Past forward : understanding change in Old Leh Town, Ladakh, North India
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This thesis explores how the history and on-going changes in the region are shaping the social and physical landscape of Leh Old Town, Ladakh in northern India. Historically, Old Town was the capital of the Ladakhi kingdom and an important transit point for caravans on the trans- Himalayan trade. Despite its historical and cultural importance of the area, many houses in the area are now ruined and its physical condition has declined to a ‘slum-like’ state. Further, the town’s development authority is discussing a plan to construct a road through this area to mitigate the town’s worsening traffic. This paper looks beyond the aesthetic and physical appeal of the area and also its heritage value. It attempts to understand the social dynamics and perceptions that represent Old Town today. The study is based on primary qualitative data drawn from different groups and communities that use the area and secondary data drawn from the literature. Through these methods, the study argues that the past is present in the future, for the landscape of Old Town is a result of dynamic political, economic and social processes, which the region has experienced in the past centuries.