The Indian Himalayan region of Ladakh shares a common heritage with Tibet since ancient times, though regular contacts have come to a standstill after 1962.
The history of the Ladakhi capital of Leh still remains to be written. The Maitreya temple in the centre of the old town was founded in the 15th century. The nine-storey royal palace built by king Senge Namgyal (c.1570-1642) pre-dates Lhasas Potala by several decades.
|Royal Palace of Leh|
|Located at an altitude of 3050 meters above sea level, Lehs
old town consists of about 200 historic and traditional houses built on
the slope beneath the royal palace. The oldest area was once contained within
city walls built from rammed earth. Gateway stupas still serve as important
entry points. The architecture is entirely comparable to that of Lhasa,
making Leh the best-preserved historic Tibetan city in the world.
Nevertheless, an incoming road has already begun to transform the lowest section of the old town. Lack of water supply, sanitation and transportation facilities in the upper sections have caused people to abandon
| their homes. Several buildings are severely dilapidated.
In 2003, John Harrison suggested that THF take a look at the old town of Leh. THF co-director Andre Alexander conducted a two-month feasibility study, identifying and documenting 100 historic buildings, and compiling a social profile of the occupants. In 2004 he assembled a team of local Ladakhi craftsmen, and provided a training program based on the work experience from Lhasa. He and this team completed a pilot restoration of the 17th century Guru Lhakhang, and work has started on the nearby Norchung residential house.
In 2005, this work is set to expand into a larger urban rehabilitation project. Named the Leh Old City Initiative (LOTI), it will also include a vocational training program.
Copyright, Tibet Heritage Fund