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The Neighbourhood

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    The Neighbourhood Project – Old Town Leh    

To document, research, and disseminate the cultural practices of the Old town in Leh with a view to revitalizing the cultural and diverse heritage of Ladakh.

The neighbourhood of Old Town, Leh, in which the LAMO Centre is situated, has enormous significance in the history and current social life of Ladakh. It once constituted the main residential, commercial and public nerve centre of Leh. Prior to the Dogra invasion in the mid-nineteenth century, the royal family occupied the palace and the general public had accommodations of varying sizes and types depending upon their rank in the area below the palace. The area was also home to a bustling marketplace where artisans, craftspeople, producers, traders and vendors set up shop. It was also a hub of cultural and religious life and in its vicinity are located the Namgyal Tsemo monastery, the Jamma Masjid, the royal performing ground, polo ground and Ladakh’s first cinema house. 

In 2008, the Old Town was declared an endangered site and included on the World Monuments Watch List. Several historic buildings located in the Old Town have been demolished to make way for concrete constructions. At the same time, many of the residents have moved out of the area, their houses abandoned and some declining to a state of ruin.  

The residents of the Old Town are from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Besides those that belong to Leh’s Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian households, the neighbourhood’s population is also composed of various migrants who have settled in from other parts of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir as well as seasonal migrants from impoverished regions of the country who have made the Old Town their home.

The Project

Two Research and two Video Biography Fellows are working with LAMO on this project. They are currently mapping the area of the Old Town and its residents. 

They are working on a several projects related to the Old Town:

  1. Residents in Old Town, including migrant labour, craftspeople and those running commercial establishments.
  2. Water – how the residents of the Old Town collect, store and use water
  3. Public Spaces, how these are used and what meaning they have in the lives of the residents of Old Town
  4. Dress and Jewellery, particularly that worn at weddings
  5. Food, the range of cuisines and the influences of the diverse community resident. Including documentation of the local kitchens and utensils.

The Neighbourhood Project is supported by the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Mumbai, and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Jammu & Kashmir.



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