Kargil | 5th Century Lord Buddha’s Rock statues

Kargil 5th century rock carved out statues are the only three statues left in the world after Bamiyan Buddha’s statues of 5th century were destroyed in Afghanistan .

Kargil in Ladakh region of India is an ancient town situated on the junction and a transit point to the Silk route, traders from Central Asia, China, Tibet, Zanskar, North India traded the spices, tea, textile, rugs, dyes,  through Kargil till 1947. Kargil which was also known as Purig , the popular language spoken here is Balti-Purig which is a dialect of a Tibetian , Zanskar people speak Bhoto . After the Shia Islam was introduced around 13th Century and in 16th Century The King Thi Namgyal directed his people conversion from Buddhist to Shia Islam, lots of Persian words and Phrases become part of the daily speaking language , the social celebrations like marriages still have Islamic and Buddhist common rituals.

There are many statues and impressions which were made during the Buddhism period are beautiful rock carved statues of Maitreya Buddha exhibiting the skill and dedication of artists and devotion of people from that period.

42 Kms. from Kargil town is a village Karstekhar near Sankoo, on Kargil – Suru valley road , here a ten meter tall statue of Maitreya Buddha is cut out from a greyish yellow rock , it has been carved by the skillful artists , holes around it suggest that scaffolds were used to get such a tall statue carved out with very fine details on face, it is supposed to be carved in 7th Century.

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Karstekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

Maitreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Karstekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

The Bodhistva Maitreya is in “Abhya Mudra” with right hand  and left hand is carrying a “Kamandal” the water carrying pot , there are “Rudraksha Mala” tied on wrist and arm above the elbow , here we see “Janeu” and “Kardhani” the waist band are also of “Rudraksha” , decorative necklace and a headgear . Knotted hair are falling over the shoulders.

 

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Kartsekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

Maitreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Kartsekhar, Sankoo, Suru valley, Kargil

 

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, apati village, Sod valley, Kargil

Maitreya Buddha, Chamba statue, apati village, Sod valley, Kargil

Apati village is about 25 km from Kargil, one is to walk through a small green village settled along a water stream, after crossing the village and drain a beautiful Maitreya Buddha statue with right hand is in “Abhay Mudra” and in left hand is a “Kamandal” to carry water, the eyes are protruded out like Frog eyes, one can see the red colour in the parts above the shoulders and on the wall behind which has faded out with time .

 

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Mulbek, Kargil

Matreya Buddha, Chamba statue, Mulbek, Kargil

Mulbek is 42 km from Kargil on Srinagar-Leh highway , The Maitreya Buddha 9 meters tall  is carved out in a rock with four arms , first right hand is in “Varada Mudra” , second right hand carrying “Rudraksha Mala” the Rosary, first left hand is carrying the “Kamandal” the water pot and second left hand is carrying branch with leaves. both the arms above the elbow and wrist are having Rudrasha mala tied around ,long ears are with “Kundals” ear rings ,neck is adorned with decorative necklaces . one can see a “Janeu” hanging from left shoulder till below the naval . knotted hair are falling over the shoulders . The statue here is completely different from Apati and Kartsekhar statues.

Drass is 65 km from Kargil on Leh-Srinagar highway , there are few stone statues partly recognizable as a Maitreya Buddha , Avalokivtesara , a horse rider , a Lotus flower and a stupa. These figures are supposed to be of pre Tibetan influence in the valley .

These three Buddhist rock carved statues in Kargil , India are only left in the world after the demolition of Bamiyan Buddha statue in Afghanistan .

 

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Kargil | Bheem Bat | Drass Valley

Bheem Bat is in Drass Valley is about 2 km from the Kargil War memorial 53 km from Kargil very close to the National Highway 1D to Drass – Kargil – Leh.

 

Bheem Beda, Drass Valley, Karakoram range backdrop, Kargil

Kargil Bheem Bat, Drass Valley, Karakoram range in backdrop, Kargil

While travelling from Drass to Kargil about two km from the Drass War Memorial , on the right hand of highway there is a beautiful green meadow , one is to walk about two hundred meters in the open green area to reach near the Drass river, just before the gorge is a cylindrical black rock lying on ground about 7 ft. in length encircled by a wall of stones is Bheem Bat .

Bheem Beda , Drass Valley , Kargil

Bheem Bat , Drass Valley , Kargil

It is a piece of rock as per legend goes, it is a body part of Bheem a Pandava brother from epic Mahabharat , it moved overnight from the other side of mountain by itself. It is treated as a holy relic, locals Muslims and Buddhists believe that it has healing powers. the grass and mud around it is used in treating the Goats and Cows for increasing the quantity of milk .

