Paying Reverence to Maitreya Buddha at the Old Diskit Monastery

The Nubra Valley, lying in the north-eastern part of Ladakh, is a small paradise in Jammu and Kashmir. The average elevation of this cold desert is around 10000 feet above sea level. This valley is named after the namesake river, which forms it. The climate here is extremely arid, with little or no precipitation at all. Agriculture is practised in the region around the river, with the major produces being wheat, peas, barley, mustard, walnuts, apples and apricots. It is developing quite rapidly into a preferred destination and a Leh Ladakh tour can be availed to spend a vacation here. Diskit town, Khardunga La mountain pass and Turtuk village are some places that can be explored in the region.

Diskit Monastery

 

The largest and oldest Buddhist shrine in the Nubra Valley, Diskit Monastery was founded in the 14th century by Changzem Tserab Zangpo. This beautiful shrine is situated on a hill, above the Nubra Valley, at an elevation of 10315 feet above sea level. The architecture is typical Buddhist in character; the apartments and other structures being built along the slope of the hill. Tourists enter inside the complex via a flight of stairs, which lead to the main hall of worship. Housed inside is an exquisite statue of Maitreya Buddha, who in religious texts, is mentioned as yet to arrive. A large drum beaten during prayers, festivals and ceremonies is also kept here. On the second floor are paintings and statues of various Buddhist guardian deities. Their heads are masked and are uncovered only during festivals for devotees to seek their blessings.

A dome-like structure here has frescos, which depict the Tashilhunpo Monastery of Tibet. The temple also has various Tibetan and Mongolian texts, which speak about the bygone era. A demon is said to have been killed here, and his head and one of the severed hands are believed to be lying in the temple.

At the foothill is located the official residence of Nubra Lama that is dominated by a large statue of Maitreya Buddha. This idol is 32 metres tall and overlooks the valley. Many monks live inside the complex, which is the site of a school.

Desmochhe, also called the Festival of the Scapegoat, is an important festival celebrated at the monastery. It takes place in the month of February, in freezing cold. The biggest attraction here is the traditional mask dance, which draws spectators from near and far. Lamas perform the dances, which signify the victory of good over evil. They are thought to keep ill fates, during the Tibetan New Year, at bay. Balls made of dough are thrown to ward off demons and other evil, and to bestow peace and prosperity upon people.

Relevant Information

Ladakh is among the coldest regions on earth. Its temperature during winters can plummet to as low as -40 degree Celsius. The best time to visit this freezing dry land is in the months of June, July, August and September. Diskit is about 150 km from Leh and the two are connected via road. The National Highway 1D connects Srinagar – the summer state capital – to Leh.

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