Maryul of Ngari (Mar-yul of mNgah-ris), meaning the "lowland of Ngari" or lowland of West Tibet, was a West Tibetan kingdom based in modern-day Ladakh. It was founded by Lhachen Palgyigon (dPal-gyi-mgon) in c. 930 when he was still a prince. He inherited it after the death of his father Kyide Nyimagon (r. c. 900–930). The kingdom stretched from the Zoji La at the border of Kashmir to Demchok in the southeast, and included Rutog and other areas presently in Tibet.
The kingdom of Maryul, later called Ladakh, lasted until 1842 when the Dogra general Zorawar Singh, having conquered it, made it part of the would-be princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. On 31 October 2019, Ladakh was separated from Jammu and Kashmir, as a union territory of India.
Although the Tibetan meaning of Mar-yul as lowland is clear, there is evidence of the name being in use even before Ladakh was Tibetanised. For instance, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang referred to it as Mo-lo-so, which would lead to a reconstructed name such as *Malasa, *Marāsa, or *Mrāsa. The Annals of Tun‐Huang state that the Tibetan government carried out a census of Zan-zun and Mar(d) in 719 CE. The Persian text Hudud al-Alam (c. 982) refers to a "wealthy country of Tibet", with a tribe named Mayul. These facts suggest that Mar-yul ("land of Mar") might have been a proper name of the country, but it was interpreted as "lowland" (of Ngari) by the 10th century.
The name Maryul was in use as late as the 16th century, when Mirza Haidar Dughlat referred to it. He also named a region called "Ladaks" but it was apparently distinct from Maryul. The eclipse of Maryul by the name Ladakh is thus quite recent.
According to Ladakh chronicles, Kyide Nyimagon (Wylie: sKyid-lde Nyi-ma-mgon), a descendant of a branch of the Old Tibetan dynasty, was forced to flee to the West Tibet during the Tibetan Era of Fragmentation. He married a princess of Purang and obtained the alliance of local chieftains. He expanded his kingdom to stretch from the Mayum La in the east to the Zoji La in the west. Upon his death, his vast kingdom was divided among his three sons: the eldest son, Lhachen Palgyigon, receiving Maryul, the second son, Trashigon, receiving Guge and Purang, and the third son, Detsukgon, receiving Zanskar (mountainous area between Ladakh and Kashmir).[a]
The description makes clear that Purig (the Suru River basin near Kargil) was included in Maryul, but Zanskar was not. The latter went to the third son Detsukgon along with Lahul and Spiti. The Rupshu highland was regarded as the frontier between Maryul and Zanskar. Baltistan was also not included in Maryul.
The border between Maryul and Guge is much harder to discern. Demchok is mentioned as a region within Maryul, but not placed on its frontier. If we run a line due east from the Imis Pass (Tashigang (Zhaxigang), Gar (Shiquanhe) and much of the Sengge Zangbo river basin within Maryul. A. H. Francke includes in his book a sample map, where this kind of a border is shown, running slightly to the north of Gartok. In his view, the second heir Trashigon received "a long and narrow strip of country along the northern slope of the Himalayas, of which Purang and Guge are the best-known provinces". Maryul encompassed all the areas to the north of this narrow strip.), it would include
Scholar Luciano Petech says that even though Palgyigon's father theoretically bequeathed Maryul to him, the actual conquest of the territories was carried out by Palgyigon himself, who Petech identifies as "the founder and organiser of the Ladakhi kingdom".
It appears that the second son Trashigon died without issue, and his kingdom was acquired by Detsukgon. The latter's son, Yeshe-Ö became a prominent ruler that reestablished Buddhism in West Tibet and Tibet in general. Maryul, belonging to the senior branch, is believed to have extended some form of suzerainty over the other branches.
