Jama Masjid

The Jama Masjid is the starting point of a walking tour of the historic Old Town. Located in the corner of the main market, its war-time history symbolises a fascinating chapter in the history of Leh. A unique blend of Islamic and Buddhist architectural elements, the mosque was built by King Delegs Namgyal in the mid-17th century after Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb helped the Ladhaki king repel the Tibetan Mongols, who had been relentlessly attacking the region for three years. On behalf of the Ladakhi king, Aurangzeb brokered a deal with the invaders, who halted their push into Ladakh.

King Delegs Namgyal may have saved his kingdom but he also paid a huge price. In return for Aurangzeb’s help, he had to accede to a bill, which laid down four conditions. One, he had to convert to Islam and take the name Akabal. Two, he was to spread Islam by first building a mosque in Leh. Three, he had to send his wife and children as hostages to Kashmir for three years. And, four, he had to accept the monopoly of the Kashmiri traders in the wool trade. He thus conceded control over the lucrative pashmina wool, now a famous Kashmiri export.

So when you gaze at the pristine, white walls of the Jama Masjid in Leh, spare a thought for the angst of a Ladakhi king who lost everything but his throne!