Driving in the west of Leh city towards Leh Srinagar highway following river Indus we can reach at Aryan valley. From Khaltse road leads towards Lamayuru to Kargil but river Indus move towards north west and one can reach at Aryan Valley. Located around 163 km north-west of the town of Leh, the village settlements of Dha and Hanu are placed on the meeting points of Indus and Shyok Rivers in the Kargil region. Cultural Festivals
Famed as the ‘Land of Aryans’, these villages are home to Brokpa or Drokpa community of Ladakh. The Brokpas have made around 5 villages their home but the tourists are permitted to visit only villages- Dha and Hanu. Apart from tourists, these villages are an attraction for anthropologists also.
It is a belief that the residents of these villages were a part of Alexander the Great’s army and came here more than 2000 years ago. Brokpas have a custom of marrying only in their own community and this has helped them in keeping their unique features intact. They are known for their blue-colored eyes, fair complexion and an Ind-Aryan look. But because of the very same reason, their population has also remained limited, around 2000.
The people of Drokpa community look different from the residents of Ladakh and even have their own dressing style. Nickname as ‘Flower women of Ladakh’, the women of the community wear flowers on their hats. Polyandry is also practiced in the community. Also read Ladakh Tourism and Travel Guide
Buddhism is followed in Ladakh but contrary to this, Brokpas are followers of Bon religion and Animism. There sacred animal is Ibex and they are known for preserving their rituals and traditions from ages.
Brokpa villages are also known for their picturesque locations and lush green landscape. Also because of being placed on a lower elevation, Dha and Hanu have higher temperatures than the other Ladakhi regions. The temperature here rises up to 40 degree Celsius and also helps in abundant vegetation. Horticulture is the main occupation of the locals and they grow excellent- quality apples and apricots.
Aryan Valley Cultural Festivals
Here we are discussing about four major Cultural festivals of Aryan Valley.
New Year – The New Year is observed only after winter solstice that’s on 23rd December. An auspicious day is fixed by the village headman to begin the New Year celebration. It lasts for about 10 days. On the 1st day, every household items/utensils have to be cleaned with the mixture of boiled water and juniper. They take the utensils to the stream and wash all them all. They also clean their houses on the 1st day. Fresh butter is also sent to their sisters who had married into other households.
Next two days the people and children gathered at a particular place with a bundle of sticks to throw fire that is called Odphangs. Interestingly it is also common in Baltistan even today and they called it Me-phangs. It is believed that the evil spirits of the departing year is burnt and thrown away into the fire and wishing for a favourable year.
On the 4th and 5th day, Tsesphyag is observed. They bow down before their Sabdag- the household deity and the younger people greet their elders and relatives. Paba with butter is eaten on those days.
On 6th day, every person of age multiple of 12 that is 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 and so on have to gather to a place with a new dress to sing and dance. They have to take tea and butter with them to the dancing place.
On 7th, 8th and 9th-day people gathered at the dancing place to sing New Year folk song. On the 10th day, elderly men perform ibex dances and finally on the 11th day the childer perform ibex dance. This year losar in Dha started from 1st of January and in Garkon it is from 5th January.
Yata – Yata is a grand feast stewarded by a rich man. When a household become rich enough to feed all the people in the village, he organizes a feast for them. A lot of wine, meat, paba and butter etc. are served to them. There is a story behind it. A man called Skit Paljor of Mangza pa household from Garkon become very rich, he had about 1000 sheep and goats.
A group of people got jealous of that and they planned to steal some of his goats to kill and eat. Skit Paljor came to know about their misdeed. He told them not to steal his goats and informed them about the grand feast. He invited them all along with other people. So the people composed a special song in his praise. The translation of the song is as under :-
Brother Skit Paljor what things you don’t have? You have many big goats and sheep to eat. You have the bulk of butter covered in the bags made of sheepskin. Offer to God! May the God may make you more prosperous!
So Skit Paljor organized the feast giving them to eat one sheep and two goats, one big and one small. Even today the Yata is occasionally given by some prosperous family.
Bangri – Bhangri is the festival which is celebrated by a family with the villagers when they blessed with a new baby. All the relatives and friends from far off villages are also invited on the occasion. Apart from these they celebrate marriage ceremonies also.
Marriage Engagement –Marriage engagement is yet another interesting practice of Brokpa people. Parents begin to think even just from the birth of a son about his marriage. So when they see a girl child suited to their son, the father of the son with the maternal uncle and man from their clan (Phaspun) go to the house of the girl with necessary nine items.
The items are one needle, one design cake (Kabtse), five chapattis, one Bre (measuring pot) of barley and one rupee. If the parents of the girl agree with the parents of the boy’s family, an informal agreement is decided among them. Both the families now should abide by the agreement strongly. Defaulters may be prosecuted according their local customary laws. When the children attained the matured age for marriage, then they formally marry with a spectacular ceremony. But nowadays love marriage is common than their past practice.