A quite town now, Kargil once served as important trade and transit centre in the Pan-Asian trade network. Numerous caravans carrying exotic merchandise comprising silk, brocade, carpets, felts, tea, poppy, ivory etc. transited in the town on their way to and from China, Tibet, Yarkand and Kashmir.
The old bazaar displayed a variety of Central Asian and Tibetan commodities even after the cessation of the Central Asian trade in 1949 till these were exhausted about two decades back. Similarly the ancient trade route passing through the township was lined with several caravanserais. Now, travelers of numerous nationalities have replaced traders of the past and Kargil has regained its importance as a centre of travel-related activities. 

History of Kargil

Much of present day Kargil district was once known as Purig. The region called Purig included the areas around Kargil town, the Suru Valley, Shaghar Chiktan, Pashkum, Bodh Kharbu and Mulbek. The 20th century historians Moulvi Hashmat Ullah Khan and Kachu Sikandar Khan have been able to piece together a fairly satisfactory history. They have mostly relied on oral sources and some references contained in Tibetan chronicles of course, ‘Satisfactory’ means sometimes accepting dates accurate to the nearest 1200 years.

Human habitation seems to have been late in coming to this incredibly cold and rugged district perhaps as late as 500-0 BC. Drass, for instance, is the world’s second coldest inhabitants place, after Siberia. The Dards of the various little valleys of Gilgit were perhaps the first to settle here.

The language, customs, racial characteristics and religious practices of the Dards can still be found in some areas like Da-Hanu and Chiktan-Garkun, and to some extent in shanghy-shaghar.

Around the same period handful of people from the Indian plains, too, migrated to Purig. They rapidly assimilated with the Dards. Dastak Paldan and Seergaya Motik led them, around the same time Lama Naropar and Guru Urgyan Padma came from Zanskar. They took seergaya Motik and Dastak Paldan with them to Kashmir.

However, by the eight century AD we have evidence of sophisticated civilization in Kashmir, we have precise details beginning 1184 BC about which kind ruled Kashmir when, and for how many years, months and days. Therefore, even Hashmat Ullah’s 120 BC seems late by a thousands years.

Later, some people migrated to Purig from Leh. Among them were Teesug and Gangasug. They built a fort on the Tolon hill near the Indus. They also founded the Achinathang village. Ruins of that ancient settlement can still be found. This fort was then called the Tolonkhar. It was later taken over by the rulers of Chiktan, who also founded the Stakshan hamlet.

Geography of Kargil

Kargil is a town, which serves as the headquarters of Kargil District of Jammu and Kashmir in. It is located 60km and 204km from Drass and Srinagar to the west respectively, 234km from Leh to the east, 240km from Padum to the southeast and 1047km to Delhi in the south.

Kargil is located at 37.57° N to 76.1° E. It has an average elevation of 3200 meters (10498 feet), along the banks of Suru River.

People in Kargil are of mixed Dard and Tibetan descent. The architecture of older mosques in Kargil combines Tibetan and Iranian styles, while newer mosques architectural styles tend to follow those of modern Iranian and Arabic styles.

Tourist Attractions of Kargil

Kargil is encircled by the Himalayas, lying in the heart of the region. Due to this strategic location, Kargil has an enormous potential for adventure activities. In fact, it is an important start off point for the numerous adventure tours to the Himalayas, along with being the base station to the Zanskar Valley. Suru basin forms another important feature of the landscape of Kargil. The Drass and Wakha streams of Suru River meet here, providing enough water for cultivation of barley, wheat, peas and a number of other vegetables and cereals. However, the specialty of Kargil is the fine apricots grown here. As the fruit ripens, it changes the hue of the valley from serene white to flaming orange.

A popular attraction of Kargil is the archery contest held in the month of May every year. Kargil is quite well known for its delicious dry apricots and the apricot jam. For the shoppers, the town offers Pashmina shawls, local carpets and woolen handicrafts. Apart from its scintillating landscape, Kargil has a number of other attractions to offer to the tourists. One of them is the Buddhist monastery of Mulbek Gompa, situated 45 km from Kargil. It is an architectural beauty with magnificent murals and amazing statues. Other examples of architectural brilliance in Kargil are the Trespone and Sankhoo imambaras.



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