Leh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, now the Leh District in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Leh, with an area of 45,110 km2, is the second largest district in the country (after Kutch, Gujarat) in terms of area.
Since the 8th century people belonging to different religions, particularly Buddhism and Islam, have been living in harmony in Leh. They coexisted from the time of early period of Namgyal dynasty and there has been no mention of any conflict between them. But with the opening of Ladakh to the outside world and politics creeping into peaceful Ladakhi society, the issue of religion has emerged and stained this long tradition of coexistence and co-evolution.
In recent times, relations between the Buddhist and Muslim communities soured due to the petty conflicts motivated by political interest. With the visit of the Dalai Lama in August 2003 and his strong appeal to the masses regarding religious pluralism and peaceful coexistence, the situation has ameliorated and normalcy has been restored. Thus, Ladakh resumed its age-old tradition of cohesiveness.
Besides these two communities there are people living in the region who belong to other religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism, who too live in harmony and form a vital part of the society. The small Christian community in Leh are descendants of converts from Tibetan Buddhism by German Moravian missionaries who established a church atKeylong in Lahaul in the 1860s, and were allowed to open another mission in Leh in 1885 and had a sub branch in Khalatse. They stayed open until Indian Independence in 1947. In spite of their successful medical and educational activities, they made only a few converts.
The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, former mansion of the royal family of Ladakh, built in the same style and about the same time as the Potala Palace. Leh is at an altitude of 3524 metres (11,562 ft), and connects via National Highway 1Dconnects it to Srinagar in the southwest and to Manali in the south via Leh-Manali Highway
Leh is located at an average elevation of about 3500 metres, which means that only one crop a year can be grown there, while two can be grown at Khalatse. By the time crops are being sown at Leh in late May, they are already half-grown at Khalatse. The main crop is grim (naked barley - Hordeum vulgare L. var. nudum Hook. f., which is an ancient form of domesticated barley with an easier to remove hull) - from which tsampa, the staple food in Ladakh, is made.
Leh District, which comprises the whole of Indian-administered eastern Ladakh (but not Kargil nor Zanskar) has a total population of 117,000 people according to the 2001 census. Of that 45.3% is Buddhist, 41.8% Muslim, 8.2% Hindu and 0.8% others. The Muslim presence dates back to the annexation of Ladakh by Kashmir, after the Fifth Dalai Lamaattempted to invade Ladakh from Tibet. Since then, there has been further migration from the Kashmir Valley due firstly to trade and latterly with the transfer of tourism from the Kashmir Valley to Ladakh.
Ladakh receives very large numbers of tourists for its size. In 2010, 77,800 tourists arrived in Leh. Numbers of visitors have swelled rapidly in recent years, increasing 77% in the 5 years to 2010. This growth is largely accounted for by larger numbers of trips by domestic Indian travelers.