Light-eyed, tall and strong jawed people with aristocratic noses, the Aryans have long been a source of much fascination and study for people in India and around the world.

‘Aryan’, a term for racial grouping was used to describe people of European and Western Asian heritage. They spread out across west and central Asia and some tribes came down from the Northwest and settled in the sub-continent. Over time, they assimilated and become part of the indigenous populace.

Land of Aryans

A group of villages in Ladakh is said to be home to direct descendants of the Aryans. In these five villages reside the fascinating tribes of Brokpas and Drokpas. Dha and Hanu are the only two villages of this tribe accessible to tourists. Renowned as ‘the Land of Aryans’, Dha and Hanu are located about 163 km northwest of Leh, in Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Who are they?

The most widely propagated theory about the origins of Drokpas and Brokpas is that their ancestors were soldiers from Alexander’s army who had lost their way while returning to Greece. Another, much less romantic, but likely to be more accurate is that they descended from the Dards, an Aryan tribe that moved into western Ladakh, centuries ago from the Hindukush Mountains, settling in Dha-Hanu, the only fertile valley in Ladakh.

Lifestyle of people at Dha-Hanu

The weather here is much warmer than surrounding areas making it green, unlike other parts of Ladakh. The locals lead a frugal lifestyle and the community mainly thrives on horticulture. Fruits like apricot and apples are the main crops. Dha apricots are renowned for their sweetness. Villagers use apricot stones to extract oil.

Brokpas and Drokpas are different, culturally and ethnically from the indigenous Ladahki people. They are predominantly Caucasoid, which is in contrast to the Tibeto-Burman inhabitants of Ladakh. They follow Buddhism, however animist and Bön rituals too are prevalent among them.

Colorful Attire 

Besides the Aryan features, what differentiates the people of Dha Hanu from the rest of Ladakh region is their attire. They wear uniquely styled traditional clothes and adorn themselves with heavy jewelry. Their elaborate head dress is decorated with colorful plastic flowers. Their fascinating dressing acts as an identifier of their place and community.

Don’t forget to visit the land of these fascinating people when you are in Ladakh next.


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