Interactive map of Kargil
Kargil is the joint capital of Ladakh, the eastern part of the Indian-administered regions (shaded in tan) of the disputed Kashmir region[1]
Kargil is the joint capital of Ladakh, the eastern part of the Indian-administered regions (shaded in tan) of the disputed Kashmir region[1]
Coordinates: 34°33′34″N 76°07′32″E / 34.5594°N 76.1256°E / 34.5594; 76.1256
Administrating countryIndia
Region of administrationUnion territory of Ladakh
 • TypeLadakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Kargil
 • Total2.14 km2 (0.83 sq mi)
2,676 m (8,780 ft)
 • Total16,338
 • Density7,600/km2 (20,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
Vehicle registrationLA 01
Official languagesUrdu, Purgi, Ladakhi, Brokskat, English[3]
Other spokenShina, Balti

Kargil /ˈkɑːrɡɪl/ or Kargyil[4][5] is a city in Indian-administered Ladakh in the disputed Kashmir region.[1] It is the joint capital of Ladakh, an Indian-administered union territory. It is also the headquarters of the Kargil district. It is the second-largest city in Ladakh after Leh.[6] Kargil is located 204 kilometres (127 mi) east of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, and 234 kilometres (145 mi) to the west of Leh. It is on the bank of the Suru River near its confluence with the Wakha Rong river, the latter providing the most accessible route to Leh.[7]


The Ladakh Chronicles spell the name of Kargil as Wylie: dkar skyil, THL: kar kyil.[8] The word can be interpreted as meaning a bright or wholesome expanse.[9]

Modern newspapers are said to spell the name as Wylie: dkar `khyil, THL: kar khyil.[10] It can also be interpreted as a bright or wholesome mountainous amphitheatre.[11] This phrase occurs often in Tibetan literature.

The Kargil basin does give the feel of an expanse surrounded by low-pitched mountains, with the low Khurbathang plateau at the southeastern corner. This is in sharp contrast to the deep gorges that give access to the valley.[7][12]

The people of Kargil however relate the name to Khar (fort) and rkil (centre) and interpret it as a central place among many forts.[13] Radhika Gupta has opined that it is a fitting description for a place that is equidistant from Srinagar, Leh and Skardu.[13]


Location of Kargil with respect to Kashmir, Baltistan and Leh

Kargil is located at the confluence of multiple river valleys: the Suru River valley to the north and south, the Wakha Rong valley to the southeast leading to Leh, and the Sod Valley to the east leading to the Indus Valley near Batalik. In addition, at a short distance to the north, the Dras River valley branches off from the Suru valley leading to the Zoji La pass and Kashmir. Further north along the Suru valley, one reaches the Indus valley, leading to Skardu. Thus, Kargil is located at a key junction of routes between Kashmir, Ladakh and Baltistan.

Scholar Janet Rizvi states that the Indus Valley between Marol and Dah is a narrow gorge and was not easily traversable in the pre-modern period. So the normal trade route between Baltistan and Leh also ran via Kargil, using the Suru valley and Wakha Rong.[7][14]

After the Partition of India and the First Kashmir War, Baltistan came under the control of Pakistan. The Line of Control with Pakistan-administered Kashmir is roughly 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) to the north of Kargil. A key height called Peak 13620, which overlooks the Kargil town and the Srinagar–Leh Highway, remained in Pakistani control at the end of the First Kashmir War. During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, Indian forces pushed the Line of Control north of the ridgeline, ensuring Kargil's security. A key village called Hunderman came under Indian control as a result of this push.