It is also believed that consuming the scratched dust from this rock by a childless lady results in early conceiving .

 

Locals and the army men posted in this area visit this place regularly to pay their respect by lighting the incense sticks and oil lamps .

Drass Valley is a surrounded by snow caped mountains of Karakoram range , river Drass flows through it , one can enjoy the beautiful views of Tiger hill, Rhino Knobb, Tololing one one side and on the other side is Mun mun pass from where one can have view of beautifull Drass valley and India – Pakistan Line of control .

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Drass Valley , Ladakh

Drass is a small town on Srinagar – Leh National Highway 1D , 147 km from Srinagar and 60 km from Kargil at a height of 3230 meters from sea level  , it is also called the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh , it starts from Zoji-la and extends till Kargil , it is the second highest coldest inhabited place after Siberia on earth , the temperature goes down till minus 60 degree centigrade in winters , in the local Baltic language Dras means ” the Hell” There are heavy snow fall and storms from November to April May . During spring and summer, the valley transforms into lush green Meadows splashed with a variety of fragrant wild flowers

Drass River originates from the Machoi glacier near the  Zozila Pass. The river is joined  by many other rivers and streams flowing in from snowfields from the nearby mountains. The river Shigar flows in from the north drains and joins it in the Drass valley.

The Puga Valley is famous for its hot water springs ,visitors come to this valley for a bath in these springs as this is known to help people suffering from rheumatism and skin diseases , Drass is a convenient base for a 3-day long trek to Suru valley This trek passes through beautiful upland villages and wild flower  meadows on both sides of the  Umba  – La pass ( 4,500 meters )

 

Dras War Memorial at the base of Tololing Ridge

The town got famous after the 1999 Kargil War when it was being shelled by infiltrators till the Indian Army recaptured the three heights, namely Tololing, Tiger Hill and The Three Pimples overlooking National Highway 1D that passes through Drass.

 

View of Tiger Hill from Srinagar – Leh Highway 1D

 

Tiger Hill view from Srinagar-Leh Highway 1D

Its inhabitants are mainly of the Dard origin , an Aryan race that migrated from Central Asian steppes. They speak Shina ,belongs to the Indo-European linguistic family. Their ancestral sport, horse-polo that the Dard plays with particular zeal, resembles our modern polo . The  people inhabiting these regions faces  the harshness of the valley’s winter; negotiate the formidable pass to transport a trader’s merchandise. The citizens of Drass can be described as the guardians of Ladakh’s gateway.

Tourism is being promoted in this region by organizing the Polo matches among the villages and teams from outside the valley. Polo stadium is named  after an army officer Lt. Conolel Vishwanathan who sacrificed his life to push the Pakistani intruders out of this valley in 1999 .

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Ladakh the Moonland, Last Shangrila, Little Tibet

Ladakh is located in the North-Eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir state in India , it is a remote Tibetan plateau, primarily Buddhist and Tibetan in its culture and in a very clear contrast to rest of Kashmir, indeed to the rest of India as well.

Small Ladakhi girl

Ladakh is located in the North-Eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir state in India , it is a remote Tibetan plateau, primarily Buddhist and Tibetan in its culture and in a very clear contrast to rest of Kashmir, indeed to the rest of India as well.Little Tibet , The Moonland and The Last Shangrila are the alternate names for Ladakh, Himalayas are the most effective barrier to rain. A very few clouds creep across their massive height and as a result this land is barren beyond belief, The Plants and green belt are near the river’s bed that carry water from glaciers in the peaks of the Himalayas. A land of freezing winds and burning hot sunlight, this land is completely different from the green landscape of many parts of the Himalayas. Bounded by two of the world’s mightiest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karokaram, it is a land which has no match. In this region there is a long narrow valley known as Zanskar even more isolated than Ladakh Valley.

The Moon Land Ladakh

This land is connected to rest of India by a 434 km road from Srinagar, passing through Zozi-la Pass with an overnight stop at  Kargil , the first village after the Zozila is Drass the second highest, coldest habited place in the world , Kargil was once an important trading post. It was from here that one could turn south to Zanskar or go to Ladakh, en route to Leh one passes through village Shergol which is the dividing line between Muslim and Buddhist areas. Around Leh are the Age old Budhist Monastries and two highest motorable roads in the world the Chang – la Pass ( 17586 ft) the Khardung – la pass    ( 18400 ft) the crystal clear water lakes , Pangong, Tsmori, Tsokar etc. with breath-taking views.

