The ongoing spring season in Ladakh brought the residents of various regions of the cold desert area an opportunity to showcase their rich culture and tradition for the tourists from across the globe.
While everything in the region is decked up to attract tourists, nothing beats apricot. Apricot blossoms are a feast for the eyes. Pictures of the bloom are flooding social media these days.
Against the backdrop of the dark brown mountains and deep blue sky, the pink and whitish flowers blooming on the apricot trees look amazing. In a few days these flowers will transform into high quality yellow and orange fruit to be harvested and sold around the world.
To promote it as an event to increase footfall of tourists, the Apricot blossom is being celebrated by various departments of the Union Territory (UT) on the lines of the Cherry Blossom festival of Japan.
Events linked with display of local culture are being held across Ladakh including Turtuk that till the 1971 war was part of the Gilgit-Baltistan area that is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan, Tyakshi, Dha and Biama in the Leh district and Garkhone, Darchik, Sanjak, Hardass and Karkichoo in the Kargil district.
The blossom is celebrated in the Dha village where tourists get the opportunity to witness the culture of the extinct Aryan race. The community lives in the Dha and Hanu villages and their population has dwindled to about 2,000. The Drokpa or Brokpa community is racially and culturally distinct from the common Ladakhis. The community has a unique sense of dressing. Especially women make it a practice to wear flowers on their hats.
Lt. Governor of Ladakh Brigadier BD Mishra (Retd) and his wife Neelam Mishra in the past few days participated in the apricot blossom festivals organised in various villages of the Kargil district. The LG assured of all possible assistance in seeking Geographical Indication (GI) certification for the Halman Apricot, the best quality fruit of Kargil, from the Government of India.
The LG attended the festival organised by the tourism department in the Chanigund and Tamachik villages of Kargil district. He highlighted the issue of climate change and global warming resulting in scarcity of water. He emphasised the need to keep sources of water clean.
The LG also emphasised the need for the plantation of saplings by every individual to increase the green cover in Ladakh.
It is worth mentioning here that Ladakh is home to the Halman variety of apricot in the Kargil district, while the sweetest Raktsey Karpo variety is liked in the Leh district. Almost every household in Ladakh has apricot trees in their yard. The fruit is generally sun-dried or turned into jam or simple desserts. Apricot has over the years played a vital role in the economy of Ladakh. The high quality apricot of the cold desert region is considered superior to the produce of other places. Ladakhis generally sun dry their apricots instead of mechanical methods.
Some enterprising Ladakhis are earning money not only by selling their produce but have also introduced apricot village home stay for tourists who have the feel about the traditions and culture of the local communities.
It is believed that apricot, known locally as Chulli, was introduced in Ladakh over a century ago by Chinese traders passing through the Silk Route.