Alexander's Lost Army: The Dard Community claims to be of pure Aryan stock. Myth has it that they trace their genetic history to members of Alexander's army which stayed back. Nestled in four villages of Ladakh, this collective community of 4000 has successfully been able to keep their gene pool intact, using strong social sanctions and rules. But now very few pockets of isolated community with pure bloodlines, language and culture remain. Given the inhospitable terrain, for thousands of years this Dard region remained out of bounds for other people.
After the Kargil war, the government authorities have placed an anvil on the development work in this region. Some of the areas of the Aryan valley are restricted for outsiders, since it borders Pakistan occupied Kashmir(POK) and Indian forces are stationed for keeping watch and vigil in this region. One has to get Inner Line Permit(ILP) from the District Commissioner to visit these villages.
The sustenance of this community comes from their yield of crops and fruits, which even though scanty are tasty and nutritious.
The changing paradigms of cultural traits and religious practices has resulted in making this community vulnerable. Buddhism is being followed in all the Aryan valley villages except few which are Muslims. While they practice Buddhism, they continue to follow age old practices but modernization has resulted in the younger generation distancing themselves from their age old traditions.
The pictures below show representations of early human settlements in the region, Dard life and their sustenance, beliefs and practices, fairs and festivals and impact of the outside world.