Despite its central location, Kargil does not appear to have had any large settlement in the medieval period. Instead there were two strong forts in its close vicinity. The Sod Valley to the east had a fort called Sod Pasari (Wylie: sod pa sa ri, now known as Pasar Khar) by the 16th or 17th century. It was the capital of "Lower Purig", which included the Sod Valley itself, the lower portion of Wakha Rong and, the Kargil bowl.[15][16] By the 18th or 19h century, its dynasty established a branch at Pashkum[a] (Wylie: pas kyum) to the southeast of Kargil in the Wakha Rong valley.[16]

Dogra period

Ruins of the old fort at Sod

During Zorawar Singh's invasion of Ladakh in 1834, the Dogras attacked both Sod Pasari and Pashkum and destroyed their forts.[17][18] Afterwards, Zorawar Singh stationed a kardar (administrator) for Kargil and Drass, and appears to have built a fort at Kargil for this purpose.[19][20] Alexander Cunningham described the "newl fort" at Kargil as a square of about sixty yards on the left bank of the Suru River, immediately above its junction with Wakha Rong. It was able to defend the bridge over the Suru River and completely command the Kashmir–Ladakh road.[21]

In 1838, the people of the region are said to have revolted against the Dogras, killing the kardar. The entire region was beset with rebellions, reportedly instigated by the Sikh governor of Kashmir.[19][20] In 1840 Zorawar Singh launched a second expedition to Ladakh, deposed the Gyalpo, and annexed Ladakh to the Sikh Empire. He also decided to invade Baltistan.[22] On the way to Baltistan, he made a detour to Sod, routed the rebels there and, "annexed" the whole of Purig. He appointed kardars for Drass and Suru.[23][b]

After Zorawar Singh's death in Tibet, there was another rebellion in Ladakh and Purig. But Dogras sent fresh forces under Wazir Lakhpat, who beat back the Tibetans and reestablished status quo ante. On his return, the new Wazir garrisoned the Kargil fort and took all the Rajas of the region as prisoners.[24]

In 1854, there were three ilaqas (subdistrics) in the present day Kargil district, at Kargil, Dras and Zanskar respectively. They were headed by civil officers called Thanadars.[25] It would appear that the growth of Kargil as an administrative centre and town owes to this establishment.

During the reign of Pratap Singh, a wazarat (district) was established for all the frontier regions (including Gilgit), and Kargil was made a tehsil of this wazarat. Sometime later, Gilgit was separated, and Kargil, Skardu and Leh were jointly established as the Ladakh wazarat. The district headquarters shifted between the three locations each year.[26]


In historical times, both Leh and Kargil were part of the trade route between South Asia and Central Asia as posts and halting places until the mid-20th century. During the colonial period, the significance of this trade route in Kargil town manifested in the form of a serai, a rest-house, and post and telegraph offices. The small wooden shops and large emporiums of Kargil's small bazaar offered matches, kerosine oil, several varieties of sugar and tea, cotton cloth from Bombay and Manchester, and cheap glass and tinsel ornaments.[27]

Independent India

Kargil War Memorial

The First Kashmir War (1947–48) concluded with a ceasefire line that divided the Ladakh wazarat, putting roughly the Kargil and Leh tehsils on the Indian side, and the Skardu tehsil on the Pakistan side. The two Indian tehsils were later promoted to districts and Ladakh was named a division, on a par with the Jammu and Kashmir divisions in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan renamed the Skardu tehsil as Baltistan and divided it into further districts.

At the end of Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, the two nations signed the Simla Agreement, converting the former ceasefire line with some adjustments into a Line of Control, and promising not to engage in armed conflict with respect to that boundary.[28]

In 1999 the area saw infiltration by Pakistani forces, leading to the Kargil War. Fighting occurred along a 160 km long stretch of ridges overlooking the Srinagar–Leh Road, then the only road to Ladakh[29] The military outposts on the ridges above the highway were generally around 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) elevation, with a few as high as 5,485 metres (18,000 ft). After several months of fighting and diplomatic activity, the Pakistani forces were forced to withdraw to their side of the Line of Control.[30]


Kargil town with the Suru river in the foreground and mountain background

Kargil has an average elevation of 2,676 metres (8,780 feet), and is situated along the banks of the Suru River (Indus). The town of Kargil is located 205 km (127 mi) from Srinagar,[31] facing Gilgit-Baltistan across the LOC. Like other areas in the Himalayas, Kargil has a temperate climate. Summers are hot with cool nights, while winters are long and chilly with temperatures often dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F).[32]


