Situated at 5700 meters above sea level, Zanskar is the world’s highest populated valley. Deep in the western region of the Himalayan Ranges this ancient Kingdom of Zanskar is home to one of the world’s most hidden Muslim peoples. It is generally spoken of as part of India.
Zanskar Valley Lost to the World
Zanskar is one of the most remote regions in the world with no roads or airports. The only routes to Zanskar is by organised walking treks which lead over high and dangerous passes which are only open for certain times of the year. During winter the only access route to Padam is to travel along the frozen Zanskar river where the ice freezes so thick that it becomes a highway known as “the Chador Road”. The best time to travel is between early July and September.
Hidden in this remote region among a strongly Buddhist people are the Muslims of Zanskar. The regions total population of 10,000 people have strong spiritual and cultural links to Tibet.
Padam of the Zanskar Valley
The capital, and largest village, of Zanskar is Padam. Situated on a relatively flat plain along the Zanskar river, Padam is a village of traditional mud and stone houses where yaks roam freely in the market place. There is a school, a small shop, postal and telegraph services. It is in Padam that Zanskar’s Muslims live.
The Muslims of the Zanskar valley are thought to be descendants of men who came with Zorawar Singh from Kishtwar in his expedition to conquer the Ladakh valley and Tibet. As a reward for their loyalty the victorious Zorawar Singh granted his followers land in Zanskar. These early Muslims spoke both Kashmiri and their own native dialect. Known for their sharp wit and aggressive nature they tended to dominate the milder Tibetan people of the region. They married local Tibetan woman who were then forced to convert to Islam. As a result, the Muslim population increased rapidly and now forms a sizeable proportion of the population. Some observers believe that today’s Muslims in Padam have not fully integrated into the local society because of their antagonistic nature.
Praise Report from Zanskar Valley, India
Interestingly, butter is one of the most highly valued items in Zanskar. It is used for fuel for lamps and cooking, as a salve for wounds and is an important dietary fat for the people of this bitter cold region. Tea made with butter and salt is drunk continuously throughout the day. The butter from Yaks has the highest fat content and is preferred. When visiting a home in Zanskar a gift of butter is best!
When we originally prayed for Zanskar in our 30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World in 2001 it seemed that the Muslims of Zanskar were completely untouched by the Gospel. There was no known Christian witness to them. But praise God, a team has been to Zanskar and has shared the Gospel with the people shown them the love of Christ in action. Keep praying!
Prayer for the Muslims in Zanskar, India:
* Pray that the Muslims of Zanskar will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel in a culturally relevant way.
* Ask God to send Christian workers into the Zanskar valley who will be willing to face the physical and spiritual challenges to present Jesus Christ to these hidden people (Isaiah 13:2).
* Let us believe in faith that the world’s highest populated valley will soon sing out praise and worship to the true and living God (Psalm 95:1-4).
Sights and Sounds of Zanskar: Video
About the Photo: Description: Zanskarie women near Phirste-la area, Zanskar. Author Entomolo. The file is under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.