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Ladakh’s Dard Aryans struggle to preserve cultural legacy

PTI New Delhi | Updated on January 21, 2019 Published on January 20, 2019

The rich heritage of the Dard Aryans — believed to be the original descendants of ‘pure Aryan race’ — is under threat due to rapid modernisation, migration and religious conversion, said experts

A tribe of Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region known for its liberal customs and ornate costumes is struggling to keep its vibrant cultural legacy alive and has requested the Central government to make serious interventions.

The rich heritage of the Dard Aryans — believed to be the original descendants of ‘pure Aryan race’ — is under threat due to rapid modernisation, migration and religious conversion, said experts.

The Dard Aryans inhabit Dha, Hanu, Beema, Darchik and Garkone villages in Leh and Kargil districts. The villages are together called the Aryan valley. The people of this region have unique physical features, social life, ethnic culture and language. Many researchers believe that the ‘Aryans of Ladakh’ or the ‘Brokpas’ were a part of Alexander’s army and had come to the region over 2,000 years ago, said an official of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).

Depleting numbers

The tribe is considered “threatened” due to their depleting numbers, which, at present, is around 4,000. They are mainly dependent on agriculture and are “educationally and economically backward”, he said.

Virendra Bangroo, an IGNCA scholar who has conducted extensive research on the tribe, said that ‘Dard’ is derived from a Sanskrit word, ‘Daradas’, which refers to people who live on hillsides. “The community prohibits marriage with outsiders to keep the gene pool intact. The Dard men have been migrating to other parts of the region (in search of livelihood) and marrying outside the tribe,” he said.

The community members claim there are only three high schools in their villages and very limited resources of livelihood — mainly because of the harsh weather and difficult terrain.

As such, they have no option but to migrate to cities for higher education and employment.

The members said the government should set up a tribal hostel in the region and declare the Aryan valley a heritage village to boost tourism.

A delegation of the Dard Aryans also submitted a charter of demands to Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Sudarshan Bhagat on Friday.

Published on January 20, 2019
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