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Sunday, May 15 • 5:00pm - 5:30pm
(Objects + Architecture) Issues and challenges in conservation of living monastic heritage in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh, India

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Ladakh is a high-altitude region in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and is bound by the Karakoram Mountains in the north and the Himalayas in the south and is one of the most sparsely populated regions in India. The entire region of Ladakh is a cold desert with a barren landscape and very limited resources, yet it has been home to a thriving culture for more than a thousand years. Ladakh’s vigorous cultural identity is closely related to its institution of ‘Gompas’ (temples and monasteries). These monasteries are vibrant centres of Buddhism in this trans-Himalayan region and are repositories of rich art and cultural heritage. Besides performing their basic function of propagation of religious and spiritual knowledge, these traditional institutions play a significant role in preserving the cultural heritage of the region. Having been an important crossroads of trans-Asian trade for centuries, Ladakh’s unique cultural heritage reflects upon the profundity of cross-cultural exchanges between Tibetan culture, indigenous traditions and influence from the ancient Buddhist regions of Central Asia. The exquisite wall paintings, Thangka paintings (scroll paintings), manuscripts and other objects of art and craft comprise a very important part of Ladakh’s cultural heritage. The monastic or village community have limited awareness about the value of their cultural heritage and therefore, there is a lack of proper maintenance and care. Rampant, unplanned modernisation and civic development in the recent times pose serious threat to art and cultural heritage in Ladakh. The monasteries were built mostly on hills, isolated from villages to avoid disturbances. However, in last 15-20 years all the monasteries were connected with motorable roads without considering the potential risks involved. In several monasteries traditional architecture have been destroyed and rebuilt or added using modern materials without considering the local climate and other consequences. Climate change is the most recent issue and heavy rains in last few years witnessed damages to wall paintings in the monasteries and village temples due to water seepages from the traditional flat roofs. In the recent times there have been several incidents of art conservators and architects visiting from foreign countries and practicing conservation on extremely valuable painting is ancient monasteries and there is no check on their expertise, experiences and qualifications. This paper aims to highlight some of the major issues and challenges in preservation of monastic heritage in Ladakh and proposes a framework for sustainable conservation interventions to save the invaluable heritage.


Satish C. Pandey

Assistant Professor of Art Conservation, National Museum Institute
Satish Pandey is an art conservator with major interests in heritage science and conservation. His research focuses on decay mechanisms of inorganic materials (environmental, chemical and bio-geochemical processes) and developing sustainable conservation methodologies and approaches... Read More →


Joyoti Roy

Consultant, Outreach Department, National Museum, New Delhi
Joyoti Roy is a consultant in the Outreach Department at the National Museum and is also Director of the Achi Association, India (a not for profit organisation dedicated to conservation of endangered Himalayan heritage). She has a Masters Degree in Art Conservation from the National... Read More →
avatar for Noor Jahan

Noor Jahan

PhD Candidate in Art Conservation, National Museum Institute, New Delhi
Noor Jahan is a PhD candidate in Art Conservation at the National Museum Institute, New Delhi. Her research topic is "Wall paintings in the center of Trans Himalayan Trading routes: A Technical study of wall paintings in Hunder Zimaskhang". Noor is also a freelance art conservator... Read More →

Sunday May 15, 2016 5:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Room 710 B