IMPORTANT CONFERENCE UPDATE: 20th Conference of the IALS has to be postponed to 05th – 08th October 2023!

Because of a very long waitlist for Schengen visa appointments due to the aftermath of COVID travel restrictions, participants from India would not have been able to receive their visas in time for the conference in June.

Therefore, the conference has to be postponed to 05th – 08th October 2023!

The venue stays the same.

Further information can be found here.

To all participants from outside the EU: Apply way ahead of time for your Schengen visa. The time until you receive your visa might take up to 4(!!) months at the moment!

We apologize for the inconvenience!

Conference Update from the President of IALS: 20th Conference of the IALS

Dear Members,

I hope everyone is doing well. Yesterday, we had a thorough discussion in Leh about the next IALS conference with Prof. Marcus and his team from Heidelberg University. First off, I’m delighted to report that we have received more than 60 abstracts. These will be reviewed, and as soon as the results are known, they will be sent to the authors so that they have enough time to look for funding, etc. From our end, we are trying our best to explore various financing sources in the hopes of receiving some financial assistance, particularly for the students. We are also receiving some news that some senior members of IALS may help student/s to participate in the conference if their abstracts are accepted.

Please visit the university website for more information about conference fees, lodging, and other related matters:

Another question we’ve been asked by members is whether it’s possible to attend the conference without presenting a paper. In this case, we’ve decided to welcome non-paper presenters as long as they pay the conference fee.

The university has also promised to assist the participants with making travel arrangements from Frankfurt airport to Heidelberg, obtaining a visa through the German center in Delhi, and other essential arrangements. Please contact us at if you have any additional questions. Regards & Juley

Dr. Sonam Wangchok

President, IALS

Neil Howard’s Research on Ladakhi History and Military Architecture: an Appreciation

By John Bray

Neil and Kath Howard with Erberto Lo Bue (left), Rome 2007.

Neil Howard, who passed away in January 2023, was an independent researcher
specialising in the study of the military and architectural history of Ladakh.

Neil came late to the study of Ladakh and by chance. In the course of a trek through
Ladakh in the early 1980s, he and his wife Kath noticed the many ruined forts above
the region’s villages. Finding that little had been written about them, he decided to do
the research himself. His first major publication was an article on the development of
Ladakh’s military architecture, which appeared in the Italian journal East and West in
1989, and this is still an important reference source. His initial work on forts led
naturally to further study on military campaigns in Ladakh, notably the invasion by
Mirza Haider Dughlat in the 1530s and the Dogra invasion three centuries later. He
also extended his geographical range to include Lahul and Kangra.

All Neil’s work shows the same qualities. Perhaps most importantly, his architectural
and archaeological studies were based on careful on-the-ground observation. He
weighed up the evidence as he saw it, and pushed his analysis as far as he reasonably
could, but no further. Later, he worked with other colleagues, notably Philip
Denwood of the School of Oriental and African Studies (London), to assess the
written sources that might shed further light on his chosen themes.

I myself retain a happy memory of an occasion when I was able to perform a service
as Neil’s research assistant. In 2005, together with our colleagues Abdul Ghani
Sheikh and Ken Macdonald, I made an excursion to photograph the chortens and
castle ruins of Gya. These later contributed to Neil and Kath’s article on Gya that
appeared in 2014 (see bibliography).

Although Neil did most of the writing and much of the talking, he worked with Kath
as a husband-and-wife team both on mountain treks and, later, on the conference
circuit. Always forthright in his views on life’s ironies, he was generous and
supportive in his friendships. In later years, he took pleasure in the publications of
younger scholars who have deepened and extended his own research findings. His
own carefully calibrated pioneering work remains an example to follow.


1984. “Castles of the Himalayas.” Popular Archaeology, April 1984, pp. 12-19.
Hemel Hempstead.

1987. “Royal Fortresses of Ladakh.” Archaeology Today, May 1987, pp. 29-35.
Frome, England.

1989. “The Development of the Fortresses of Ladakh c.9501650 AD.” East and West
39, Nos. 14, pp. 217-288. Rome: Istituto per il medio ed estremo oriente.

1990. “Inscriptions at Balukhar and Char Zampa and General Archaeological
Observations on Balukhar Fort and its Environs.” With Philip Denwood. In
Indo-Tibetan Studies: Papers in honour and appreciation of Professor David
L. Snellgrove’s contribution to Indo-Tibetan Studies
, pp. 81-88. Edited by
Tadeusz Skorupski. Tring: Institute of Tibetan Studies.

