Down the Indus, between Khalatse and the Shayok-Indus confluence, live a people, known as Drok-pa, who are Buddhists by faith, but racially and culturally distinct from the rest of the Ladakhis. Two of the five villages inhabited by them, Dah and Biama are now open to foreign tourists. The route follows the Indus river down from Khalatse, past the villages of Domkhar, Skurbuchan and Achinathang, along a fairly good road.


In the Indus gorge, where these villages are situated, the sun's heat is frequently intense which makes it possible to grow two crops every year in the fields. Fruits such as apricots, apples, walnuts and grapes are grown. Skurbuchan, Domkhar and Achina-thang are attractive villages, with an air of modest prosperity about them. But the special interest of this region is its Drok-pa inhabitants. A minuscule community of perhaps no more than a couple of thousand, their features are pure Indo-Aryan, and they appear to have preserved their racial purity down through centuries. Their culture and religious practices are more akin to the ancient pre-Buddhist animist religion, known as Bon-chos, than to Buddhism as practiced in the rest of Ladakh. One curious feature is their abhorrence of the cow or any of its products. They have preserved their ancient traditions and way of life partly through the celebration of the triennial Bono-na festival, a celebration of the harvest, and partly through their songs and hymns.




                      Villages in Drokpa area                                                      Drokpa ladies in traditional costumes