 

Dry barren land and Popular tree of Ladakh

Another famous route to reach Leh is from Manali connected by road 479 km, road opens from mid June till September end every year , one is to stop at Keylong after crossing the Rotang-la ( Pass) 13051 ft  or at Sarchu or the last village of Himachal Pradesh before entring the Ladakh and Jispa in Ladakh  region, one is to cross the Baralacha- la ( Pass) 16050 ft, Lachulung -la (Pass) 16598 ft and Tanglang – La ( Pass) 17470 ft  . Due to low oxygen and high altitude many travelers face mountain sickness , this road was the main trading route  to Yarkand till 1962,

Leh is located in the Indus valley at an altitude of 11562 ft from sea, once very important trading route as it is on the junction of trading roads to Tibet, Kashmir and Kashgar. There is no recorded history before 7th centenary but the history of surrounding Arabs, Mangols and Chinese  indicate that  of a Greater Ladakh was once a kingdom spreaded from Kailash Mansarover till Dardistan and Baltistan . The original inhabitants were Dards the Indo-Aryan Race but migration from Tibet since 10th centenary is now of Tibetan features , it was a strong hold of Buddhism and it reached Tibet from here . There were small scattered group of villages and their rulers  it was brought under one control by  King Bhagan of Namgyal dynasty and expelled most of the Central Asian raiders and united  it to form Ladakh , the Moguls in India who were ruling Kashmir in 17th centenary helped the Ladakhi ruler on a condition to build a Mosque in Leh and converted the ruler to Islam. In 1834 General of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab , Zoravar Singh annexed it to the Dogra State of Jammu & Kashmir and the Namgyal family was given the Jagir of Stok, which it nominally retains to this day, in 1947 the Dogra Ruler Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with Govt of India and since then it is part of India. Before partition, Baltistan, was a district in Ladakh now under Pakistani control. Skardu was the winter capital of Ladakh while Leh was the summer capital.  China closed the border of Nubra and Xinjian in 1949 and closed the trade route, India constructed 434 km the Srinagar-Leh highway 16 days journey is now reduced to Two days .

Snow covered high mountains and passes all over Ladakh

Indus River is the back bone of Ladakh major historical towns are Leh , Shey , Basgo and Tingmosgang where as Kargil is on the banks of river Suru , the other two rivers are Zanskar and Shayok , Ladakh is a high altitude desert , the monsoon clouds are unable to cross the high Himalayan ridges, the main source of water is the winter snow fall in the region, Drass, Suru and Zanskar region in the north flank of Himalayas remains cut of most of the time  from the other part of India by road due to heavy snow fall temperature ranges from -20 to -30 degree centigrade , summers are short with temperature rages between 3-35 degrees Centigrade

Indus River , Green patches and Cold Desert

One can reach Leh by air from Delhi and Srinagar operating daily flights.

There are regular Jeep taxi service from Srinagar and Manali when high passes are open during the summer months , from Srinagar the pass opens in early May till October, while Manali side road opens little late end May  and closes early.

Places of interest in and around Leh

Shanti Stupa – It is the most impressive structure visible from  almost every where in Leh. it is on a hill top north of Leh.

Spituk Gompa – It is the temple about 1000 years old on a hilltop above the Indus river near the airport

Leh Palace – It is a mini version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa , Tibet , built in 16th century.

Leh Gompa – Little above the ruins of palce is Red Gompa built in 1430 AD

Sankar Gompa – This is a little gompa is an impressive representation of Avalokkiteavara with 1000 arms and heads.

Choglamsar – It is an important Tibetan refugee center for the study of Tibetan literature and history.

Shey – This was the old summer palace of the kings of Ladakh built  around 1450 AD

Tikse Gompa – It is about 17 kms from Leh , visible from Shey. It is very picturesque and superbly sited on a hiltop overloking village and Indus river . This gompa has an important collection of Tibetian style books and some excellent artwork , one can watch religious ceremonies.

Hemis Gompa – It is one of the largest and most important in Ladakh, about 45 kms from Leh on the other side of Indus , It is famous for Hemis festival which usually falls in second half of June or early July. It has excellent library and well-preserved paintings.

Stok Palace – Close to the Choglamnsar bridge , on the left bank is the 200 years old Stok Palace where the royal family still lives.

