The seventeenth century was an equally critical and transitional period in the political history of India, Central Asia, Tibet and China. The north-western Himalayan mountains, which formed natural barriers and vital points of trading contact between Mughal India, Central Asia and Tibet, were not immune to political transformations transpiring on either side of the Himalayan border. Ethnically and linguistically diverse polities are known to have formed around these frontier zones from the earliest times, flourishing along ancient and vital commercial passageways that linked subcontinental trade with transcontinental commercial networks, known as the Silk Routes. Increased economic interests and mercantile investments brought with them military and missionary missions turning these Himalayan border-regions into contested areas claimed, at different times, by new centres of political and religious authority. It is reported that the flow of internationally traded commodities included: livestock (sheep, yak, horses, ponies), fine items (Tibetan gold and musk, silver, turquoises from Persia, coral, different qualities of silk, yak-tails), medicinal substances (opium, cannabis), consumables (China tea, grains, herbs, fruits, saffron, raisins; pistachio nuts, salt from Chang-thang), wool, different kinds of leather, sulphur, borax from the Hundes lakes, colours and dyes, clothes, velvets, carpets from Khotan, women from Kashmir, weapons, and so forth.

In the later half of the seventeenth century, disputes between regional and national authority, religious conflicts, and between Lhasa and Leh escalated in the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War of 1679-1684. Interlocked in a game of overlapping power and profit, the Tibetan and Mughal Empires, the Kingdoms of Ladakh and Baltistan, and the Principalities of Bashahr and Kulu engaged in armed conflict over the shape, legitimacy, and organization of new territorial rights in the region. Some clues as to the principal agents for this War may be found in two signed after-war treatises: the Ladakh-Mughal Treaty (1683) and the Ladakh-Tibet Treaty (1684); as well as, in an clandestine agreement for mutual help dated sometime in 1679 between King Kehari Singh of Bashahr and the chief Military commander of Tibet and Jungar prince of the Hongtaiji family, Dga’ ldan tshe dbang dpal bzang.

At the aftermath of the war and the ensuing treatises new territorial arrangements included: the Muslim kingdom of Baltistan, conquered by Ladakh ten years before, was restored to their old sovereigns, the Mughals; Upper Kinnaur returned to the administration of Rājā Kehari Singh of the Hindu principality of Bashahr, as a tribute for assisting the Tibetans and honouring age-old safe trading passage; the Rājā Bidhhi of Kulu, a rival Hindu neighbour to the sovereign of Bashahr, usurped Upper Lahul; and the territories of mNga’-ris sKor-gsum (western Tibet) fell under the taxation and jurisdiction of the Central Tibetan Government in Lhasa. New commercial arrangements postulated that: wool trading benefits were to be granted exclusively to the Kashmiris with the Ladakhis acting as intermediaries in the lucrative wool sale between Chang-thang (north-western Tibet) and Kashmir and receiving exclusive rights to the fine wool produced in Ru-thogs (western Tibet); and trading and diplomatic missions to be fostered between Leh and Lhasa through the Lapchak missions. As a consequence of pleading for the assistance of the Mughals during the war, bDe legs rnam rgyal, the rgyal-po of Ladakh, had to accept Islam, at least nominally under the name of Aqabut Mahmud and issue coins in the name of Aurangzeb, the Moghul Emperor.


Background - Fieldwork

Rampur - Sarahan - Namgya - Nako - Rekong Peo - Leh

Basgo - Langza - Kyi - Gomik

Alchi - Thakri - Hemis - Brag Thog


In an effort to map the field, collect data, and initiate new avenues of interdisciplinary research, Dr Georgios Halkias embarked on two fieldwork assignments in North-west India and Nepal. Original material were collected during his visits at the National Archives in Delhi and Kathmandu, at important historical/religious sites, and along the ancient subcontinental trading routes connecting Shimla, Rampur, Sarahan, Sangla, Kamru, Rekong Peo, Namgya, Nako, Spiti, Lahaul and Ladakh.

Sunni Mosque, Leh

First Assignment (July-August 2007)

Synopsis of select findings:

Intensive research was conducted in the town of Rampur-Bashahr, Himachal Pradesh, India. On-site investigation focused on locating a unique set of Tibetan-style murals painted at the Shish Mahal Palace to commemorate a clandestine military alliance that transpired during the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war, 1679-1684.  The seventeenth-century murals were meant to celebrate a trading treaty that ensued at the aftermath of the war .

Second Assignment (June-August 2008)

Synopsis of select findings:

During this expedition Kanjurs and Tengyurs were discovered that date to the reign of Senge Namgyal (early 17th century) or his father, Jamyang Namgyal. Ladakhi Kangyurs were produced locally likely during the times of a religious and artistic renaissance initiated by Senge Namgyal and his ‘tiger-priest’, Stag-tsang ras-chen. With the exception of the Stog and Shey Kanjurs (‘palace Kanjurs’) there are exist a number of extraordinary Kanjurs at the disposal of Brugpa and Drikung Kagyu monastic establishments in Ladakh: namely at Bas-(m)go, Phyang, lCe-bde, and He-mis. All of them are skilfully hand-written, with the exception of the Hemis Kanjur which is a block-print edition, 101 volumes. The latter is said to have been brought from Tibet, possibly Tholing, sometime in the seventeenth century.

Data collected during these assignments are being deposited in the SAS E-repository. The material is catalogued according to region covering subjects of historical, religious and/or cultural importance in Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul and Ladakh. For further information contact Dr Georgios Halkias.


Reception Hall at the Shish Mahal:
Palace Compound at the Shish Mahal:
Devtā Procession:
Images from the town of Rampur:


Hanuman Temple in Bimakali Temple Courtyard:
Bimakali Temple Museum:
Entrance Gates to the Bimakali Temple Complex:
Small Bimakali Temple, Bimakali Temple Complex:
Inside the Bimakali temple Complex:


The Last Trading Post in Kinnaur.
Namgya Village and the caravan route to Tibet:


Nako Temple Complex:


Snake Charmers at Rekong Peo:
Tibetan Buddhist temples in Rekong Peo:


Islamic Reception held in honour of HH 14th Dalai Lama. Leh, Ladakh, August 11th, 2007


Lossar Rural Museum, Collections Part I:
Lossar Rural Museum, Collections Part II:
Lossar Rural Museum, Collections Part III:

For a complete list of material available follow the link below to examine the documents now kept in the SAS E-repository:


Chamchung Lhakang:

Chamba Lhakang:

Serzang Lhakang:

Basgo Village:

Basgo Fort:

On the way to Basgo Fort:

Basgo Kanjurs:


Langza, Spiti:


Kyi Monastery:


Gomik - New Monastery, Spiti:

Gomik - Old monastery, Spiti:


Alchi stupas:

THAKRI DOCUMENTS Documents in Thakri on Bashahr: HEMIS Hemis Festival: BRAG THOG Brag thog monastery: