The Buddhist influence on Ladakh culture started as early as the 7th century. And now, this faith has gained dominance in this entire region. All over Ladakh, you will find ancient Buddhist rock engravings, even in the few areas dominated by Muslims. You will identify Buddhist villages by a distance, as Mani walls customarily mark the approach to these villages. These walls are long chest-high structures with engraved stones opposite them. The stones are inscribed with the mantra in mane paddle hum and by shorten, commemorative cairns, like stone pepper pots.
One of the major highlights of the culture of Leh Ladakh are the
monasteries that you will find in almost every village. They may range
from huge complexes consisting of a number of shrines, prayer halls, etc
to a tiny hermitage housing a single image. The other dominant faith,
that of Islam, finds a presence mainly in the western areas of Ladakh.
The early conversion of the sub-rulers of Drass, Kargil and the Suru
Valley led to the penetration of the Shia sect in Ladakh. In the areas
dominated by the Muslims, you will mainly find mosques, ranging from the
small unpretentious buildings to the huge Imambaras.
Rather than rest of the Indians, the Ladakhis look more like the
residents of Tibet and Central Asia, be it their physique or their
facial features. Even though the original population of Ladakh consisted
of Dards, an Indo-Aryan race, but large-scale immigration from Tibet
changed the cultural heritage of Ladakh. The only people that resemble
the mainland Indians are the Muslims, residing mainly in the Leh area.
Songs and poems for every occasion, as well as local versions of the
Kesar Saga (the Tibetan national epic) also form a part of Ladakh