Achi Association
  • YTP

Pilot Youth Training Program for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Ladakh

Resumé of the Project’s Outcome and Future Plans

There have been three workshops in Dehradun and three summer campaigns in Wanla/Ladakh. In the beginning the group of young Ladakhi men and women consisted of approximately twenty nuns, monks and some university graduates. Sadly it came out during the first workshops that the still very traditional position of nuns in Ladakh makes it very problematic for them to participate at such a program in a mixed group. Unfortunately they all left the project within the first two years.

Out of the original participants has now formed a committed group of six monks, a thangka painter and three university graduates in archaeology, history and teaching.

The high potential of this group has to be seen in different aspects. From the beginning on it was an important goal of the programe to form a group of young people who see their role in society as being multiplicators for the protection of their culture and cultural heritage. The good spirit within the group to have a common goal and their enthusiasm makes is a very promising start to ignite the spark in more people.

Additionally the group's strength is that it includes both monks and laypersons, women and men and different university degrees in relevant fields. This circumstance will help a lot to reach a wide range of society and gives the group the strength to profit of the individual capacities.

Apart from the goal of the group to promote their culture and the importance not to lose the high sophisticated Ladakhi building culture with its extraordinary heritage, some of the group have developed special interests and capacities during the course. Some of the monks during the summer workshops got an introduction to wall painting and sculpture conservation. Three of them are very interested to continue an education in this subject. As they have the religious background, knowledge and devotion, they would not only fill the gap of until now missing young professionals in the field in Ladakh, but would additionally constitute a necessary strong link between the future of Buddhist orders in the region and the extraordinary cultural heritage that produced these orders in history. These monks should be supported to get a good education in heritage conservation.

Instead the three university graduates already through their studies have the necessary skills to approach complex problems and learned during the course to coordinate the work of the whole group. They already developed good qualities in cultural heritage documentation and project management.

Altogether, the group after the third year is ready to take a certain responsibility in cultural heritage affairs and will be capable to give general advice to a community how to approach decisions for their built heritage and for adapted, sustainable, new building. The plan for the future would be to support the group with an "Earthen Heritage Bus“ which tours through the villages of Ladakh, to discuss with the people the advantages of earthen building in combination with new technologies, the future of their extraordinary building culture and the conservation of their historic treasures of earthen architecture. This seems even more urgent after the dramatic incident in August 2010, where the noticeable climatic change culminated in heavy rains and floods which destroyed hundreds of houses and lives. Interestingly, the earth buildings resisted the weather conditions not less than cement buildings, but this must be discussed and propagated. Otherwise there is a big risk that this disaster will lead to an even faster extinction of the earthen building culture in Ladakh.