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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Kangsing Team: Journey Of Young Artists From LADAKH

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The Kangsing team

SalamatRaho presents to you the story of a group of silent heroes from Ladakh –

Kangsing means the Snow Lion which is a celestial animal of Himalayan region, representing the snowy mountain ranges and glaciers of Himalaya. It also symbolizes power and strength, fearlessness and joy, east and the earth element. It is as exotic and mystical as Ladakh.

The Kangsing team

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About Ladakh

A cold desert, on top of the world in the Himalayan mountain, one of the most fascinating places on earth. Everywhere you turn your eyes, you see enigmatic beauty.

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Advent Of Tourism In Ladakh

Ladakh usually remained as an exotic location in some fantasy land, unapproachable, unexplored, magical. When Ladakh was first opened to tourism in 1974, a total of 527 people visited. Of them, 500 were foreign tourists, 27 domestics. But then slowly over the past two decades, due to social media, exposure and promotions etc, Ladakh has become popular in the Indian travel industry as a sought after destination.

Inside Ladakh too, tourism has become one of the main sources of revenue. The moon-like desert terrain continues to be a magical destination for adventure seekers, admirers of Buddhism and phenomenal mountain vistas.

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Impact Of Climate Change In Ladakh

Due to its altitude, location and various climatic conditions, Ladakh has always remained as a tough terrain. The safety and self-sufficiency of the region is determined entirely by climatic conditions. Impact of climate change has been dramatic due to global warming.

Summer months are short and most of the year, it is cold, chilly and frozen. During the winter months, due to heavy snowfall, there is not much activity in Ladakh. There is no tourism and no income for thousands.

The Journey Of Local In Shaping Ladakh’s Future

There are many artists, sculptures, painters and creative people who wanted to put their skill and talent to use, to change the landscape of winter tourism.

 Who wants to bring about a change and direct the youth towards progress.

Who are aware of the issues and want to help find a solution.

These are the crusaders who believe in solving their own problems instead of waiting for help to come from outside.

The Inception Of The Kangsing team

In 2017, a group of nine passionate artists from different parts of Ladakh came together to form this society, to bring the work of these artists to the forefront and take Ladakh tourism to a different height. Each artist and sculpture has his own style and form of interpretation.

Their work goes beyond the traditional viewing of sculptures, paying greater attention to psychological realism than to physical realism and their knowledge & appreciation of art surpassed that of religion. They are the first generation of artists who are valuing the idea or concept behind a work of art over the actual object, taking a more hands-off approach in their work and creating drawings and designs for art works to convey a strong message across the mass.

Snow is a resource which is in abundance in Ladakh. These artists decided to use snow and ice to create such marvelous pieces of art which will attract tourist, national and international forums alike. Artificial glaciers and Ice stupas were being constructed anyway by scientists and inventors, bringing in a revolution in agriculture and solving water problems. These young artists were highly attracted to use these huge gigantic ice stupas to turn them into works of art.

Kangsing Team In International Events

Kangsing team has participated in many international events and represented India, such as:

1. Kiruna International Snow Festival, Sweden in 2018

2. Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, China in 2019

After returning from Harbin Ice festival, they attempted to create snow sculptures at Main Market, Leh in 2019 & 2021 and during Zanskar Festival 2021 as well which attracted a huge public response.

Sculpture has been used as a form of human expression since prehistoric times. Traditional sculptures in Ladakh are mainly related to religious life only. But now, times are changing and this art form is becoming more contemporary and acceptable.

In 2018, a team of three young Ladakhi artists, Tsering Gurmet, Chemet Dorjay and Stanzin Khangsar—sculpted a 10-feet-high Changchup Chorten (symbolising the Buddha’s moment of enlightenment) out of ice.

However, there is one question which continues to nag observers. Why invest so much love and labour into a structure that you know will melt away in the future? As argued earlier, this structure is steeped in Buddhist symbolism. The ice Chorten is the perfect embodiment of impermanence—that nothing lasts forever. In times of crisis, those with a spark of ingenuity find innovative solutions, and with this Ice Chorten, these three artists may have potentially paved the way for the future.

These artists were highly influenced by Ice festivals in other countries like Sweden, Canada, Mongolia, China, and this was how the idea of holding an Ice and Snow Festival in Ladakh came about.

This would increase Winter tourism in Ladakh, generate revenue and provide employment to many, who otherwise have zero activity during these months and go astray, especially the youth.

Organizing such a large scale festival required heavy budgets and sanctions. Ice cutting machines and equipment had to be purchased. Proposals for funding and sponsorships had to be sent. The team committed themselves to take this initiative forward.

The Kangsing Team comprised of Stanzin Nurboo, Tashi Namgyal, Stanzin Wangyal, Tsering Gyurmet ,Stanzin Motup ,Tundup Dorjay ,Chemet Dorjay ,Sonam Gyaltson, Skalzang Otsal ,Jamyang Namgyal,Stanzin Norgais, Skalzang Olden,Tsering Youdol, Stanzin Samphel, Phuntsog Namgyal and Urgain Zawa.

