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.

Letter to the Members from IALS President Sonam Wangchok concerning COVID-19 / the Corona Virus

Dear IALS Members,

I hope everyone is keeping well and taking all the precautionary measures seriously at wherever you are to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. The Coronavirus has reached most of the countries on earth and it has upended life across the globe, shutting down entire cities and countries in a matter of months. It is the most likely scenario that this situation may take possibly more days and months. It is being reported that more cases of Coronavirus pandemic are now being recorded outside of China, where the virus was first detected in the central city of Wuhan. In this situation I appeal you all to stay strong and fight the COVID-19 outbreak by taking all precautionary measures. During this difficult time, it’s important to continue looking after your physical and mental health. This will not only help you in the long-term, it will also help our administrations and hospitals to fight the virus.

Like other countries and states, Ladakh has also witnessed 13 positive cases connected to pilgrims returning from Iran. Among them three declared completely cured in last few days. My heartfelt admiration goes to Ladakh administration and the health fraternity who work day and night in such difficult circumstances in the service of humanity.

At the moment, we are under complete lockdown for three weeks but we strongly believe that we’ll get through this together at the earliest. We can see the sun is shining, the sky is clear and apricot and apple trees are all set to blossom in Ladakh.

Stay safe, stay calm, be vigilant and most importantly remember prevention is better than cure.

Please take care everyone.

Sonam Wangchok
President, IALS

IALS Minutes of the General Meeting and Updated Membership Fees

Dear IALS members,

please find the minutes of the general meeting held after the 19th IALS conference in Leh here.

As mentioned in the minutes membership fees were changed to better reflect current exchange rates and socio-economic changes since the old rates were installed. In addition IALS now offers 6 and 10 year memberships to a 10% discount from the normal rates. As before all information can be found under our Membership section.

IALS Election Results and Conference Report

The results of the 2019 election for the Executive Committee of IALS:


Sonam Wangchok [Elected unopposed]

Membership Secretary/Treasurer:

Lauren Smyth [Elected unopposed]

For the other posts, a total of 65 ballots were cast at the conference (45) and by email 20). Of these three were disqualified as two were received after the deadline and one was cast by a lapsed member. The final results are:


Amjad Ali [2]
Elizabeth Williams-Oeberg [22]
Judith Muller [13]
Konchok Dorjey [12]
Nazir Hussain [13]

Elizabeth Williams-Oeberg with 22 votes is the new secretary of IALS.

Ladakh LIaison Officer

Fayaz Ali [23]
Muzammil Hussain [9]
Tsewang Rigzin [29]

Tsewang Rigzin with 29 votes is the new Ladakh Liaison Officer of IALS.

Compiled and overseen by Election Officers, Rigzin Chodon and Sunetro Ghosal

The report of the 19th IALS Conference in Leh can be downloaded here

IALS Elections Update

The members of the Executive Committee and Advisory Committee of IALS met in Leh on 1 September, 2019 on the sidelines of the IALS conference currently underway. At this meeting it was decided to follow the spirit of the IALS conference and provide the members who were not able to attend the conference to cast their vote for the positions that are currently up for election. It was also decided that the final result of the election will not be declared till email votes have been counted.

Thus, the members who are at the conference will cast their vote in person at the conference. Through this post and through email being sent to all members, we are opening the election to all members. Please use the official ballot to cast your vote. The other PDF provides information on who have been nominated. You will notice that the position of Secretary and President do not appear in the ballot sheet as only one person has been nominated for each position and are elected unopposed.

You can find the election ballot here and the list of nominations here.

You will need to fill in your name on the ballot and any sheet without a name will not be counted. We assure you that your choice will not be disclosed to anyone and your name is only being recorded to ensure that there is no double voting and all voted are cast by members. The email ballots have three editable spaces for you to type your name, and pick a candidate for each position. You do not need to print the ballot our. You can fill it on your computer.

Please ensure that you are a member of IALS and have not voted at the conference. The ballot will be disqualified if you are not a current member or have already voted.

Please send all your queries and completed ballots to editor@ladakhstudies.org. . 
The deadline for receipt of email votes is 23:59 hours on 17 September, 2019. The final result of the elections will be announced after these votes have been counted and added to the tally of the votes cast at the conference. .

Thank you

Sunetro Ghosal and Rigzin Chodon
Election Officers 2019 IALS

Conference Update 24/08/2019: Update Conference Programme & Contact and Transportation Information

Please find attached the final schedule of the IALS 2019 Conference, including several changes and additions to the previous draft: IALS Conference Programme

We also uploaded contacts and local transportation offers. Especially the hired bus going from Leh to the conference location and back every day might be of interest. Please find more details here: Contacts and Transportation

Conference Update 17/08/2019: Note of Reassurance by the Conference Conveners about the Current Situation in Leh and Choglamsar

We are very much looking forward to welcoming our friends and colleagues to the 19th IALS conference at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in Choglamsar from 31 August to 4 September. All the preparations are ready, and we expect some 80 papers on a wide range of topics

However, we have heard that some participants are reconsidering their plans because of recent political developments in the wider region. Here we would like to offer a note of reassurance. Tourists are still coming to Leh in large numbers, and everyone is going about their normal business. The UK, the US and Germany have issued travel advisories recommending that their citizens avoid Kashmir but, as you will see from the link below, they all make an exception for Ladakh.

Please do come, and help ensure that the conference is a great success!

Conference Conveners

Call for Nominations: IALS Elections

Important Notice

Dear Member,

We have four Executive Committee posts up for re-election at the Association’s forthcoming conference in Leh this year.

These posts are:

  • The President
  • The Secretary
  • Treasurer/Membership Secretary
  • Ladakh Liason Officer
  • The Webmaster

IALS will begin fielding nominations immediately, with the intention of voting for candidates and ratifying the final decisions at the next General Meeting in Leh, 2019.

For more details on the election and the nomination process, please visit our Election Page

Conference Update 24/06/2019: Accommodation at CIBS, Sponsors, Travel Funds

CIBS has agreed to allow IALS to use its guest house to host conference participants. This means we have ten double-sharing rooms available on campus. The organizing committee feels that this should be offered on a first-come first-served basis to students attending the conference from outside Leh. If there are such candidates who require accommodation in Leh, they are advised to get in touch with the organizing committee before 15 July. If there are rooms still available, then it can be offered to others.

Furthermore, if there are members who are willing to sponsor the fee or accommodation for students attending the conference, please get in touch with the organizing committee by 15 July. This will ensure that any such offers are allotted to deserving candidates.

We have not been able to raise funds to cover the travel costs to and from Ladakh. However, all conference-related travel to and from the venue and field trips will be covered by the conference fees. 

For more Information visit our Conference Page