1992. “The Dogra Forts in Greater Ladakh, North-west India.” Fort 20, pp. 7186.

1994. “The Trekking Route up the Tsarap River, Zangskar.” Ladakh Studies 7, pp. 9-

1995 (a). “The Fortified Places of Zanskar.” In Recent Research on Ladakh 4 & 5, pp.
79-99. Edited by Henry Osmaston and Philip Denwood. London: School of
Oriental and African Studies; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

1995 (b). “Military Aspects of the Dogra Conquest of Ladakh 18341839.” In Recent
Research on Ladakh 4 & 5
, pp. 349-361. Edited by Henry Osmaston and
Philip Denwood. London: School of Oriental and African Studies; Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass.

1996 (a). “What Happened Between 1450 and 1550 AD? And Other Questions from
the History of Ladakh.” In Recent Research on Ladakh 6, pp. 121-138. Edited by Henry Osmaston and Nawang Tsering. Bristol: Bristol University Press; Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

1996 (b). “Chronology of the Travels of G.T. Vigne in the Western Himalaya, 1835-1839 Ladakh Studies 8, pp. 27-30.

1999. “Ancient Painted Pottery from Ladakh.” In Ladakh: Culture, History and
Development, between Himalaya and Karakoram
. Recent Research on Ladakh
, pp. 222-236. Edited by Martijn van Beek, Kristoffer Brix Bertelsen and
Poul Pedersen. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press,

2002. “The Political Geography of South-east Zanskar, and a Reconsideration of the
Royal Chronologies of Zanskar and Ladakh in the 15 th Century.” South Asian
18, pp. 91-108. London: Society for South Asian Studies.

2005 (a). “Sultan Zain-ul Abidin’s Raid into Ladakh.” In Ladakhi Histories. Local
and Regional Perspectives
, pp. 125-145. Edited by John Bray. Leiden: Brill.

2005 (b). “The Development of the Boundary between the State of Jammu & Kashmir
and British India, and its Representation on Maps of the Lingti Plain.” In
Ladakhi Histories. Local and Regional Perspectives, pp. 217-234. Leiden:

2007. Things to do in Leh. A jeu d’esprit. Self-published pamphlet for private

2009. “Prince Peter’s Journey from Manali to Ladakh, 5 th June–22 nd August 1938.” In
Recent Research on Ladakh 2009, pp. 55-71. With Poul Pedersen. Edited by
Monisha Ahmed & John Bray. Kargil & Leh: International Association of
Ladakh Studies.

2012. “The Tak House Maitreya and Some Corrections of the Later History of
Ladakh.” Ladakh Studies 28, pp. 36-38.

2014. “Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley, Eastern Ladakh, and a Consideration of
Their Relationship to the History of Ladakh and Maryul. With Kath Howard
and an Appendix on the War of Tsede (rTse lde) of Guge in 1083 CE by Philip
Denwood.” In Art and Architecture in Ladakh. Cross-Cultural Transmissions
in the Himalayas and Karakoram
pp. 68-99. Edited by Erberto Lo Bue and
John Bray. Leiden: Brill.

2016. “Castles and Defensive Architecture in Purig: an Introduction, Survey and
Preliminary Analysis.” In Visible Heritage. Essays on the Art and Architecture
of Greater Ladakh
, pp. 85-112. Edited by Rob Linrothe and Heinrich Pöll.
New Delhi: Studio Orientalia.

2020. “The defences of Basgo revisited.” Études mongoles et sibériennes,
centrasiatiques et tibétaines.
With Quentin Devers. Online publication :

Forthcoming. “The Portal of the Leh Palace.” With Gerald Kozicz. Awaiting

Call for Papers: 20th Conference of the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS)

UPDATE 21/04/2023: The conference had to be postponed to 5th – 8th of October 2023!

UPDATE 15/02/2023: The deadline for the submission of abstracts has been extended to 25th February 2023!


The 20th Conference of the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS) will be held in Heidelberg at the South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany, between 5th and 8th of October 2023.

The main theme of the conference is “Ladakh’s Future: New Directions and Challenges”. Sub-themes for different panels shall be decided after the acceptance of abstracts.

