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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Mulbek , Ladakh

Mulbek is located on a Srinagar – Leh NH 1 D National Highway 45 km from Kargil and and  Leh is further 197 km , it is at an altitude of 3304 meters from sea , just a kilometer from the town is the famous statue of Chamba  the figure of Maitreya Budha , represents the important part of Gandhara Art , on the main National highway.

Rock cut 9 meters tall statue of “Future Budha” the Maitreya

The scholars believe it to be of 8th centenary but there is a thought it is of a Kushan period about 1800 years old.

Mulbek rock carved Buddha

There is an inscription on a near by rocks  orders from the King  Lde for not to sacrifice a goat at the altar of a deity , there is also an inscription that this order of King is too hard if goat is not sacrificed what will the deity say .

 Shergol It is a  picturesque village of the Wakha river Valley  it  is situated across the river, right of the Kargil-Leh road. This village is full of Popalar trees , orchards of Walnut and Apricots The main attraction is a cave monastery which is visible from a far as a white speck against the vertically rising ochre hill from which it appears to hanging  out. Below this small monastery is a larger Buddhist nunnery with about a dozen residents. The village is accessible by the motorable road that branches off from the Kargil-Leh road, about 5 km before  Mulbek. Shergol is a convenient base for an exciting 4-day trek across the mountain range into the Suru valley. It is also the  base for visiting Urgyan-Dzong, a meditation retreat lying deep inside the mountains surrounding the Wakha River valley.

Nature’s art , Rock called Mother and Child at Mulbek

 Wakha Rgyal tucked away inside the picturesque upper part of the Wakha Valley, up streams of Mulbek.                         Mulbek Gompa : Situated  atop a rocky cliff, Mulbek Gompa (monastery) dominates the valley. It is easy to see why in bygone times this site served as an outpost to guard the caravan route. Like all Buddhists monasteries it is adorned by frescoes and statues .

Shergol Cave Monastery

Rgyal gives the appearance of a medieval settlement of cave dwellings transported in to the modern times with some improvements and extensions. The houses, neatly white-washed and closely stacked, are dug into the sheer face of a vertical cliff that rises high above the green valley . From a far the village looks like a colony of beehives hanging from the  Cliff side

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Bardan Gompa, Monastery, Zanskar, Ladakh

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Bardan Gompa is situated in Zanskar valley about 12 km from Padum , It is one of the first monastery in Zanskar belongs to the Dugpa-Kargyud monastic order. it was one of the first centers of Dugpa-Kargyud monastic order to be set up in Zanskar.

Bardan Gompa , Monastery, Padum, Zanskar, Ladakh

It is a branch of Stakna Gompa. About 45 monks live here. Bardan monastery was founded in the 16th century. consists of a large Dukhang, assembly hall. All the other structures within the monastery are  around the hall. There are some of the most magnificent statues of Buddhist divinities, along with some small stupas in clay, bronze, wood and copper. A shrine devoted to Maitreya.  A number of smaller monasteries in the region come under the management of Bardan monastery one such monastery is Sani Gompa.

Bardan Gompa , main entrace, Padum,Zanskar, Ladakh

The monks of Bardan Monastery participate in the unveiling of the idol in Sani Monastery. During this festival they perform the masked dances, as a part of the ritual. The other monastery lies very close to Bardan Monastery is Muney that is famous for its splendid architectural treasures.

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Likir Gompa, Monastery, Ladakh

Likir Gompa Monastery is situated at 52 km from Leh little away from Leh-Srinagar highway near Saspul village , it was built in the regime of King Lahchen Gyalpo in 1065 AD under the supervision of Lama Duwang  Chosje of  Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. New addition to the monastery was made in 1999AD is the  23 metre (75 ft) tall a statue made of gilded gold of  Maitreya (the future) Buddha in sitting posture on the roof . It is one of the best kept monastery in Ladakh .

The name Likir means  “The Naga – Encircled”, representing the bodies of the two great serpent spirits, the Naga-Rajas, Nanda and Taksako . This monastery  originally belonged to the early Kadampa order of Tibetan Buddhism , Lama Lha-dbang-chosrje  student  of  Tsongkhapa  converted the lamas to the reformed doctrines of the Gelugpa order in 15th centenary . This  monastery is also popularly known as “Klu-kkhyil”, which means water spirits. It is believed that the monastery is the first in Ladakh to have been constructed by Tibetan monks.

Likir Gompa Monastery

The monastery is located on a top of hill on the bottom of hill is lush green agricultural fields it was expanded in 15th century by  Lhawang Lodos Sangphu . Monasteries that flourished during this period evolved their complexes as small fortress perched on strategic height, utilizing the terrain and reinforcing it with thick peripheral walls . Likir monastery is a classic example of a fort-monastery, main temple at the highest point followed by monks residence just below them and their after the village houses, thick peripheral walls and narrow  open spaces as movement paths.

There are over 100 monks and students who live here are taught Hindi, Sanskrit and English under the supervision of Central Institute of Buddhist Studies .It is also a seat of the Ngari Rinpoche the younger brother of His Holiness the Dalai Lama .

