Indus River, also known as Sindhu River, is located along the frontiers of the northwestern Indian subcontinent. It is the primary source for the country’s name and also marks the historical and chronological story of India through past events. The Indus River breaks into India at Leh which is in Ladakh with more than 1 million square miles situated within the foothills and mountains of the Himalayas.
Indus River history shows the legends believed by the earliest living Tibetans were that the river rose from Mansarovar Lake in Tibet, and, more importantly, it guarded India’s boundaries. One of several expeditions along the river proved its origins came from an area north of Lake Mansarovar, also the origin of the Brahmaputra River. It is still believed that anyone drinking water from within the Indus River Valley would grow to become as heroic and fierce as a lion.
Over time, the events within the Indus River Valley have been the only source of clues for actualizing history within the pre-Vedic era. There are many theories surrounding the historical events of the Indus River Valley people, one popular theory being that it was the natural evolution of valley newcomers that eventually displaced the valley people (rather than the original belief that they were displaced by Dravidians pushed south by Aryans). The river is part of more than ten rivers within the Himalayas that includes famous Five Sisters, the Ganges, and the Yamuna.
Rich history revolving around the Indus River Valley gives it an important status, but it also means that over time the natural setting has become a place adventurers of all types are drawn to. About ten miles after Leh, the Indus River flows into the Zanskar Valley where it is met by the initial tributary, Zanskar River. In this location, there are tremendous mountain paths and trails ideal for mountaineering.
There are many excellent starting points along the Indus River for rafting and even kayaking. These include Alchi, Nemu, Upshi, Phey, and Spituk. Anytime between July and September is ideal to hit the rapids. The many adventure guides in Ladakh offer white water river tours from one to four and five days long. Rafting isn’t recommended between June and August when the water rises significantly and thus rafting conditions aren’t safe and tours are difficult to find. Indus River cruises are also a possibility for exploring the valley and river and offer a chance to see the Indus River dolphin, a species once believed to be extinct.
Indus River history fills the valley with magnificent Buddhist temples and myriad ancient buildings and heritage sites, most within a short distance from Leh and reachable by way of taxi or bus. The gompas, or monasteries, are open to the public in the daytime and viewed by tours with the monastery’s lama, or caretaker. Some of these attractions include Shey Palace, Namgyal Tsemo, and Stok Palace Museum. Visitors will also find the famous Hall of Fame, a tribute to Indian Army soldiers, roughly 25 miles from Leh.
Some other major points of interest in Ladakh include its most famous monastery, Thikse, nestled on a bare bluff. Heading west away from Leh, tourist attractions include the village of Basgo, surrounded by plenty of vibrant scenery, views of Zanskar River, and a large fortress now in ruins. If you’re fortunate enough to be visiting the Indus River Valley in June, be sure to catch Sindhu Darshan, a festival celebrating the country’s united harmony and unity. Other interesting settlements to visit along the Indus River include Bunji, Marol, and Skardu.