The concept note of the main theme can be found here.

We invite abstracts for papers for the conference. The abstracts should be between 250 to 350 words and include the title of your paper, your affiliation and a short bio note. The conference is also open to abstracts for short films on the same theme.

The last date for submission of abstracts is 25th February 2023. The final decision on the abstracts will be communicated by 15th April 2023.

Please send your queries and abstracts to:

Members of IALS will get a discount on the registration fees. For membership fees and related queries, please contact Lauren Smyth, Membership Secretary, IALS (

Please ensure that your membership is updated; if not, you can also pay for it at the conference.

The Conference Registration Fees for presenting a paper are:

Participants (South Asian): € 180

Participants (Non-South Asian): € 200

Participants (Non IALS-member): € 240

Students (South Asian): € 100

Students (Non-South Asian): € 120

Lunch, refreshments, sightseeing and conference dinner are included in the conference fee.

Furthermore, if there are members who are able to sponsor the conference fee or accommodation for young research students attending the conference – thereby ensuring the participation of deserving candidates – please get in touch with the organizing committee ( by 15th April 2023. That will ensure that such facilities are provided to deserving candidates well in time.

Update for the 20th IALS Conference in 2023

In order to finalise the dates and a broad theme for the conference, a meeting was held on October 8, 2022, in Leh, which was attended by Dr. Sonam Wangchok (president), Monisha Ahmad (advisor), Prof. Marcus Nuesser and his companions from Heidelberg University, Prof. Tashi Ldawa (advisor), and Tsewang Rigzin (Ladakh liaison officer), Rigzin Chodon (from the editorial team).

The conference dates were set for 8–11 June 2023 after extensive discussion and consideration, and the general theme settled upon was “Ladakh’s Future: New Directions and Challenges.” Earlier, the advisors provided opinions and advice as well through mail.

The call for abstracts will be sent to the members soon.   

New Publication “New Perspectives on Modern Ladakh. Fresh Discoveries and Continuing Conversations in the Indian Himalaya.”

Edited by Rafał Beszterda, John Bray and Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg. Toruń: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersitetu Mikolaja Kopernika, 2021.

This volume originates in the 2017 IALS conference in Bedłewo (Poland) and contains twelve research papers on the following themes: the natural environment and social change; urbanisation and social change in Leh; bees, mushrooms and folkways; 20th century external contacts and local responses; three perspectives on weaving; and a final essay that poses the question “Did Gama ever reach the land of the lama?”

The book costs 41.40 zł plus postage. Ordering details and a full list of contents are available on:

Minutes of the Webinar “Commemorating the Legacy of Tashi Rabgias” 

by Dr. Rigzin Chodon

On 26 October the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS) organised a webinar to commemorate the legacy of the late Tashi Ragbias (1927-2020), one of the most distinguished Ladakhi scholars of his generation.

Tashi Rabgias (right) during the 2005 IALS Conference. © Ante Celar.

Tashi Rabgias had been invited to serve as the patron of the International Association for Ladakh Studies in 2005 and remained in this position until his demise. In September 2019 he made one of his final public appearances at the 19th IALS Conference held here in Ladakh in collaboration with the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS). At that time, the IALS again honoured him for his contribution to the field of history, literature, philosophy, poetry, and this webinar presented a further opportunity to celebrate his legacy.

IALS President Dr. Sonam Wangchuk opened the webinar by offering a warm welcome to all participants. The first panel was dedicated to personal accounts of Tashi Rabgias. Mountaineer Steve Berry recalled meeting Tashi Rabgias in 1987 and learning from him about the historical relationship between Ladakh and Bhutan. Tashi Rabgias presented Steve with translation of a moving passage from the works of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal, the 17th century founder of Bhutan. The second presentation was by Namgyal Angmo who give a vivid account of her own meetings with Tashi Rabgias, and the way that he had served as a source of inspiration for younger scholars

Dr Rigzin Choden chaired the second panel, which was devoted to academic fields of study that were important to Tashi Rabgias. There were six speakers:

