||Gaden Relief Projects
|Helping to preserve
Tibetan culture in India, Mongolia and Tibet
Deep within the folds of the Indian Himalayas in Zangskar
(or Zanskar on many Indian maps), a subdistrict of the Indian state
of Jammu and Kashmir, are ten
nunneries supported by Gaden Relief's Zangskar Project. Until their
absorption into the Indian state in 1947-8, Zangskar (often spelled
Zanskar) and Ladakh were two west Tibetan kingdoms which had shared
and contributed to the wider Tibetan Buddhist culture and religion
since the 10th century. Zangskaris still speak a west Tibetan dialect,
and roughly 95% of the population is Buddhist in addition to a small
population of Sunni Muslims. Two major sects of Tibetan Buddhism,
the Gelugpa and the Kagyudpa, are both well represented in Zangskar,
where there are monasteries, nunneries, or small temples located in
nearly every village and hamlet. The harsh climate, remote terrain,
and heavy winter snows leave Zangskar cut off from the rest of Kashmir
for several winter months when roads and footpaths are impassable.
nuns cooking at the meeting with members of the Karsha women’s
alliance. The meeting focused on promoting women’s empowerment
Gaden Relief has been helping Buddhist nuns in Zangskar
since 1991. After funding Karsha’s Chuchikjall (or 'Chuchikzhal')
nunnery as a pilot program, the Zangskar Project now covers all
ten nunneries that are spread across Zangskar’s 7000 sq. kilometers.
The Zangskar Project has funded the following projects at local
nunneries using local technology, skills, and materials.
Classroom, Residential Cells, Assembly
At Karsha, a classroom was built which is now used as a meeting
and seminar room. At Sani, traditional stone and mud mortar cells
were built to house new nuns. At Skyagam, Tibetan wall paintings
were completed in a new assembly hall. Future goals: Construct
passive solar classrooms at all nunneries.
Ritual Assemblies & Individual Nuns
All nunneries receive annual subsidies to help defray the expense
of ritual assemblies, secular training sessions, and individual
stipends to help nuns purchase books & food. Future goals:
Help nunneries become self-sufficient in operating expenses and
help nuns promote women’s health and sustainable technologies
Chuchikjall Nunnery a government trained ancilliary nurse-midwife
takes a nuns’ blood pressure and talks about BP issues
and the importance of regular check-ups for elderly and pregnant
Medium sized fixed solar panels were bought and
installed at three nunneries in Zangskar. Future goals:
Bring solar power to all nunneries and train nuns to advocate for
solar and sustainable technologies.
Smokeless stoves were commissioned and built by local blacksmiths
according to a design developed by a local NGO. Future goals:
Purchase stoves for the remaining nunneries in Zangskar.
Orchards, Garden, Greenhouse
At Karsha, nuns have built contructed vegetable gardens, poplar
orchards, a garden courtyard, and a greenhouse. Future goals:
Repair/construct gravity-fed water piping and storage facilities
at all nunneries and train nuns in public health and clean water
At Karsha, a local compost toiled was built to decompose human waste
matter and provide a much needed source of biomass for the local
gardens and orchards. Future goals: Build similar compost
toilets at all of the nunneries that need such facilities.
nunnery’s solar classroom being used for a women’s
health seminars. Additional uses include: project meetings of
the Karsha nuns and the Zangskari Nuns Association.
To date, several nuns have been trained in maternal and child health
at Leh Hospital. Zangskar has some of the lowest infant and maternal
mortality rates in India and all Asia. Future goals: Train
nuns further in maternal and child health and other women’s
Volunteering in Zangskar
It is possible to volunteer at a nunnery for the summer. If you
are interested in helping the nuns, please visit our page on our
Rules of Engagement for
Summer Volunteers in Zangskar.
More Information on the Zangskar Nuns
Zangskar Project Reports
The Zangskari Nunneries
in a Zangskari Nunnery
Zangskar Project photos on this site are by Kim Gutschow, Zangskar
© Kim Gutschow. All rights reserved.