Gaden Relief Projects
Helping to preserve Tibetan culture in India, Mongolia and Tibet

Zangskar Project

Karsha nuns cooking at the meeting with members of the Karsha women’s alliance. The meeting focused on promoting women’s empowerment
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.

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 Halls
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.

Sponsoring 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

At 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 women.
Solar Panels
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
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 issues.

Compost Toilet
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.

Chuchikjall 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.

Women’s Health
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 health issues.

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 Project

Zangskar Project Reports
The Zangskari Nunneries
Life in a Zangskari Nunnery

All Zangskar Project photos on this site are by Kim Gutschow, Zangskar Project Coordinator.
© Kim Gutschow. All rights reserved.

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