Beacon Highway – If one gets the chance to visit the Nubra valley , it is the highest road in the world , the Khardung – la highest point 18500 ft. from sea level road only opens in July end, August to October , rest of the time it is under snow and thick fog .

Mulbek – Just beyond Mulbek village is the huge 9 meters Chamba statue,  an image of future Buddha , cut into rock face beside the road , there are two gompas on the hillside above the village Mulbek. these gompas are made into the rock .

Lamayuru – After crossing the Namik- La pass and Futu-La pass 13600 ft higest pass on Srinagar – Leh highway is the first of the typical Ladakhi gompa .

Alchi – Just before Saspul this Gompa is built on a low land , it has massive Budha statue and lavish wood carvings and art work.

Likir Gompa – It is shortly after Saspul it has a monastry school and a fort which is damaged , Basgo gompa has intresting figures of Buddha ,wall paintings are damaged due to water .

Gurudwara Pather Sahib –  Guru Nanak Dev Ji traveled to Tebet passing through Ladakh and stayed here for some time , the image in the rock is said to be of the Guru when he was hit by a rock which turned soft as wax upon touching his meditating body .

Sindhu Ghat – The river Indus ( Sindhu) flows through the Ladakh before entering Pakistan , every year a Sindhu festival is celebrated upon the banks of the Sindhu river.

Ma Kali Temple – It is an old temple dedicated to Ma Kali .

Chang-la – It is the second highest road in the world passing through the pass while traveling to Pangong Lake.

Pangong Tso lake –  This salt water lake  154 km from Leh , after crossing the Chang la , 4 km wide  about 136 km long , only 25% of it is in India rest is in Tibet / China at a height of 4250 meters .

Tsomoriri lake – This lake is 215 km from Leh, 19 km long and 3 km wide one of the largest high altitude lake situated at a height of 4595 meters in India .

 Khardong-la – It is the highest road crossing the pass ( 5359 mtrs.) in the world about 1 hr. drive from Leh city towards Nubra valley .

Nubra Valley – It 150 km from Leh , after climbing the Khardong-la pass the beautiful valley, Cold desert and home for Double hump camel, it extends as far as Seachin Glacier, it is also the fruit and food bowl of Ladakh

Fotu-la –  It is the highest point 4108 meters on Srinagar Leh highway .

Kargil – It is the second big town in Ladakh which got more popularity after the 1999 war , it is on the highway from Leh to Srinagar, from here one can travel to Zanskar Valley.

Drass Valley– It is the second coldest inhabited place on earth after Siberia in Russia one can have the beautiful views of Tololing and Tiger Hill famous after the Kargil war and pay a visit at War Hero’s Memorial.

Zanskar Valley – The most isolated , accessible in summers for four months only , kept the original Tibetian Budhisim alive.

Zoji-la – It is the dividing pass, on the one side is the Ladakh and the other side is the Kashmir valley.

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Tiger Hill, Tololing, Drass Valley,Kargil, Ladakh

Tiger Hill is over looking the  Drass Valley on Srinagar-Leh Highway 1D , it is also known as Point 5353 is the highest peak in this area (16500 feet) . It is the most dominating feature in Drass Valley , is on a confluence of number of spurs and over looks the long stretch of Srinagar-Leh highway.  In the local dialect “Baltic” Dras means “Hell”. It is at a height of 3230 meter or 10990 ft. The surrounding mountain ridges however range from 16000 feet to 21000 feet. It has become famous as the second coldest inhabited place in the world . Winter temperature is sometimes comes down to less than minus 60 degrees.  It is often called ‘The Gateway to Ladakh’ . It also became famous during mid 1999 due to invasion and capturing of surrounding tops by the Mujaheddin with the help of Pakistani army which led to a war from Indian army to recapture the territories back from the intruders.

 

My Salute to Brave Indian Soldiers , Plate at Drass Valley War Memorial

It was mid June of 2010  early morning  when we left Kargil , our driver wanted to cross the Zoji-La pass as early as possible to escape from melting snow and heavy traffic on Leh-Srinagar Highway 1D. We entered the Drass  Valley around 0530 hr. it was very cold and when I checked at the War Memorial which was closed at that time the temperature was -5 degree Centigrade , while waiting to open the gate my heart became so heavy I could not control my self and tears started rolling out of my eyes , imagining the Kargil War and my country brave soldiers who fought not only the enemy but the cold adverse weather , they preferred bullets to be carried with them instead of food. The soldier with his INSAS Rifle on duty at Memorial Gate was having a cylinder with a burner on top with a flame to keep himself warm told me that in this cold the fingers become num .

