Trans - Himalayan Caravans

Trans - Himalayan Caravans

Product ID: 11283

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Author: Janet Rizvi
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2001
Language: English
Pages: 359
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195658175


This intriguing account of Ladakhi trade is spiced with enough personal details of the traders at all levels, to demonstrate that trade is something more than a matter of routes and commodities, prices and rates of profit; it is an activity carried out by real human beings, profoundly colouring their entire way of life.

This book documents the extraordinarily complex pattern of trade upon which the pre-Independence economy of Ladakh largely depended. At the subsistence level, food-grains grown in the valleys were exchanged with wool and salt from the high-altitude plateaux of Tibet. Ladakh was also the conduit by which the luxury fibre pashm (or cashmere) passed from Tibet’s high-altitude plateaux down to Srinagar, to be worked into Kashmir’s famous shawls. In addition, its capital, Leh, was the halfway stage on the route for the long-distance trade in textiles, carpets, dyestuffs and narcotics between the Punjab and eastern central Asia (Sinkiang), and also the entrepot for trade between central Asia and Lhasa.

Although the trans-Himalayan traffic in subsistence commodities in other parts of the Himalayan has been researched, that in Ladakh has until now remained almost entirely undocumented. The book is based mainly on oral evidence; this is related to documentary sources ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.


Dr Rizvi’s book is a magisterial account of …the legendary silk routes and Ladakh itself that she knows so well. It is a wonderfully evocative book about the trade routes..(and) a brilliant synthesis of the oral histories…with the traditional historian’s concern for objectivity and real analysis. She narrates wonderful life stories.

-Dr Hamida Khuhro, Dawn


List of Illustrations


Introduction: Silk, Spices and Salt: The Trades of Inner Asia

The Routes

The Pashm Trade

The Shamma

Zanskar and the Suru Valley

The Entrepreneurs

The Leh-Lhasa Trade

The Trans-Karakoram Trade: A Long History

The Trans-Karakoram trade Remembered

The Kiraiyakash

The Old Order Changeth

Appendix 1: Weights and Measures

Appendix 2: The Value of the Rupee

Appendix 3: Figures Relating to the Trade in Pashm

Appendix 4: Figures Relating to the Trans-Karakoram Trade

Appendix 5 : Toosh and the Tibetan Antelope



Notes and References