A Day Resurrected : Visiting Diskit Monastery

I had boarded the 7 am bus from Turtuk to Diskit and the lure of observing bactrian camels in Hunder had resulted in me getting down at Hundur bridge. It was understandably chilly in the month of January and to my dismay I found that there was no camel to be spotted. I was almost lost in the sand dunes of Hunder and the gloomy weather compounded my hunger pangs. The clock showed 1130 and it was realised that I hadn’t eaten anything since morning.

Bactrian Camel spotting at the Hunder Sand Dunes! Ha ha, find a camel if you can.

It seemed like a day destined for failure when I started walking towards Diskit and no vehicle would come. The army camp passed on the left and people spoke about some 20-20 cricket tournament final being held in Diskit (also Deskit). To my chagrin, a stiff breeze started blowing across the frozen valley, even during the day the temperature must have been below freezing.

I somehow walked the 10 km distance from Hunder to Diskit (Altitude : 3100m approx.) and nearly collapsed in relief upon finding a functional guest house, after seeing that most hotels were closed for the winter.

Also read : Failures on the Road – Stupidity in Changthang, Ladakh

Pretty skies in Diskit; as I walked the 10 km distance between Hunder and Diskit (the administrative centre & biggest town in Nubra Valley.)

A meal of rajma chawal in the homestay gave me a brief glimmer of hope, but it had started drizzling and walking to the Diskit monastery seemed out of question. I was happy when the owner came and directed me to my cosy room. Nubra Valley was being revisited after many years and my desire to see the Giant Buddha Statue up-close was revealed to the owner.

I think travel memories and rajma chawal has a strange connection, especially in the Himalayas. This remains one of my most cherished meals ever. Sometimes all it takes you to be happy is some random kindness.

Also read : Portraits that speak, from Turtuk

My luck was about to change. Although the weather was not clear, my time spent with the family in the homestay kitchen melted their hearts and resulted in the owner driving me to the Diskit monastery at around 430 pm. The monastery is spectacularly located above Diskit town on a mountain and appears to be hanging when seen from a particular angle.

Colourful prayer flags provide solace in the monochrome landscape of Diskit… The Shyok river meanders along the basin.

It took us around 10 minutes to reach the monastery and the road passed through mani walls and hordes of pretty whitewashed chortens. I remember marvelling at the huge Chamba Maitreya Buddha statue and clicking photos of it overlooking Nubra Valley before entering the monastery.

A cluster of whitewashed buildings delicately huddled on a cliff… beautiful photograph of Diskit Monastery.

Read : A Photo Essay from Ladakh

Diskit monastery seemed like a maze. There was also a small map drawn just before entering the pathway. A network of connected paths weaves through the monks’ quarters to reach the ancient prayer halls. Even though it was almost dark, I was pretty excited to see whatever I could in the dimly lit halls.

The Chamba Maitreya Statue overlooks the vast landscape of Nubra Valley in Diskit, Ladakh.

Since a local was with me, a Lama started showing me around the different rooms; the lha-khang and du-khang. Diskit monastery is the biggest in Nubra Valley and is supposed to have been founded in the 14th Century, although the current structure was built in the 17th Century. It is a yellow hat sect monastery under the Gelugpa order.

Totally loved this map outside the main monastery. It is helpful when you know exactly what you want to see, then the lamas can help you with the doors. Otherwise, most monasteries are not really welcoming of visitors in the winter months. It is time for prayers and meditation for the monks. 

Diskit Gompa is famous for the statue of a protector deity (Kali) holding the head and arm of a medieval Mongol soldier. Sometimes it is difficult to find entry to this particular hall but I was lucky to see it. There are superb views from the front side of the Diskit monastery of Nubra Valley with the Shyok river flowing by. It was still cloudy and gloomy and there was a huge chance of snowfall very soon.

Inside the maze of buildings that comprise Diskit Gompa.

Read : Lessons of Life at Pangong in Winter

After walking around different parts of the monastery, we were back in the car to have a closer look at the Chamba Maitreya (Future Buddha) statue. It was formally inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 2010. I got some very nice photographs of the sweeping valley views from here. More than anything else, I remember this day for somehow having a successful ending after largely promising the opposite.

The sun briefly shines through the clouds on the bare poplar trees near the intersection of Old Diskit and New Diskit in Ladakh.
Even though this isn’t a perfect photograph, in retrospect it is awesome because it includes me in it. I’m not much of a selfie fan and usually have zero photos of myself from a trip. Have to work on this aspect as a professional travel blogger.

Dinner was a tasty affair in the warm kitchen of the family’s home on the ground floor of the guest house. I was glad to be in a real bed after the rigours of Turtuk and slept like a log. A glass of Chaang that was washed down with dinner aided in the same.

Stunning views in the far distance as seen from the open courtyard of Diskit monastery complex. The photograph on the right shows a door handle studded with turquoise.

In one frame : The Buddha Statue and Diskit monastery with a snowy mountain in the background.

Next morning was memorable when the clouds had made their way to the earth and small snowflakes fell gently for a minute or so. It was time to be on one of my most adventurous journeys.

Fantastic colours at the entrance to the main monastery in Diskit; maybe the red shade is pronounced because of the cloudy sky.

Check for one of my craziest experiences :

Khardung La in Winter : Part 1

Khardung La in Winter : Part 2

Newly built chortens overlooking the vast expanse of Nubra Valley and Diskit town as dusk approaches.

If memory serves me right, the owner at Lhasthang Guest House only charged me 500 Rupees including food and the room was as comfortable as I’ve ever been in the entire Nubra Valley.

First scene on a cold winter morning as I woke up in Diskit; it was pretty dreamy to say the least.

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16 thoughts on “A Day Resurrected : Visiting Diskit Monastery”

  1. This is beautiful. Is it Tibet? I also don’t have many photos of myself when I’m traveling. I prefer the ones without me. You’re right though, I would probably be happy if I had a few.

  2. The monastery looks magnificent!! And I absolutely love Ladakh’s landscape in winters.. Thanks for sharing yet another beautifully penned travelogue. It was a pleasure to read 🙂

  3. Pingback: An Evening at Hunder Sand Dunes – A boy who travels

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