My first glimpses of Tiger Hill from Leh-Srinagar Highway

While travelling from Leh , we stayed a night at Kargil , early morning when we entered the Drass valley ,  moon was still shining over our left side of the mountains , our Ladakhi driver who was very quite since we started from Kargil broke the silence ” woh dekho Tiger Hill “ and my reaction was ” Wah” I was stunned with the beauty of it .

Beauty of Tiger Hill from Leh-Srinagar highway

Most of the Cab drivers want to cross the Zoji-La early morning because after the sun rise the warmth of sun rays causes the melting of Glaciers , and  water flows on the roads and it is difficult to drive in this patch, the War Memorial opens at 0800 hr. in the morning the war museum is worth visiting and paying respect to the Kargil War Heros.

 

Drass War Memorial , Snow cap Tololing Ridge in backdrop

If one is entering the Drass valley from Kargil , it is about 2 hr. drive,  make sure you leave from Kargil in time when you reach Drass the War Memorial is open . Take care of your woolens as Drass valley is the second highest coldest inhabited place on earth

Drass War Memorial at foot hill of Tololing Ridge, Kargil, Ladakh

“Sir, I’m on Tololing Top.” a simple message from Col. M.B. Ravindranath of  2nd Rajputana Riffles minutes after recapturing the Top ,  “Tololing being bang on the road, it choked our throats,” says a field commander. “That pressure is now off.” The victory earned by Ravindranath and his men a rare, direct “well-done” from then army chief Gen. V.P. Malik .

I could feel that chill in my body while standing at the War memorial which is just below the Tololing top.  It took just six days for Indian troops to give final touches to the  successes by evicting well-entrenched intruders on four nearby outposts with names echoed all over the World — Point 4590Rocky Knob, Hump and Point 5140. It could lead to the recapture of a similarly strategic height of Tiger Hill.

Tiger Hill Battle Plate at War Hero’s Memorial Drass, Ladakh

Tiger Hill has sharp conical features, which stands among the mountain tops a few kilometres north of Drass. During the Kargil war, the picture of Indian troops after having captured the Tiger Hill became the symbol of the Indian victory in the war. Indian Armed  forces involved  to recapture the Tiger Hill were from the 18 Grenadiers ,  2 Naga and the 8 Sikh Regiment  it was one of the costliest operations for the Indian forces in the entire conflict, with casualties of nearly forty personnel killed and nearly a hundred wounded in the entire operation.  In the 36 hour operation, the first meal our soldiers had were the dates left behind by the retreating Pakistanis.

Batra Top battle Plate, Drass Valley, Kargil, Ladakh

Captain Batra, the soldiers of 13 JAK Rifles charged the enemy position and captured Point 5140 set in motion a string of successes, such as Point 5100, Point 4700, Junction Peak and Three Pimples with fellow Captain Anuj Nayyer who was awarded Maha Vir Chakra  , Capt. Batra led his men to victory with the recapture of Point 4750 and Point 4875. He was killed when he tried to rescue an injured officer during an enemy counter attack  against Point 4875.   Captain Vikram Batra was awarded the Param Vir Chakra .

 

Tiger Hill, with Rhino Horn feature and a pimple called Batra Top

I saw very few local people in the morning , houses with door closed it was very cold , even  stray dogs or animals not visible anywhere in the valley. People I saw on the highway here either they were soldiers or truck drivers from Kashmir and Punjab.

Honor to a soldier in religious texts who lays his life in Battle field

 

Tololing Ridge and War Hero’s Memorial at Drass Valley

 

Plate , Battle of Tololing , Drass Valley, War Memorial, Kargil , Ladakh

Leading the brave men right from the front were the officers. It was the Captains and Majors considered to be the cutting edge of the Indian army who once again proved their worth . Sacrifice has the words ‘For our tomorrow, they gave their today’  this been true in the case of our gallant soldiers. And yet, the nation generally tends to forget the ordinary soldier in times of peace.

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What price we paid to in terms of  men, who laid their life just for IZZAT , Fellow comrade ,Call of Duty  keeping aside their own personal safety , it will always be in my mind that because of these above the extra ordinary men, I was able to travel to this place without any fear and took the pictures of this most beautiful place of our motherland .

On the base of Tiger Hill, Drass Valley, Ladakh

 

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