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An introduction

Munshi House
before restoration

Survey & documentation
of the existing building


Building Materials

The team on site
in August 2007

The Library and reading














    An introduction - Part 1 | Part 2    

The Munshi house stands in the centre of the old town of Leh at the foot of the King Singge Namgyal’s vast seventeenth century palace, and the origins of the house probably go back to the same date. It was the residence of the Togoche or Munshi family, ministers to the king, and was gradually extended over the centuries with richly decorated interiors and balconies.

The historic house has now been restored by LAMO, the Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation, and extended, together with the adjoining Gyaoo house, to create an arts centre for the people of Leh and Ladakh.

The town of Leh grew up when King Sengge Namgyal built his new palace on Tsemo hill in the early seventeenth century, and it became the central exchange point for long distance trade between east and west, north and south. For two centuries it remained the small compact settlement surrounded by walls and towers seen in Trebeck’s drawing from 1820 (image 1).

The big houses of the aristocracy and important officials were built close to the palace at the top of the town. In this photograph of c1880 (image 2) the Munshi House (just to the left of centre) is dwarfed by the huge house of the Kalon, the king’s chief minister, with the Rupshu House (connected by marriage to the royal family) behind, and the Lonpo House at the left. The Kalon House was completely demolished c1900, leaving only two walls shared with the Munshi House.

From the town below the most prominent features of the Munshi House are the two balconies with intricately carved Kashmiri woodwork (image 3), but form above we can see the ruinous state into which the building and the adjoining Gyaoo House had fallen by the end of the twentieth century (image 4).

The east wall of the house still shows traces of the rooms inside the Kalon House, demolished more than a century ago. At the bottom is a massive rammed-earth wall which may have been the first line of the city wall in the seventeenth century (image 5).

The restoration of the LAMO Centre was supported by INTACH (UK) Trust, Luba Hamied Educational Foundation and private donations.

Click here to view: Part 1 | Part 2








Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5


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