Treaty of Tingmosgang
Guge was annexed by Ladakh in the second quarter of the 17th century. This invited retaliation from Lhasa, whose forces drove out the Ladakhis and laid siege to Ladakh itself. Ladakh was forced to seek help from the Mughal Empire in Kashmir, leading to the Tibet–Ladakh–Mughal War. At the end of the conflict, in 1684, the Treaty of Tingmosgang was agreed, affirming that:
|“||The boundaries fixed, in the beginning, when king Skyed-lda-ngeema-gon [Nyimagon] gave a kingdom to each of his three sons shall still be maintained.||”|
Despite the apparent invocation of the "boundaries fixed in the beginning", the extensive dominions granted in the original inheritance were not retained by Maryul. The treaty itself makes clear that Rutog was no more a part of Maryul and various restrictions were placed on trade with Rutog. Scholar Gerhard Emmer states that Ladakh was reduced to approximately its current extent. It was henceforth treated as being outside Ngari Khorsum, as a buffer state against Mughal India. The territories of Guge, Purang and Rudok were annexed to Tibet and the frontier with Tibet was fixed at the Lha-ri stream near Demchok. The reason for this exclusion was apparently Ladakh's syncretism and its willingness to ally with Mughal India. Ladakh was instructed in the treaty:
|“||to keep watch at the frontier of Buddhist and non-Buddhist peoples, and out of regard for the doctrine of Buddha ... not allow any army from India to proceed to an attack [upon Tibet].||”|
Treaty of Chushul
A historical claim was again made in the 19th century, after the Dogra general Zorawar Singh conquered Ladakh. Singh claimed all of western Tibet up to the Mayum Pass as Ladakhi territory and occupied it. Once again, Lhasa dispatched troops that defeated Zorawar Singh and laid siege to Leh. After the Dogras received reinforcements, a stalemate was obtained and the Treaty of Chushul reconfirmed the "old, established frontiers".
- The Tibetan names of the three sons in Wylie transliteration are: Lhachen Palgyigon (lHa-chen dPal-gyi-mgon), Trashigon (bKra-shis-mgon) and Detsukgon (lDe-gtsug-mgon). The three sons together were referred to as three sTodmgon.
- "Demchok Karpo" is identified by most scholars as the village of Demchok at the southern border between Ladakh and Tibet. The literal meanings are as follows: Karpo means white in Tibetan. It also has figurative meanings such as pure, wholesome, positive, good etc. Demchok is the Tibetan name of the Vajrayana Buddhist deity Chakrasamvara, who is believed to reside at Mount Kailas along with his consort Vajravarahi. The association with the Mount Kailas may be later than the 10th century. Interestingly, the tradition states that Demchok defeated Mahesvara and took his place on top of Sumeru.
- Further conquests were made by Tashi Namgyal (r. c. 1555 – c. 1575), Tsewang Namgyal I (r. c. 1575 – c. 1595), and Sengge Namgyal (r. 1624–1642).
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), p. 19: "Mar-yul (literally "lower land") is the common Tibetan name for the Leh district in Ladakh. Mnah-ris (Mnga-ris), although now restricted to West Tibet, then referred to the entire territory between the Zoji and Mayum passes."
- Petech, The Kingdom of Ladakh (1977), p. 17: "it seems that his father bequeathed him a theoretical right of sovereignty, but the actual conquest was effected by dPal-gyi-mgon himself."
- Powers & Templeman, Historical Dictionary of Tibet (2012), p. 388: "sKyid lde Nyi ma mgon (r. ca. 900—930) ruled La dwags [Ladakh]. He established the Kingdom of La dwags, and his son dPal gyi mgon (r. ca. 930—960) succeeded him."
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), p. 19: "The Ladakhi chronicles state that the eldest son, Pal-gyi-gön (Dpal-gyi-mgon), received Ladakh and the Rudok area;..."
- Francke, Antiquities of Indian Tibet (1992), p. 94.
- Strachey, Capt. H. (1853), "Physical Geography of Western Tibet", The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, Volume 23, Royal Geographical Society (Great Britain), p. 13: "Maryul signifies in Tibetan the Low Country, a term appropriate to the character of its inhabited valleys as contrasted with Nari-Khorsum"
- Petech, The Kingdom of Ladakh (1977), pp. 7–8.
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), p. 86.
- Petech, The Kingdom of Ladakh (1977), p. 8.
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), pp. 86–87.
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), p. 88.
- Powers & Templeman, Historical Dictionary of Tibet (2012), p. 27.
- Petech, The Kingdom of Ladakh (1977), p. 17.
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), pp. 18–19.
- Dorjay, Embedded in Stone (2014), p. 53: "Shey, about 15 km southeast of Leh, was an ancient capital of Ladakh. In the tenth century CE the first king of Ladakh, lHa chen dPal gyi mgon, apparently constructed the hilltop fortress whose ruins can be seen above the present Shey Palace. Shey possesses a number of early Buddhist rock sculptures, many of which are about a metre in height."
