Sarnath. He mentioned in his report that Ladakh was ruled by a king and many Lamas all of whom were strong followers of the Lord Buddha.

In 250 B.C. the great Indian Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhism after the battle of Kalinga. The Ceremony of his embracing Buddhism is still observed by the Buddhists of Ladakh with great pomp and glory. Buddhism has taken firm roots in Ladakh. From the tenth century to the seventeenth century the history of Ladakh is unrecorded and this constitutes a big blank in the recording of development there. Since then many Lamas have taken pains to reconstruct the history once again. The King of Choving, who conquered Ladakh was keen that the historical records be maintained and remade past, records revealed that Ladakhi history saw many invasions. Namgyal who was a great warrior raised his own Army and became the ruler of Ladakh, by ousting those in power and beheading them as was the customary treatment for rulers who lost a battle.

Namgyal was very ambitious and he conquered the neighbouring Kingdoms. Chovang Namgyal amassed a very large fortune as a result of his conquests. He furthered the cause of his religion by eroding many statutes of deities. He died in 1600 and had no children from his queen. Jamya Namgyal, his younger brother succeeded him and ascended the throne of Ladakh. Alimir, the Mir of Skardo, who hated the king of Ladakh, marched upon Leh with a large force and captured it and thereby capture the rest of Ladakh having the capital under his control. He appointed a Governor for Ladakh and marched his forces back to Skardo, on his return Alimir decided to give one of his daughters in marriage to the imprisoned King Namgyal. With this move Alimir made an alliance which turned the hostile relation with Ladakhs in to one of lukewarm friendship. The return of King Jamaya Namgyal was an occasion of much joy to his subjects. The Baltian queen gave two sons to Namgyal and he called them Singee and Norbu. Namgyal however died in great grief because of his inability to complete two remaining temples of Lord Buddha. King Jamya was succeeded by his eldest son Singee to the throne who was very ambitious.

Singee Namgyal was a proud father of the three heirs called Deldam, Indra and Tenchhong respectively.

During his life time, the king divided his Kingdom in to three parts. To his eldest son he gave charge of Ladakh, Purik, Rudok and Mangyaum. His second son was given charge of the District of Guge, to his youngest son he gave charge of Spiti and Zanskar. Singee Namgyal ruled his Kingdom for five decades the Deldan namgyal thus became the King of Ladakh and appointed Shakya Gya-Cho as his prime Minister. Delddan continued his father’s expansions of policy. Meanwhile the Governor of Kashmir plotted with the chiefs of Kharedu and Baltistan to make a surprise attack on the Shakyas forces. The enemy was forced to make an unconditional surrender and Kharchu and Balti were thus annexed to Ladakh. In the summer another bloody battle - ensured between the Ladakhis and the Mongal descendants.

From the records of these times it is clear that war was the order of the day and that Ladakh was not at all immune from invasion from outside.

In 1748 AD, the Kalmak Tartars invaded Ladakh and forcibly occupied its capital of Leh. The Gyalpo escaped to Kashmir and requested military aid from Ibrahim Khan, the Governor of the province under Emperor Aurangzeb whose forces were sent, on the condition that the Raja must embrace Islam. Ibrahim Khan led a force to Leh and after the battle pushed out the Tartars from Ladakh.

Raja Dhian Singh and his brother Gulab Singh were great warriors known as the Jammu Brothers. They were ever ready for battle. They had a powerful lobby in the SikhDurbar at Lahore. The Jammu brothers resolved to do battle and win Lahore and Baltistan for the Sikhs. Gulab Singh conquered Kishtwar and, with this accomplished, the Jammu brothers' power extended all over the hill states between the river Jhelum and River Ravi. Only Kashmir, remained outside their Raj.

Gulab Singh then ordered General Zorawar Singh to conquer Ladakh via the Kishtwar valley. Mehta Basti Ram later became the Governor of the Leh. In April 1836 Zorawar left for Jammu. He also despatched a few hundred soldiers to Balde by the Zanskar Road. On its way this force had to battle with the District chief. However, the Dogras won the battle. In the month of 1840, General Zorawar Singh mobilized an army of 15000 soldiers and a large number of loyal Ladakhis for the conquest of Baltistan. General Zorawar had established for himself the reputation of being unconquerable and his army got ready to attack Skardo. After fighting on the route Zorawar reached Skardo and surrounded the fort and stormed it.

There was little resistance, Ahmed Shah was forced to surrender and Zorawar Singh conquered the whole of Skardo and Baltistan. In place of Ahmed Shah he enthroned Ahmed's eldest son Mohammed Shah. He had to pay Rs. 7000 annual tribute to Maharaja Gulab Singh. On his return journey to Leh Zorawar took with him as prisoners Ahmed Shah and his favourite son. Thus the Homeland of Tonduk Namgyal came under the Dogras. It was sad news for him that Baltistan was annexed to the Dogra dimensions, after the deaths of Tonduk Namgyal his grandson was made a puppet King by General Zorawar.