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2022   12x12" shadow box

Sardak: the ancestors and owners of the land

  • Language: Ladakhi
  • Region: Ladakh, India
The word sardak means much more than the English ‘owner of land’; The roots of the word, with their tentacles, meander and take us to the first person (the original sardak of a household) who established the first farm, which gave him/her the food. The farm that led to the formation of his/her household. The household members created the first romkhang; the place where the dead person’s body was burnt to convert it back to soil and rocks. The following generations also converted to dust in the same romkhang. Siblings parted ways and the number of households grew; new romkhangs were made. The new, however, must have a handful of the soil of the original romkhang. So all the people who found a place in the romkhang are dakpos; owners of the land (sardak).
Romkhang, is an odd word. It means the house (khang) of the dead body (ro). But the body is not just a body; it also is soil/land. Dust in any romkhang is a mixture of the bodies of the ancestors.
The grove of trees which is a feature of the village landscape, owes its existence to them.
Here the dust of the sardak, rooted deeply in the land, nourishes a grove of birch.

For the full description, along with pronunciation, map and short video, click HERE.