It still feels like a dream. I stood at a lovely scenic mountain village of Ladakh and looked up at the mountain top on which stands the majestic guardian and protector of the village. This is the story of the Diskit Village in Nubra Valley. You can’t miss the 106 feet (32 metre) tall Maitreya Buddha statue on a hill top, overseeing the Nubra Valley. Today, on the auspicious occasion of Buddha Purnima, I travel down the memory lane to Nubra Valley’s Diskit Village, mainly because of the panoramic Diskit Monastery. Ladakh is the land of Gompas and land of high passes.
Diskit Village in Nubra Valley
Nubra Valley, at an altitude of 10000 feet, is Y-shaped and is formed at the meeting point of two rivers flowing from the Siachen Glacier. They are Nubra River and Shyok River. This valley separates the Ladakh Range and the Karakoram. Diskit is the Head Quarter of Nubra, and is 140 kms from Leh. Inner Line Permit, issued at Leh, is required at the check posts on the way, mainly at North and South Pullu, the two check posts before and after Khardung La. Diskit Village in Nubra Valley is a lovely mountain village on the flood plains of Shyok with patches of green and little streams flowing here and there. It is surrounded by extremely high arid mountains with snowcapped peaks. Colorful prayer flags flutter; the little houses have stone walls with ‘Aum Mani Padme Hum’ engraved; numerous chortens are seen around; and massive prayer wheels for community worship stand at various spots. To me the most beautiful thing about this village was the glimpse of the august statue of Lord Buddha on the hill top, from anywhere in the village. It gave a different sense of peace and security.
Diskit Monastery/ Gompa, also known as Deskit Gompa, is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in Nubra Valley, Ladakh. It was built in the 14th century by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is a sub-gompa of the Thikse gompa in Leh. Perched on the edges of the high cliffs, it is a perfect example of Tibetan box structured gompa made of stones, mud and wood. The monastery houses ancient scriptures, sculptures, murals, frescos, brocades and thangkas. The Mahakali temple, the statues and images of the Tibetan gods, the Sakyamuni Temple and the prayer hall of the gompa appear mysterious.
The Majestic Maitreya Buddha of Diskit
Very close to the old Diskit monastery stands the iconic 106 feet tall statue of Maitreya Buddha. The enigmatic statue stands as a symbol of world peace and ‘no war in future’. His Holiness, Dalai Lama, inaugurated this statue in 2010. There is a monastery attached to the statue. From the hill top one can have a 360 degree panoramic view. The bird’s eye views of the picturesque Diskit Village in Nubra Valley is jaw dropping. I felt the vastness and the quietude of nature.
Double Humped Camels of Hunder
A 20 minutes’ drive from Diskit Village in Nubra Valley takes us to a unique place called Hunder. Hunder is a cold desert, 7kms from Diskit. It is the only place in India where one gets snowcapped mountains and sand dunes of a desert in one frame. There is another thing absolutely unique to Hunder; the double humped Bactrian camels. In the pre Christian era, Hunder used to be a part of the ancient trade route, the Old Silk Route. It was then that these camels started coming to India from Central Asia. The camel Safari on these double humped furry camels walking on the silver or white sand dunes is a lifetime experience. The panoramic view of the gigantic mountains against the sky, as blue as possible, and the white dunes; still reverberate in my mind. In the middle of the desert we felt hot due to the scorching sun and the moment we were in shade we felt cold. So layering warm clothes, applying sunscreen lotion and wearing sunglasses are necessary. Besides camel ride, another attraction is to dress up like the locals. If one can fight the chilly bitter cold of the night; the starry night sky at Hunder is spellbinding. There are some tents to stay at Hunder.
The Journey to Diskit
The journey to Diskit Village in Nubra Valley is itself special. I literally and metaphorically was on top of the world. We were driving through Khardung La, the Pass which was then the world’s highest motorable road. Khardung La Top is at 18380 feet. Today, the world’s highest motorable road is Umling La, at 19300 feet, in Ladakh. The extremely dangerous yet scenic roads, the stretch of glacial snow on the sides and the majestic snow clad mountains touching the mesmerizing blue sky made me feel ecstatic during the drive. A Drive and/or motorcycle ride through Ladakh is a dream form many travelers all around the globe. We are grateful to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the Indian Army for maintenance of these roads and for fulfilling dreams of several travelers like us. May the majestic Maitreya Buddha of Diskit keep watching the valley.
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