About 130 kms. north-east of Kargil, on the Line of Control (Indo-Pak border), are the villages names Dha, Hanu, Darchik, and Garkon. Inhabited by a tribe that has lived in isolation for thousands of years, it is the heartland of a tribe called the Brokpas.
The Brokpas have been made famous through claims of being the descendants of lost soldiers of Alexander the Great’s army who got lost in the Himalayas and the purest of Aryan bloodline. Despite living in extreme isolation until the 20th century, the Brokpas have kept genetic pollution at bay and maintain that they are untainted. Though they have found no issue with spreading their genes outward as seen with a group of German women in 1938 in search of pure Aryan “seed,” no new DNA has been introduced according to them. Though some genetic testing has been done, it has been inconclusive in proving or disproving the theory linking them to the lost soldier myth. And when attempting to prove Aryan descent, then provokes the issue surrounding the term itself; “What is Aryan?”
Though very protective over their genetics, culturally they have morphed over the ages via the influence of the surrounding territory. Their current religion is a mix of Boh (animalism-shamanism) and Buddhism which has formed a beautiful display of meaningful dress, incorporating flowers, metal jewelry and animal hair. This mixing of ideology amplified by genetic and geographic isolation has produced a culture so unique, that since opening up to tourism, has spectators flocking to see the Brokpas for themselves. Their way of life, way of dress and exotic features unmatched by any others in the region, make for a stunning and unique opportunity to look at this beautiful tribe.
With no written historical record, the Brokpas rely on an oral history passed down through folklore and song through the generations. As seen with many once-isolated tribes, the western world has crept its influence to the youth. The younger generation is losing interest in Brokpa culture and only wears traditional dress for holidays and ceremony. Through interviews and personal narratives we can pass on stories, myths and folklore as well as bring to light the cultural endemic of globalization, highlighting individuals and personalizing the issue of preservation.
Text by Leslie Cook