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), p. 88: From the diary of Mirza Haidar Dughlat: "The Chui [Jo plural, i.e. rulers] of Maryul, named Tashikun and Lata Jughdan, ...... gave us the castle of Sheya [Shey] which is the capital of Maryul [to live in during the winter]"
- Albert Hermann, Historical and Commercial Atlas of China, Harvard University Press, 1935
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), p. 19.
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), p. 83.
- dkar po, Tibetan & Himalayan Library, retrieved 21 October 2019.
- McKay, Alex (2015). Kailas Histories: Renunciate Traditions and the Construction of Himalayan Sacred Geography. BRILL. pp. 5, 304–305, 316. ISBN 978-90-04-30618-9.
- Francke, A History of Western Tibet (1907), pp. 60–61.
- Francke, A History of Western Tibet (1907), p. 63.
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963): p. 20: "Francke asserts that the eldest son (i.e., the ruler of Ladakh) was suzerain over his brothers, and that Ladakh thus exercised some form of authority over West Tibet, Zanskar, Spiti, and Lahul." p. 21: "On several occasions expansionist rulers of Ladakh laid claim to West Tibet on the basis of past association, but there are no recorded instances in which the reverse occurred."
- Handa, Buddhist Western Himalaya (2001), pp. 130, 224–225.
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), pp. 89–90.
- Francke, A History of Western Tibet (1907), p. 86.
- Howard & Howard, Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley (2014), p. 90.
- McKay, History of Tibet, Vol. 2 (2003), p. 3.
- McKay, History of Tibet, Vol. 2 (2003), p. 785.
- Emmer, the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War (2007), pp. 99–100.
- Shakspo, Nawang Tsering (1999), "The Foremost Teachers of the Kings of Ladakh", in Martijn van Beek; Kristoffer Brix Bertelsen; Poul Pedersen (eds.), Recent Research on Ladakh 8, Aarhus University Press, p. 288, ISBN 978-87-7288-791-3
- Emmer, the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War, pp. 92, 100.
- Francke, Antiquities of Indian Tibet (1992), p. 116.
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), p. 50: "Zorawar Singh then announced his intention to conquer in the name of the Jammu Raja all of Tibet west of the Mayum Pass, on the ground that this territory had rightfully belonged, since ancient times, to the ruler of Ladakh."
- Fisher, Rose & Huttenback, Himalayan Battleground (1963), p. 55–56.
- Emmer, Gerhard (2007), "Dga' Ldan Tshe Dbang Dpal Bzang Po and the Tibet-Ladakh-Mugha1 War of 1679-84", Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the IATS, 2003. Volume 9: The Mongolia-Tibet Interface: Opening New Research Terrains in Inner Asia, BRILL, pp. 81–108, ISBN 978-90-474-2171-9
- Fisher, Margaret W.; Rose, Leo E.; Huttenback, Robert A. (1963), Himalayan Battleground: Sino-Indian Rivalry in Ladakh, Praeger – via Questia
- Francke, August Hermann (1907), A History of Western Tibet, S. W. Partridge & Co – via archive.org
- Francke, August Hermann (1992) [first published 1926]. Antiquities of Indian Tibet. Volume 38; Volume 50 of New imperial series. Asian Educational Services. p. 94. ISBN 81-206-0769-4.
- Handa, O. C. (2001), Buddhist Western Himalaya: A politico-religious history, Indus Publishing, ISBN 978-81-7387-124-5
- Lo Bue, Erberto; Bray, John, eds. (2014), "Introduction", Art and Architecture in Ladakh: Cross-cultural Transmissions in the Himalayas and Karakoram, BRILL, ISBN 978-90-04-27180-7
- Dorjay, Phuntsog (2014), "Embedded in Stone—Early Buddhist Rock Art of Ladakh", Ibid, pp. 35–67
- Howard, Neil; Howard, Kath (2014), "Historic Ruins in the Gya Valley, Eastern Ladakh, and a Consideration of Their Relationship to the History of Ladakh and Maryul", Ibid, pp. 68–99
- Petech, Luciano (1977), The Kingdom of Ladakh, c. 950–1842 A.D. (PDF), Instituto Italiano Per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente – via academia.edu