The total population of Kargil town increased almost tenfold from 1,681 persons in 1961 to 16,338 persons in 2011. The level of urbanisation concomitantly increased from 3.7% to 11.6%. In the same period, the population of the entire Kargil district was tripled from 45,064 to 140,802.[27] As per the Census India 2011, the town has population of 16,338, of which 10,082 are males and 6,256 are females. The population of children between age 0-6 is 1,569 which is 9.6% of total population. The gender ratio is around 621 compared to 889 which is average of the former erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state. The literacy rate of the town is 75.53%, out of which 85.57% are male literate and 59.35% are females literate. [2]


Islam is the largest religion in Kargil City, followed by over 92% of people. Budhism is the second-largest religion with 7.8% adherents. Other 0.003% of the population follow Sikhism respectively.[33]

Religion in Kargil City (2011)[33]

  Islam (92%)
  Buddhism (7.8%)
  Others (0.002%)
  Not Stated (0.09%)

Media and communications

All India Radio's channel AIR Kargil AM 684 is broadcast from a radio station at Kargil.[34] Greater Ladakh is the largest circulated bi-lingual newspaper in the Union Territory that publishes once in a week.[citation needed]



Kargil Airport is a non-operational airport located 8 kilometres from the town. The airport is included in UDAN scheme and is proposed to be operational in the near future. The nearest operational airport is the Srinagar International Airport.


There is no rail connectivity to Kargil yet. The Srinagar–Kargil–Leh railway line is proposed which will connect Srinagar and Leh via Kargil. The nearest major railway station to Kargil is Jammu Tawi railway station located at a distance of 472 kilometres.


An Indian national highway (NH 1) connecting Srinagar to Leh cuts through Kargil.

Skardu–Kargil Road

The all-weather Skardu–Kargil Road once linked Kargil to Skardu, a city in Gilgit-Baltistan. Since the 1948 Kashmir War, the road has been closed. Whilst the Indian Government has proposed opening the road as a humanitarian gesture, the Pakistani government has refused.[35][36][37]

See also


  1. ^ Alternative spellings: Pashkyum and Paskyum.
  2. ^ The mention of "Suru" could be a reference to Kargil.