Lord Buddha statue at Likir Monastery

The monastery has two assembly halls, known  the older one is located on the right of the central courtyard with six rows of seats for the lamas and a throne for the Head Lama of Likir ,in the hall there are statues of Bodhisattva , Amitabha, large statues of Sakyamuni , Maitreya  and Tsong Khapa the founder of the yellow-hat sect. The second hall 200 years old contains a statue of Avalokitesvara  with 1000 arms and 11 heads . The left wall has paintings of the 35 Confessional Buddhas while the right wall has an image of Sakyamuni with two of his chiefs by his side . There is a good collection of  old manuscripts, has a notable Thangka , old costumes and earthen pots . The upper floor has a  images of Lamas and the 21 manifestations of the White Tara, the consort of Avalokitesvara.

Assembly hall at Likir Monastery

Likir monastery also serves as the venue of an annual event Dosmochey, the assembly of votive offerings and sacred dances which takes place on the 27th day to 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan Calender .

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Matho Gompa , Monastery, Leh Ladakh

Matho Monasteryis  located in village Matho about 26 Km from Leh City on Leh – Manali road just opposite the Thiksey Monastery on the banks of Indus river , founded by Lama Dugpa Dorjee in 16th centenary belongs to Sakya Order only one in Ladakh, it is famous for its 400 years old Thankas which were brought from Tibet. Inside the Lhakhang all the wall murals were painted in 1977 and are very colorfully done.

Matho Gompa Monastery

The right entrance wall shows a White Mahakal , to the left of this is a painting of the Four Headed Sarvavid the guardian aspect of Vairocana (the Teaching Buddha). The wall murals on the left side of the Lhakhang depict various lamas of the Sakya sect while the right wall shows the various manifestations of Sakyamuni. The central panel of the right wall depicts Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa and Mila Ras-pa, The central statue  is Sakyamuni, surrounding the statue are numerous small Buddha statues .

Matho Gompa Monastery Leh

Inside the Dukhang are two rows of seats for the lamas and a throne seat reserved for the Rimpoche,  behind the throne seat are, from the left, the thousand-armed form of Avalokitesvara (a Buddhist deity similar to the Hindu god Shiva and believed to be reincarnated in the Dalai Lama), Maitreya (the Future Buddha of Compassion), Sakyamuni and a blessing Buddha.  behind the throne seat are, from the left, the thousand-armed form of Avalokitesvara (a Buddhist deity analogous to the Hindu god Shiva and believed to be reincarnated in the Dalai Lama), Maitreya (the Future Buddha of Compassion), Sakyamuni and a blessing Buddha. left side of the Dukhang shows various Sakya lamas and the Four Headed Sarvavid. The right wall depicts the four-armed manifestation of Avalokitesvara, a blue Sakyamuni and two Sakya lamasThe Gokhang, in which meditation takes place, is ascribed great spiritual power as it is the room in which Matho’s order prays and enters into a trance. The oracle’s special clothing is hung in this room and the Gokhang also contains old weapons and Thankas, masks and statues. There is an old tradition,  a representative of every family from Matho village brings a small bowl of maize grain from the first harvest to this room.

Ladies are not permitted in this area.

The Matho Monastery hosts the Matho Nagrang Festival, an annual event. The festival takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar.

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Tak Thok Gompa, Monastery, Shakti, Ladakh

Tak Thok Gompa Monastery is located at about 46 km from Leh in Shakti village ,  The name Tak Thok in Ladakhi means “Rock Roof” . The monastery was founded around the mid-16th century during the reign of Tshewang Namgyal on a mountainside around a cave in which Padmasambhava is said to have meditated in the 8th century.  Inside the Dukhang, are the statues of Maitreya (the Future Buddha or Buddha of Compassion), Padmasambhava and Dorje Takposal (a manifestation of Padmasambhava). Takthok Monastery also houses the Kandshur, the 108 volumes of Buddha’s teachings.  Behind this image is a small locked door leading to the small cave where Padme Sambhava is supposed to have lived and meditated for three years. This cave is not open to the public. The low roof of the Gompa is the stone of the cliff.

Tak Thok gompa, Monastery, Shakti village, Leh Ladakh

Most of the gompa consists of rooms hollowed out of the stone cliff by nature or man,  the wooden front of the gompa is only a front for the cave , called Duphug ( Tu-Phuk) Lhakhang, is a popular pilgrimage. Buddhists visit to be blessed by dubchu, the sacred water that drips from its ceiling even in winter, when the valley freezes over. The main treasure is an incomplete set of 29 volumes – the title pages lettered in solid silver of excellent craftsmanship and text in pure gold.  Tak-Thok’s Lamas  have developed texts to ward off evil spirits, epidemics and curses. They perform birth and death rites, recite prayers for longevity and wealth, even make astrological predictions.

One of the images in Tak Thok gompa Shakti, Leh Ladakh

The Rimpoche or head lama of Tak Thok is from Tibet and is extremely highly regarded by Ladakhis.

Mystic dances are performed by the lamas in the guise of various divinities and legendary characters. They perform the mystic dances as prescribes the protocol, consecrating and destroying the votive offerings ‘Stor-ma‘ in closing of the propitious performance , on the 9th and 10th day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar.

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