About The cultural legacy of Goma Kargil Khankh, Ladakh
Sufism had reached Ladakh and its neighboring regions of Central Asia, Kashmir, and Gilgit-Balistan in the 14th Century. This is evident by records that famous preachers such Mir Syed Ali Hamdani RA, Syed Mohammad Noorbaksh, Mir Shamshuddin Iraqi and Syed Tosi had visited these areas in that period. They were followed by hundreds of their students and followers who visited these areas by the 16th Century to preach Sufism.
In Ladakh, the arrival of Islam started from the Sod area with the conversion of the king of Sod, Amrut Cho who was part of the Tha Tha Khan dynasty. Tha Tha Khan had reached Ladakh from Gilgit-Baltistan over Chortbat-la, which is the traditional route between these two regions.
Before the advent of Islam, according to historian Mohammad Sadiq Hardassi, most communities in Kargil practiced Tibetan Buddhism, while some followed an ethnic Dardic belief system. Bonism still has a strong influence on Ladakhi culture.
As people started converting to Islam, preachers constructed Khankhas to preach Islam, pray, and create a sense of community. It is said that Syed Mir Daniyal had built many of these Khankhas during his stay in various locations in the early 17th century. Many of these Khankhas still exist in Kargil even today and continue to play a central role in society. For instance, there are Khankhas in Fikar-Sod and Chiktan. The most famous Khankhas are in Baroo and Goma Kargil, which still enjoy the same social position that they did when they were originally built.
The Baroo Khankha and Goma Kargil Khankha were both built in the same period. It is said that a wall in these two Khankhas were built overnight by a supernatural power. The Khankha in Goma Kargil still maintains its original charm and bears elements of Persian and Tibetan architectural influence. The only modern addition to the structure is a tin roof that has been installed to protect the structure from the elements, especially snow and rain. However, the tin roof does not infringe on the heritage value of the Khankha.
While the importance of the Baroo Khankha is well known, few people outside Kargil are aware of the Goma Kargil Khankha and its importance. Each year, people from across Kargil Town from Shilikchey Dokmo to Changchik Soo assemble at the Goma Kargil Khankha to celebrate Eid-uz-Zuha, They carry a part of the body from the sacrifice made that day as an offering to the Khankha. Once all the offerings are collected, the meat would be distributed equally amongst all the households of Kargil town, while the heads, legs and skin were distributed equally amongst the Syeds of Goma Kargil. This suggests that present-day Kargil town was once a village with different mohallas (neighborhoods), which included Kako Shilikchey, Dass, Adul Gound, Darethang, Lungbithang, Pishu, Aba Groung, Lankore, Thakskangroung, Changchik, Tanmosa, and Goma Kargil.
The Syeds lived in Goma Kargil, which made it an important neighborhood in the village that grew into Kargil town. Since the Goma Kargil was socially important, the Khankha was built in the area to facilitate the spiritual pursuits of believers. It is said that in the past the elders would decide on various social rules and regulations such as water distribution, livestock grazing etc at the Khankha after distributing the offerings for Eid-uz-Zuha. Thus, the Khankha was not only a place of religious worship but also an institution that held society together.
The discussions on water distribution and livestock grazing no longer hold the same importance in Kargili society. However, the Khankha remains extremely popular amongst believers for whom it has a special spiritual significance. People still visit the Khankha regularly to pursue their spiritual aspirations as they negotiate various challenges in their lives.
There is an urgent need to document this historical institution and its physical structure that has witnessed several hundred years of Ladakhi history. The structure needs to be conserved to ensure that it retains its original charm and future generations have a connection with their past. Given its historical, religious, cultural, and architectural significance, there is great potential to tap Goma Kargil Khankha as a tourist and spiritual destination in Kargil town.
Contributed by A. Shotopa, NomadLawyer Volunteer, Kargil.