CHANGPAS 
AJ/Sociology 124 Administration of Justice  106 Anthropology 102 Sociology 101 Sociology 102 HUMANITARIAN AID LADAKH CHANGPAS JAMANAWA PIRAHA SURUWAHA 

 

 

CHANGPAS

Pastoral Yak Herders

 

The Chang-Thang plateau of Ladakh

The Village of Karzok

 

The small village of Karzok (above) sets slightly above the grass lined shore of Lake Tsomori at an altitude of 16,000 feet.  Once the center of central Asian trade,  Karzok  now points toward Karzok Fu, where the Changpas pitch their Rebos and tend their herds of yak, goats, sheep and horses.  This area serves as the summer home for the Changpas because of the availability of pasture and snowmelt streams.

The Rebos

The Changpas are a transhumant group moving vertically from one valley to another.  They live in yak hair tents called Rebos, (pictured on the left).    Each Rebos is occupied by an independent, generally polyandrous family and serves as the basic unit of Changpas society.

 

Pictured on the left, one can  see the panels of woven yak  hair sewn together to form the covered portion of a  Rebos (along with a canvas patch.)  The yak hair tent is very durable and will last in excess of ten years.  Pictured on the right is a young man weaving a yak hair panel on his back strap loom.  With five to six members of a family weaving daily, it will take approximately two months to weave a tent.

Inside the Rebos

The yak hair portion of the Rebos covers a fairly large area that is approximately four feet deep and lined with boulders.  As seen in these pictures the stone walls are draped with blankets.  Although the yak hair panels appear to be porous, the Rebos are snow and rain proof.  A large opening is located at the top which allows sunlight inside the Rebos during most of the day and allows smoke from the interior fires to exit easily.

The Changra Goat

The photos below depict Changpas women engaged in the milking of their Changra goats.  Generally these Changra goats are not raised for their meat but rather for their milk  and (Pashmina) wool.   Pashmina wool is the softer hair located at the root of the longer hair.

 

The photos on the left are of  men returning to their Rebos with their herds of Changra goats.  Notice that they are carrying pieces of wood and brush on their backs. Wood is scarce at high altitude and is routinely collected for fuel with which to cook.  However, the Changpas use dung from yak and goats as their primary heat source for heating and cooking.  The photos on the right and below are of herds of Changra goats  being moved to pasture.

 

The Yak

The Chang Fu is the communal pasture land for the Changpas.  There is strict regulation of land usage by the group as a whole.  The Changpas follow the traditional system of grazing where a headman, the Goba, decides the areas for animal grazing.  The Goba has a list of all pasture land and the families who have access to a particular pasture.  Notice in the above picture the yak are grazing near their owner's Rebos.  A closer look at the yak, (below) reveals they are fairly short but broad.  Their long hair nearly reaches the ground.  Their course under belly hair is cut,  spun and woven into panels and sewn together to make Rebos and ropes.  Their soft hair is used for blankets and small rugs.  One of the more important uses of the yak is for transportation.  The Changpas move approximately four times per year and the burden of carrying the heavy Rebos is given to the yak.  The yak have great strength and endurance and are well suited for carrying heavy loads in extreme weather.  Yak also provide their owners with a dependable  source of meat, hides and milk.

The Horses

Shown below is a herd of horses that is being moved to pasture.  The Changas use horses for transportation, recreation, and hunting; they are also used as pack animals during their migration from one location to the next. 

Back Strap Looms

The Changpas are the only group in India that use the portable back strap loom for weaving.  Each family has a loom, Thak, and since it is portable, it can be easily set up and used in any location.  All weaving including saddle bags, back packs, yak hair panels for rebos, rugs, carpets and wide woolen panels used for clothing are woven with the Thak.  Though the Changas women weave year round, most of the weaving is done during the summer months.

This woman is weaving a small rug.  She is using commercially colored thread in addition to wool thread that was spun previously.

This woman is weaving a wide  panel  of of wool to be used for clothing.  To her left note the pile  of raw wool that will be spun into thread as needed.     

The Perak

 

One of the more prized possessions of Changpas women is the Perak, their traditional head-dress.  The woman on the left demonstrates how is it worn.  As shown on the right, the Perak is a wide strip of leather that is covered with cloth to which are attached rows of rough-cut turquoise stones.  Jeweled amulets and silver ornaments are also attached.  The wide ear pieces are made of black lambskin.   Starting when they were young girls, these women purchased and  collected turquoise and corral stones to add to their Perak over the years.  When worn, the Perak is an obvious display of wealth.

The Goba

Pictured above is Tsewang Paljor, acting Goba in the summer of 2002.  The Goba, (headman), regularly exercises his authority by allotting pastures, coordinating the migrations and settling disputes.  As the selected Goba, Tsewang is in the possession of the Register, or "Kishi Deb", which contains the names of all head of households, family members and livestock statistics in the area under his jurisdiction.  The Chogdus, consisting of all the male heads of the separate households, by consensus, select the Goba which is normally for a period of three years.  Personal qualities such as simplicity, honesty, truthfulness, social status, reputation and mediating ability are considered important.

Daily Activities

                                                                  Important to the Changpas are the skills that must be developed to accomplish routine activities such as spinning yak hair into thread. The spinning  of wool and yak thread is vital to the production of clothes, rugs, carpets, that are  used for sitting and sleeping and of course the weaving of panels for their Rebos.  On the right, the woman is spinning yak hair into thread  by hand with her spindle.  This activity consumes a great deal of leisure time.  In the photographs below, a woman is demonstrating the use of the portable grinding wheel.  During migration, a large portion of Changpas supplies, such as barley, are obtained from trading in villages and individual farm houses.  Barley is parched and ground into flour called tsampa which is consumed with every meal.

 

The next generation of Changpas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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