Brokpa Tribe in Ladakh, India

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In April 2022, I traveled to the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh in India to document the lives of the Brokpa tribe. The Brokpa tribe trace their ancestry to the soldiers in the army of the Macedonian king, Alexander the Great, around 2000 years ago. They were a fairly isolated tribe until recently.

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They inhabit a few villages along the river, Indus, from which India gets her anglicized name.

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The Brokpa women wear their hair in 14 braids, four each on either side and six at the back. This lady told me when she was young, they had to comb their hair everyday and plait it. They never cut their hair. But now things have changed. She said earlier, rajma (kidney beans) and corn and other seeds were used as part of their attire. The silver used to come from Skardu, now in Pakistan. The traders would exchange salt in exchange for silver.

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Two young Brokpa girls. They look like walking floral bouquets. So amazing. I noticed that the Brokpa attire is a celebration of all things sourced from earth. There is silver, pearls, coral, flowers, turquoise, sea shells, goat leather, coins, seeds, wool, etc. 14th April was the Apricot blossom festival and villagers had come in their traditional attire. It was a bonus for me. It was a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes. There was dance and music too and I sketched in a frenzy to capture as much as I could.

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The head gear of the Brokpa women has bright orange flowers called Montu-tho, wild flowers, silver, beads, turquoise, coins and colourful threads.

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The Brokpa follow a religion which is an amalgamation of Animism and Buddhism.

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The Brokpa houses used to be made of mud with stone as the foundation.

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This is probably the only community where men too wear flowers on their heads. This is a sketch of Brokpa men playing musical instruments.


Priya Krishnan Das

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