  1. ^ a b The application of the term "administered" to the various regions of Kashmir and a mention of the Kashmir dispute is supported by the tertiary sources (a) through (e), reflecting due weight in the coverage. Although "controlled" and "held" are also applied neutrally to the names of the disputants or to the regions administered by them, as evidenced in sources (h) through (i) below, "held" is also considered politicized usage, as is the term "occupied," (see (j) below).
    (a) Kashmir, region Indian subcontinent, Encyclopaedia Britannica, retrieved 15 August 2019 (subscription required) Quote: "Kashmir, region of the northwestern Indian subcontinent ... has been the subject of dispute between India and Pakistan since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The northern and western portions are administered by Pakistan and comprise three areas: Azad Kashmir, Gilgit, and Baltistan, the last two being part of a territory called the Northern Areas. Administered by India are the southern and southeastern portions, which constitute the state of Jammu and Kashmir but are slated to be split into two union territories.";
    (b) Pletcher, Kenneth, Aksai Chin, Plateau Region, Asia, Encyclopaedia Britannica, retrieved 16 August 2019 (subscription required) Quote: "Aksai Chin, Chinese (Pinyin) Aksayqin, portion of the Kashmir region, at the northernmost extent of the Indian subcontinent in south-central Asia. It constitutes nearly all the territory of the Chinese-administered sector of Kashmir that is claimed by India to be part of the Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir state.";
    (c) "Kashmir", Encyclopedia Americana, Scholastic Library Publishing, 2006, p. 328, ISBN 978-0-7172-0139-6 C. E Bosworth, University of Manchester Quote: "KASHMIR, kash'mer, the northernmost region of the Indian subcontinent, administered partlv by India, partly by Pakistan, and partly by China. The region has been the subject of a bitter dispute between India and Pakistan since they became independent in 1947";
    (d) Osmańczyk, Edmund Jan (2003), Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements: G to M, Taylor & Francis, pp. 1191–, ISBN 978-0-415-93922-5 Quote: "Jammu and Kashmir: Territory in northwestern India, subject to a dispute between India and Pakistan. It has borders with Pakistan and China."
    (e) Talbot, Ian (2016), A History of Modern South Asia: Politics, States, Diasporas, Yale University Press, pp. 28–29, ISBN 978-0-300-19694-8 Quote: "We move from a disputed international border to a dotted line on the map that represents a military border not recognized in international law. The line of control separates the Indian and Pakistani administered areas of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir.";
    (f) Skutsch, Carl (2015) [2007], "China: Border War with India, 1962", in Ciment, James (ed.), Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II (2nd ed.), London and New York: Routledge, p. 573, ISBN 978-0-7656-8005-1, The situation between the two nations was complicated by the 1957–1959 uprising by Tibetans against Chinese rule. Refugees poured across the Indian border, and the Indian public was outraged. Any compromise with China on the border issue became impossible. Similarly, China was offended that India had given political asylum to the Dalai Lama when he fled across the border in March 1959. In late 1959, there were shots fired between border patrols operating along both the ill-defined McMahon Line and in the Aksai Chin.
    (g) Clary, Christopher (30 March 2024), The Difficult Politics of Peace: Rivalry in Modern South Asia, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, p. 109, ISBN 9780197638408, Territorial Dispute: The situation along the Sino-Indian frontier continued to worsen. In late July (1959), an Indian reconnaissance patrol was blocked, "apprehended," and eventually expelled after three weeks in custody at the hands of a larger Chinese force near Khurnak Fort in Aksai Chin. ... Circumstances worsened further in October 1959, when a major class at Kongka Pass in eastern Ladakh led to nine dead and ten captured Indian border personnel, making it by far the most serious Sino-Indian class since India's independence.
    (h) Bose, Sumantra (2009), Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace, Harvard University Press, pp. 294, 291, 293, ISBN 978-0-674-02855-5 Quote: "J&K: Jammu and Kashmir. The former princely state that is the subject of the Kashmir dispute. Besides IJK (Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. The larger and more populous part of the former princely state. It has a population of slightly over 10 million, and comprises three regions: Kashmir Valley, Jammu, and Ladakh.) and AJK ('Azad" (Free) Jammu and Kashmir. The more populous part of Pakistani-controlled J&K, with a population of approximately 2.5 million.), it includes the sparsely populated "Northern Areas" of Gilgit and Baltistan, remote mountainous regions which are directly administered, unlike AJK, by the Pakistani central authorities, and some high-altitude uninhabitable tracts under Chinese control."