  • John Bray, an independent historian, spoke on the Moravian missionary August Hermann Francke’s research into Ladakhi songs in the early 20th century, and highlighted the contributions of the Ladakhis who worked with him. These included Konchok Tashi from Tagmachik, Ishey Rigzin from Khalatse and Joseph Gergan from Nubra/Leh. Later, Tashi Rabgias   made his own contribution to this field through his book La dwags kyi yul glu, a collection of folksongs first published by the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 1970.
  • Dr. Noé Dinnerstein, an ethnomusicologist and Adjunct Professor of Music at City University, New York, spoke on Tashi Rabgias’s contributions to the music culture of Ladakh. These included his work on the preservation and propagation of traditional songs, as well as his own role in popular music and theatre. Tashi Rabgias said that he had collected the songs to preserve the literature of Ladakh. In Noé’s opinion many of these songs should not be classified simply as “folk music”. In certain genres, they should be considered as “art” or “classical music”.
  • Sanjay Dhar, an experienced paintings conservator, spoke on the 19th and early 20th century travel writings as a source for understanding the physical history of Hemis Monastery. By analysing the texts carefully, and scrutinizing the illustrations, it is possible to reconstruct some of the architectural changes that took place in this period.
  • Tsunma Nawang Jinpa, who is now a PhD candidate at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, spoke about: “Tashi Rabgias: Intimate Witness and Chronicler of Hemis and Chemrey History”. She discussed the historical account he composed in 2008 at the request of the senior monks and members of Hemis Managing Committee. This carries the title “The Drukpa Kargyud School of Buddhism in Tibet and Hemis Monastery of Ladakh”, and the original typescript is preserved at the library of Hemis Museum.
  • Tashi Choephel from Koyul, who has an M.A. in Tibetan Literature, spoke about Tashi Rabgias’s contribution to Ladakhi literature through his extensive writings in Bod-yig, including poems, songs and plays. His poetic style inspired and was adopted by later poets, and his writings enriched modern Ladakh literature, often highlighting a secular thematic approach.
  • Finally, Tsering Wangchuk, an M.Phil Research Student from the University of Jammu presented a critique on the “Historiographic analysis of Tashi Rabgias’s History of Maryul Ladakh” (originally publishedin 1984 as Mar yul la dwags kyi sngon rabs kun gsal me long zhes bya ba bzhugs so sgrig pa po). He noted that the scholar wrote from a particular perspective that at times lacked the critical objectivity required of academic historians. Nevertheless, we are all indebted to his works, which serve to widen our horizons on the history of Ladakh.

The event closed with votes of thanks by Tashi Rabgias’s son, Sonam Gyatso Tukchoopa, the translator of History of Maryul Ladakh and byTsewang Rigzin, IALS Ladakh Liaison Officer.

Screenshot of the Webinar.

The webinar provided the viewers and all those who attended it, with an opportunity to honour Tashi Rabgias’s legacy, to express our gratitude for his efforts and contributions, and to inspire us to continue building on his legacy through research and writing in his special fields of interest.

Call for Presentation and Participation: Webinar on “Commemorating Tashi Rabgias’s Legacy”

UPDATE 24/10/21: To participate at the event, use the following links:


Facebook Live:

The programme for the event can be downloaded here: PDF / Word

UPDATE 18/10/21: The webinar will start at 4:30 P.M. Indian Standard Time (IST) on Tuesday, 26th of October. The time per presentation is scheduled to be 15-20 minutes.

ORIGINAL NEWS: This is in reference to the commemoration of the legacy of Tashi Rabgias from 17th October 2021 (his birth anniversary) to 28th October 2021 (his death anniversary). IALS has been invited to host an international webinar on 26th October 2021 on the theme “Commemorating Tashi Rabgias’s Legacy”.

As advised by the Executive and Advisory Committees, we have decided to divide the webinar into two broad sub-themes:

  • Personal accounts of Tashi Rabgias (His life, works, and any personal memories of Tashi Rabgias)
  • Furthering conversations in fields that were important to Tashi Rabgias. This includes fields such as history, literature, art & culture, and Buddhist responses to social change etc.

Tashi Rabgias was a pioneer of Ladakh studies and also the patron of IALS, the webinar provides us with an opportunity to honour his legacy and express our gratitude for his efforts and contributions.

If you wish to present a paper on either of the themes, please write to Dr Rigzin Chodon (host of the webinar) at with an abstract (Approx. 200 words) by 22nd October, mid-night, IST. The final list of the speakers will be reviewed by the President and the Editorial Committee, IALS and announced by 23rd October 2021 on the IALS website. The link for the webinar and other details shall be shared by 25th October 2021 via email.

We look forward to your participation.