Diskit Monastery also known as Deskit Gompa is the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery (gompa) in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh, northern India. The Diskit Gompa of Leh dates back to the 14th century. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong Khapa, founder of Gelugpa, in the 14th century. At the heart of Diskit Monastery is an elevated cupola, which is adorned with a beautiful fresco that illustrates the Tashilhunpo Gompa of Tibet. There are also many shrines inside the monastery's complex, like Kangyu-lang, Tsangyu-lang, etc. Many Mongolian and Tibetan texts are also found in inside these temples.
The Monastery administration runs a school, with support from a Non-Government Organization (NGO) known as the "Tibet Support Group."
The Diskit monastery was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo in the 14th century. During that period Ladakh was ruled by King Grags-pa-'bum-lde (1400-1440). A local ruler assisted a Gelugpa order advocate to build the monastery at Diskit and deify the idol of Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect, in the monastery. During the rule of King Blogros-chog-idan who had even controlled western Tibet, Panchen Lha-btsun - a resident of Nubra Valley by birth - studied in Tibet and later became a regent to the founder of Tashilhunpo Monastery and finally during his last stage of life returned to Nubra. His remains have been preserved in Charas. During 1500, Ladakh was ruled by Bkra-shis-rnam-rgyal, who fought with the invader Mirza Haider of Central Asia, in Nubra and close to Leh, finally defeated the latter and thus bringing Nubra under Ladakh rule. Even then, the local chieftains still yielded power in Diskit and Hundar. Shia Muslims began to settle in Nubra after this war. Bkra-shis-rnam-rgyal' son, Tshedbang-rnam-rgyal ruled Ladakh from 1530 and expanded his kingdom. During the reign of Jams-dbang-rnam-rgyal, historical records indicate that a regular tribute payment was made by the Nubra people to the king. The King Bde-'Idanrnam-rgyal (1620-45) later defeated Baltistan and the Mughals. In mid eighteenth century, Tshe-dbang-rnam-rgyal gave away the control of Diskit monastery to the Rinpoche of Thikse Monastery. Since then, Diskit is considered a sub-gompa of Thikse.
The Diskit monastery is situated on the hill, just above the flood plains of the Shayok River. Nubra River is a tributary of the Shyok River, which flows parallel to the Indus Riveron the northern side of the Ladakh range. Since the valley is at lower elevation, it has a mild climate. This climatic condition has created lush vegetation in the valley and the valley is, therefore, called the "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 pass.
Diskit Monastery has been built at the edge of the road. 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. There is a huge drum located within the hall. In the chamber on the second floor, there are many images of fierce guardian deities.
Diskit Monastery is connected to the Mongol mythology that depicts that the monastery is believed to be the place where an evil anti-Buddhist Mongol demon once resided. He was however killed near the monastery grounds but is said to have been resurrected several times. Today, the wrinkled head and hand of the demon are believed to lie inside a temple in the monastery. The Lonely Planet India guide describes that the gompa roof offers "glorious" views of the Nubra Valley. The older part of the monastery is said to be in certain degree of decay, as cracks have been observed, and they remain untended.
A very large statue of Jampa (Maitreya) Buddha is also located here. This impressive 32 metre (106 foot) statue on top of a hill below the monastery faces down the Shyok River towards Pakistan. The statue's construction was started in April 2006 and it was consecrated by H.H. the Dalai Lama on 25th July, 2010.
The popular festival of Diskit Monastery is Desmochhey or Dosmoche which is also known "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.
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