The Changpas – Nomadic Life in Ladakh

The Changpas – Nomadic Life in Ladakh

The Changpa are semi-nomadic, high altitude (5328 m) Tibetan pastoralists found mainly in the Changtang region of Ladakh. Changpa means “northerners” in Tibetan. Unlike many other nomadic groups the Changpa are not under any pressure from settled farmers because the vast majority of land is too inhospitable for farming.

These nomads raise mainly yaks and goats. Pashmina goats grow a thick, warm fleece and are able to survive the winter where the temperatures can go as low as minus 35 degrees C. These goats provide the wool for the famous Pashmina shawls. Rice, grain and other basics are bought in trade.

Usually the nomads stay in one place for three to four months. They set up their tents, which are surprisingly cozy, and always have a Buddhist altar. The permanent stone walls give shelter to their livestock. Young goats are kept underground for warmth and to keep them safe.

Most nomad children usually go to boarding school. The parents seem happy with this education because they believe their children can have a better life. The older Changpas are proud of their traditions but realize that the new generations may not follow in their footsteps.

It is quite a drive to get to this part of Ladakh but well worth the long trip. Lake Tsomoriri was still frozen in early May. You need to be very well prepared to visit this area. Even in spring and summer you need a warm sleeping bag!

When I was there it was down to -25 degrees C at night. I was cold but also very happy I had this opportunity to visit with these amazing people.

Changpa woman with goatge-2853″ />

Changpa man

Changpa man in tent

Changpa with goat

Changpa kid

Changpa goats

Changpa goat herd

Changpa with goats

Changpa with goats

Changpa woman milking goat

Changpa girl in pink jacket

Changpa child

Changpa kid in bag

Changpa kid looking up

The Changpa are semi-nomadic, high altitude (5328 m) Tibetan pastoralists found mainly in the Changtang region of Ladakh. Changpa means “northerners” in Tibetan. Unlike many other nomadic groups the Changpa are not under any pressure from settled farmers because the vast majority of land is too inhospitable for farming.

These nomads raise mainly yaks and goats. Pashmina goats grow a thick, warm fleece and are able to survive the winter where the temperatures can go as low as minus 35 degrees C. These goats provide the wool for the famous Pashmina shawls. Rice, grain and other basics are bought in trade.

Usually the nomads stay in one place for three to four months. They set up their tents, which are surprisingly cozy, and always have a Buddhist altar. The permanent stone walls give shelter to their livestock. Young goats are kept underground for warmth and to keep them safe.

Most nomad children usually go to boarding school. The parents seem happy with this education because they believe their children can have a better life. The older Changpas are proud of their traditions but realize that the new generations may not follow in their footsteps.

It is quite a drive to get to this part of Ladakh but well worth the long trip. Lake Tsomoriri was still frozen in early May. You need to be very well prepared to visit this area. Even in spring and summer you need a warm sleeping bag!

When I was there it was down to -25 degrees C at night. I was cold but also very happy I had this opportunity to visit with these amazing people.

11 comments

  1. That is Godforsaken country. So harsh and yet the Nomads find a way to survive.
    Your photos capture the essence of their existence.
    Where do they get the dyes for the pashmina wool. I wonder if they knit.

  2. You take us around our beautiful world to places we wouldn’t normally visit, thank you! And your photographs capture life as it is xo

  3. Beautiful pictures of a very different lifestyle. I admire there strength and the fact they realize their children may not want to live that same way, and they know how important education is.
    Thanks for exposing us to this part of the world!

  4. Thank you for sharing this part of the world, that few of us would have visited. This is the great gift that talented photographers such as yourself give to all, the opportunity to see and learn of such faraway people and places. Beautiful work.

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