Situated 45 km from Kargil and 260 km from Leh in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, Mulbekh Monastery is famous for its two gompas and the nine mtr tall statue of Maitreya Buddha. The Mulbekh Monastery with its gompas stands on a peak above the Srinagar-Leh highway. The two gompas are of Drukpa (new Buddhist school) and Gelugpa (old Buddhist school). Another reason for Mulbekh Monastery’s fame is the 30 ft long limestone sculpture of Maitreya Buddha. Carved onto the rock face, the sculpture of standing Maitreya Buddha overlooks the National Highway 1D between Leh and Kargil.
The sculpture measures nine meter from base to its top. Maitreyas is also known as Chamba so Mulbekh Monastery is popularly known as Mulbekh Chamba. Along with the nine meter tall Maitreya sculpture, there are many prized relics along with the statues and frescoes in the monastery. The rock sculpture is believed to have been carved by Ladakhi missionaries to propagate Buddhism. Though the rock sculpture represents the Maitreya Buddha, the idol is a fine blend of Saivite symbols and early Buddhist art work. The art is a pointer to the fact that the missionaries who were instrumental in carving the statue were not from Tibet. A school of thought believes the statue was built during the Kushan period during the first century; however, modern scholars date it around eighth century.
Near the Maitreya rock idol, there are ancient edicts inscribed on the mountain in Kharoshti script (an ancient Indic script used by the Gandhara culture). The Mulbekh Monastery is ornamented with wall paintings and houses some prized relics. Accommodation options are limited. There a few guest houses which are clean and provide decent facilities. Hot water is available on demand. Mulbekh village is merely 45 km from Kargil so staying there is also a good option. Kargil offers several options accommodation options to choose from. Eating options are also limited. Carrying food hampers is a good option. The guest houses do offer food to those who stay there. The best time to visit Mulbekh is between May to October. Summer months are the ideal time to visit Mulbekh as the region remains snowbound during winter and temperatures drop way below zero. Even in summer, carry warm clothing.
Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Address: Jammu and Kashmir, IndiaURL for more details/booking: http://www.jktourism.org/