With the Chinese invasion of Tibet, exile-Tibetan Buddhist leaders have found new bases for their monastic endeavors in the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal. This article highlights how the northwest Himalayan region of Ladakh has become a homeland for Tibetan-led Buddhism in India. While previously an independent kingdom, Ladakh has been dubbed “Little Tibet” because of its close geographical, political, cultural, and religious association with the central Tibetan empire. Ladakhis themselves promote the region as “Little Tibet” and the “last Shangri-la” to emphasize the identity of the region as Buddhist. In this way, Ladakhis utilize the moral economy of “Tibetanness” as a means for cultural survival, but also to promote tourism and gain the economic benefits of being “Little Tibet.” By highlighting multiple and ongoing processes of Tibetanization, such as historical/political, cultural/religious, and imagined, this article illuminates the complex Ladakhi-Tibetan relations within projects of cultural preservation in India. Ladakhis are not passive recipients of the cultural domination of Tibetan religious leaders in the area; instead they adopt selective processes of Tibetanization to help safeguard their distinct religious and cultural identity as a religious and ethnic minority in India.

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