    (i) Fisher, Michael H. (2018), An Environmental History of India: From Earliest Times to the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge University Press, p. 166, ISBN 978-1-107-11162-2 Quote: "Kashmir’s identity remains hotly disputed with a UN-supervised “Line of Control” still separating Pakistani-held Azad (“Free”) Kashmir from Indian-held Kashmir.";
    (j) Snedden, Christopher (2015), Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris, Oxford University Press, p. 10, ISBN 978-1-84904-621-3 Quote:"Some politicised terms also are used to describe parts of J&K. These terms include the words 'occupied' and 'held'."
  2. ^ a b District Census Handbook: Kargil, Directorate of Census Operations, 2011, pp. 22–23
  3. ^ "Report of the Commissioner for linguistic minorities: 50th report (July 2012 to June 2013)" (PDF). Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India. p. 49. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  4. ^ Cunningham, Ladak (1854), p. 148.
  5. ^ Kerin, Melissa R. (2015). Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya. Indiana University Press. p. 206, note 53. ISBN 978-0-253-01309-5.
  6. ^ Osada et al (2000), p. 298.
  7. ^ a b c Rizvi, Ladakh: Crossroads of High Asia (1996), pp. 19–20.
  8. ^ Francke, August Hermann (1926). Antiquities of Indian Tibet, Part 2. Calcutta: Superintendent Government Printing. p. 128 – via archive.org.
  9. ^ THL Tibetan to English Translation Tool, The Tibetan & Himalayan Library. Term: "dkar skyil".
  10. ^ Martin, Dan (1991), The Emergence of Bon and the Tibetan Polemical Tradition, Indiana University, p. 280, note 128; See also Gyeltsen, Jamyang (2020), dgon rabs kun gsal nyi snang / དགོན་རབས་ཀུན་གསལ་ཉི་སྣང་།, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, p. xx, ISBN 9789390752270
  11. ^ THL Tibetan to English Translation Tool, The Tibetan & Himalayan Library. Term: "dkar 'khyil".
  12. ^ View of the Kargil valley from the north, Google Maps, retrieved 17 January 2023.
  13. ^ a b Radhika Gupta, Allegiance and Alienation (2013), p. 49.
  14. ^ Rizvi, Janet; Kakpori, G. M. (Summer 1988), "Lost kingdoms of the gold-digging ants (Review of L'or des fourmis: La découverte de l'Eldorado grec au Tibet by Michel Peissel)", India International Centre Quarterly, 15 (2): 131–147, JSTOR 23002056
  15. ^ Francke, A History of Western Tibet (1907), p. 103.
  16. ^ a b Devers, Quentin (2020), "Buddhism before the First Diffusion? The case of Tangol, Dras, Phikhar and Sani-Tarungtse in Purig and Zanskar (Ladakh)", Études Mongoles & Sibériennes, Centrasiatiques & Tibétaines, 51 (51), doi:10.4000/emscat.4226, S2CID 230579183
  17. ^ Cunningham, Ladak (1854), pp. 334–335.
  18. ^ Francke, Antiquities of Indian Tibet, Part 2 (1926), pp. 128–129.
  19. ^ a b Charak, General Zorawar Singh (1983), p. 43.
  20. ^ a b Handa, Buddhist Western Himalaya (2001), p. 191.
  21. ^ Cunningham, Ladak (1854), p. 282.
  22. ^ Charak, General Zorawar Singh (1983), p. 45.
  23. ^ Charak, General Zorawar Singh (1983), p. 50.
  24. ^ Charak, General Zorawar Singh (1983), p. 111.
  25. ^ Cunningham, Ladak (1854), p. 274.
  26. ^ Aggarwal, Beyond Lines of Control 2004, p. 35.
  27. ^ a b Altaf Hussain; Susanne Schmidt; Marcus Nüsser (2023). "Dynamics of Mountain Urbanisation: Evidence from the Trans-Himalayan Town of Kargil, Ladakh, India". Land. 12 (4): 920. doi:10.3390/land12040920. ISSN 2073-445X.
  28. ^ Cheema, Pervaiz Iqbal (2003). The Armed Forces of Pakistan. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-119-1. Pg 4
  29. ^ "1999 Kargil Conflict". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  30. ^ "War in Kargil – The CCC's summary on the war" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  31. ^ Profile of Kargil District Archived 18 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine Official website of Kargil District
  32. ^ "Climate & Soil conditions". Official website of Kargil District. Archived from the original on 10 April 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  33. ^ a b "Kargil City Population". Census India. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  34. ^ "How one Ladakhi Woman Kept Kargil's AIR Station Running, Despite Enemy Shelling!". The Better India. 26 July 2020. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  35. ^ "Moving on the Kargil-Skardu road". The Indian Express. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  36. ^ "The Kargil-Skardu Route: Implications of its Opening by Zainab Akhter". Ipcs.org. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  37. ^ "Q. 368 Present status of Kargil to Skardu Road | Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses". Idsa.in. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013.


Further reading