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Ancient Rock Statues and Engravings in Kargil

The ancient history of Kargil, very little can be said definitely as no authentic data is available.Some ancient inscriptions enable us to from an idea about the socio- conditions of the people of ancient times. However, the conditions of the ancient Kargil were not much different from those of other regions, of Ladakh with whom the land was closely lined both culturally and commercially, from time immemorial.

Budhist monks and Scholars of the past entered Kargil, to spread the gospel of Lord Buddha. They were mostly from the Vale of Kashmir and some of them built numerous monasteries, the most notable being that of the Kanika Stupa at Sani in Zanaskar. The Kashmiri Budhists exercised profound influence on the Ladakhis and taught them the advisability of systematizing the Bon-Chos, the primitive religion of the land, the unsystematised part of which is still preserved by some people. It is thus, genuinely believed that the kind of culture which happened to be prevalent in India and especially in Kashmir affected Kargil and Leh.

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Rock Carvings in Kargil

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  • Mulbek Chamba Situated 45 Km east of Kargil on the road to Leh, Mulbekh (3,230 m ) is a predominantly Budhist area. Many monuments of the early Budhist era dot the landscape, among which the chief attraction is Mulbek Chamba, a 9 mtrs. high rock sculpture in deep relief of the Maitreya, the future Budha, which reflected an interesting blend of esoteric Saivit symbolism with early Budhhist art. Situated right on the highway, it dates back to the period when Budhist missionaries came traveling east of the Himalayas during 7-8 century

  • Lha Khang: Kartse Khar. There is a seven-Meter, seventh-century Chamba/ Maitreya idol the future Buddha near this village. This rock carving, in deep relief , is older than the one at Mulbek. It is slightly smaller than but as impressive as the one at Mulbek. There is a gandharv on each side of the deity. ( The gandharves are angles devoted to song, dance and dance.) The Sculpture faces River Phulungma )

  • Apati It is a large sculpture of the Maitreya, cut into the mountainside, in relief. With the Bamiyan (Afghanistan) Budhist rock statues gone, this is one of the few sculptures of its kind left in the world.

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  • Rock Sculptures at Stagsboo Drass 1 Km ahead of Drass near the road site is a row of ancient Bhuddhist Sculpture epigraphically dating back to the pre-Tibaten period of Bhudism, a ruminant of the passage of Bhudism towards Tibet and Central Asia through these small valleys. These figures represent the Maitreya Budha, the Avaloketeshvar, a man on horse, a lotus and a chorten.

  • Byama Khumbu On the way to Sankoo from Kargil, there is a rock carving of Padma –pani Avalokiteshwar, with a godess on either side. There is a two –line Tibaten inscription on the rock. As is the rule with Tibetan-style rock-carvings, this sculpture is in low relief. This carving dates to between the 12th and 14th Century AD


  • Geva Rig-na’ of Padum Inscriptions and icons: There are inscriptions and icons on a rock near the Padum fort. They perhaps date to the 8th or 9th century AD. They were probably etched by the Mons around the time that Budhism was replacing the Bon religion in Zanskar. They represent clelstial Gods of four directions.


Dr. Snellgrove and Skorupski write that the Mulbekh Chamba dates to the 7th century or later. They suggest that pre-Tibetan Budhist rock-reliefs could date to the 8th century AD, and not much before. The relief at Kartse Khar is older than the one at Mulbekh. Therefore, probably dated to 7th century. Scholars like Kachu Sikander Khan date both sculpture to as late as the 11th century- to the age of Lotsava Rinchen Zangpo. By the eleventh century AD Kashmiri influences on Ladakh’s Budhist art were more or less over. The Tibetan idiom had taken over. For that reason, too, the Chambas/Marteryas of Kargil must have been carved in the 7th or 8th century AD.



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