History of Diskit Monastery
Located in the Nubra Valley, the history of the Diskit Monastery can be traced back to the 14th century. It was during this period that the Ladakh region was under the governance of the King Grags-pa-bum-lde and his brother who unsuccessfully attempted to usurp the Nubra Valley, which was under a local ruler named Nyigma-grags-pa. Under the assistance of the local ruler, a Gelugpa order advocate build the monastery at Diskit and deified the idol of Tsong Khapa, in the monastery. During the mid 18th century, after the defeat of the Mughals, the Royal Kings who were extremely religious built temples from mani stones. They gave away the control of the Diskit Monastery to the Rinopoche of the Thikse Monastery and this arrangement has been perpetuated till this day. Since then, Diskit is considered a sub-gompa of Thikse.
Legend of Diskit Monastery
The Diskit Monastery has a number of shrines with Mongolian and Tibetan texts inscribed in the storehouse. According to the Mongol mythology, it is said that the Diskit monastery is believed to be the place where an evil anti-Buddhist Mongol demon once lived and was killed near the monastery grounds but is said to have been resurrected several times. In present times, the wrinkled head and hand of the demon are believed to lie inside a temple in the monastery.
Geography of Diskit Monastery
The Diskit Monastery is located atop a hill, just above the flood plains of the Shyok River, on whose right bank is the Diskit village in the Nubra Valley. One of the tributaries of the Shyok River is the Nubra River, which flows parallel to the Indus River on the northern side of the Ladakh Range. The Nubra Valley has a mild climate which attributes to its lush vegetation, thus earning it the name Orchard of Ladakh. The monastery can be reached from the Diskit village through a rugged and dusty road that crosses a stream in the middle of the village. The village is approachable from Leh by road via the Khardung La pass.
Architecture of Diskit Monastery
The Diskit Monastery has been built at the edge of the road, which connects Parthapur and Those. The monastery is approached through a flight of steps made of stones. These lead to the prayer hall of the monastery that houses a statue of Maitreya Buddha. This impressive 32 m statue on top of a hill below the monastery faces down the Shyok River towards Pakistan. There is a huge drum located within the hall. In the chamber on the second floor, there are many images of fierce guardian deities.
Recent extensions to the monastery building are in good shape except the main prayer hall and the Zimcchungh. Paintings have been covered with soot and images are kept in total disorder. The older part of the monastery is said to be in certain degree of decay, as cracks have been observed, and they remain untended. Located nearby are the Lachung Temple and the Hundur Monastery. The Lachung Temple is located closely above the Diskit Monastery and is said to be one of the oldest temples in the Nubra Valley where there is also a large idol of Tsong Khapa. The Hundur Monastery is located below the main road to the Diskit gompa near a bridge.
Festivals of Diskit Monastery
The popular festival of Diskit Monastery is Desmochhey or Dosmoche which is also known as "Festival of the Scapegoat." This is the popular prayer festival that is also celebrated at Likir in Leh. The festival is celebrated in the month of February during the winter season. During this festival large crowd from villages in the Nubra Valley assemble at Diskit to witness the mask dance. The mask dance is performed by the Lamas of the Monastery who dramatically express the superiority of good over evil forces. On this occasion, images made of dough are thrown out to prevent any disaster from occurring. The clothes that cover the heads of deity statues are removed in this period.
Visiting Information on Diskit Monastery
The closest airport is the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee airport at Leh at a distance of approximately 120 km from the Nubra Valley. The nearest railway station to the valley is the Jammu Tawi station.