They were supported by highly dedicated non artists like Dr.Nordan Otzer, Stanzin Chonjor Dawa and Tashi Wangtak to take their association forward.

Conversation With Dr Nordan

During my conversation with Dr Nordan, I learnt that this journey was not easy at all. Initially, they did not get much support from local government authorities as believing in such a huge dream was not forthcoming. They needed some funds to start and that is when Ladakh police, with support from the Additional Director General Of Police, Mr.Satish Khandare, came to their rescue. They gave them a grant of 5 lakhs to purchase the machines etc. The police also wanted to encourage the youth to focus on constructive work and remain active and occupied during peak winter months.

The challenges were unlimited. The snow making machines were required for designing such a large festival park and to make standardized snow sculptures. It cost over 26 lakhs. Usually these machines are used to make artificial snow parks or ski resorts in city malls etc. The Kangsing team contacted Mr.Indrajeet Kakade and Mr. Murugan from the Technofrost company to provide support.

They invited him to visit Ladakh and see their work. Mr. Murugan was highly moved and understood their requirements and actually customized the machine for 7 lakhs. A real Godsend. It is a huge 800 kg monster which was sent through army flights to Ladakh, as roads were blocked due to snow. This machine is used for production of snow by forcing water and pressurized air and can also be used for other purposes like Water conservation projects, Preparing Artificial ski resort, Indoor Ski slopes.


Once the team had announced to organize the Ice festival, it was an uphill task completing it. The 300 kgs ice cutting machine was a mandatory requirement which arrived but unfortunately didn’t’t give the required results due to operational glitches.

These artists had committed to have the Ice festival on a small scale this year due to covid pressures and shortage of funds. Without machines, it was an impossible task. Yet they stayed in tents near the Zanskar river in nearly -20 degrees temperature, cut blocks of ice with normal chisels and saws and transported them in trucks to the ice festival site to make sculptures.

This is what is called pure passion and dedication. They were not paid any remuneration or fees for their hard work, yet, nothing stopped them. They did all this work completely voluntarily. All for their Ladakh. Truly heroic. Past two months, these artists have been toiling hard to get the Ice festival site ready for tourists and locals.

They tried to raise funds to complete this project and especially Dr. Nordan, who is an ENT surgeon by profession and a social activist, provided great moral and financial support.

These artists wanted to show their art and skill to the world through this festival and also gain recognition and respect for their culture and people.

Hard work paid off and finally the D day has arrived when the pride of Ladakh, the Ice and Snow festival will be opened to the public.

Third-Pole Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival will be organized between 11th of February to 28th of February on the bank of Zanskar river in Chilling as a part of 75th Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, an initiative by Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of progressive India and the glorious history of it people, culture and achievement.

A month-long festival will showcase the skills and talent of local sculptors and artist featuring towering ice and snow structures beside many activities such as Ice hotels, Ice and Snow film show, Ice hockey, Ice football, sledging on frozen river, snowmen on display on froze ice, photo exhibition, calligraphy display, folk song and dance performance, expert talk on climate changes etc.

It is the first of its kind in India and Himalayan region. Art work has been sculpted by a team of 16 artists from Ladakh, however, any artist across the country or world can participate at their own cost and no entry fee will be charged, and each creation originally will begin as a solid block of ice pulled from the Zanskar and Indus river. Ice structures will be lit up at night in a splendid array of colours.

Visitors attending the festival ( Both locals and Tourists) can enjoy hotpot and throw back some hot soup in a restaurant built entirely out of ice. The seasonal ice restaurant will be open throughout the festival. Tourist en route on Chadar trek can stay overnight in an ice hotel as well.  

The main feature of the Ice Festival is to showcase 22 sculptures depicting various themes such as Confluence of Old and New Ladakh, Carbon Neutral Ladakh, Roots of Ladakh etc with the whole idea revolving around the central theme of Climate change and Global warming.

“They are carving it to tell the world that time is very precious and like ice, it melts away. It is a reminder to everyone that global warming is depleting our glaciers, and if we don’t act soon, we will all suffer the consequences. What we must take away from this wonderful initiative is the urgent need to find alternative solutions for such environmental challenges,“says Dr. Nordan.

This will have the potential to become India’s most important winter tourist destination and photographer paradise. People from around the world come to witness and be a part of the ice and snow festival every year. Hopefully, next year this team will surely get bigger sponsorships and government funding to do this event on a larger scale.

It is for people like these, who have collectively come together as Team Kangsing, who are taking upon themselves to help thousands who suffer during winter months with no income. And also bring Ladakhi Art, culture, heritage and winter sports on international map by showcasing their talent and skill. 

Team NomadLawyer salutes these crusaders !!

Contact details – Tsering Gurmet

[email protected]

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What is SalamatRaho

Team NomadLawyer’s ambition is to positively impact the world through the stories of HumanKind. We believe in the art of storytelling. Through “Salamat Raho ”, we are creating a database for social good in the form of “Impact Stories”, which will help us achieve our goal and reach out to the world at large. By contributing through your stories and experience you create a significant impact on the community and an exceptional experience for yourself. 

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