Mulbekh Monastery in KargilThere is more than one reason to visit Mulbekh Monastery in Kargil district. It encompasses two Gompas belonging to Drukpa and Gelugpa sects of Buddhism. It is located in the Zanskar region of this district. At the whooping altitude of 3504 meters above sea level, this monastery is worth visiting while you are in Kargil. The complex is placed on the top of a crag which is 200 meters above the road level. The two gompas of Mulbekh can be reached by the steep path present behind it. This small monastery is an important seat for Buddhism in region of Kargil.
Structure of Mulbekh Monastery in KargilMulbekh monastery is a distinctive place of worship for Buddhists in this Muslim dominated region. The two Gompas of this monastery are affiliated to Drugpa and Gelugpa sect. While Drugpa is related to Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism while Gelugpa follows yellow hat sect of Tibetan Buddhist religion. The most significant feature of this monastery is the 9 meters long statue of Maitreya Buddha standing tall since centuries and overlooking Srinagar Leh Highway, earlier known to be the Silk Route of Trade in the region.
Some ancient edicts are also found near this rock face idol of Maitreya Buddha in Mulbekh. These edicts are written in Kharoshti or an ancient Indic script. Inside the monastery, you will find beautiful murals, paintings and priceless relics. There is an idol of 11 headed Lord Avalokiteswara enclosed in a glass chamber. Also, there are precious thangkas adorning the prayer hall of this monastery.
Maitreya Buddha Statue at Mulbekh Monastery in KargilThis statue is the main attraction of Mulbekh. In local language, Maitreya is also called as Chamba. Hence, the monastery is also known as Mulbekh Chamba due to presence of this rock cut statue. There are several opinions regarding the date of carving of this statue. Some historian opine that it was built by the Kushan Dynasty in 1st Century AD while there are other who believe that it came into existence during 8th Century.
Despite the different opinions behind its existence, the statue beautifully depicts Gandhara style of carving. This carving style was prevalent in Kushan dynasty spread across South Asia. As such, it displays beautiful mix of Buddhist arts and Shaivite symbolism. Interestingly, the entire statue is carved out of a single rock. This is a four armed figure of Chamba. The face of this statue bears striking semblance to Lord Shiva. Probably, this promoted the belief that it was built by the Buddhist monks who carved this statue, did not belong to Tibet.
However, you have to enter the monastery to witness this ancient art of Buddhist monks. The statue is not completely visible from the road. The lower part is covered with the small temple that was built in 1975.