Amazing Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil – A Buddhist Trail In Kargil

Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

The Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil, Ladakh and are the only ones of their kind left in the world after the Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan.

Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

They stand tall, staring into eternity, faces inscrutable like rocks. They are the enigmatic Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil. They stand etched in rock, a timeless testimony to the passage of time, some of them unsung, and unknown. On our trip to Kargil, last winter, these standing statues of Maitreyi Buddha in Kargil, Ladakh, were one of the many surprises that awaited us in Kargil, a wonderful winter destination.

The Maitreya Buddha statues in Ladakh, more specifically in the district of Kargil are believed to be the only ones of their kind that remain in the world, today. These impressive Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil are often compared to the Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan, which were blown up by the Taliban in March 2001.

During our sojourn in Kargil, we were privileged to visit and see at close quarters two of the magnificent Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil. These were, Mulbekh chamba statue, and Khartse Khar Buddha in Kartse village in Suru valley, Kargil .

Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

Kargil was an important node in the ancient Silk Route, that connected the East with the West between the 2nd Century BCE and 18th Century CE. The village of Hundarman was the nearest point on the Silk Route to the town of Kargil. The Silk Route not only enabled the flow of material wealth but also fueled the flow of ideas and culture.

Buddhism flourished along the Silk Route and the Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil and the Bamiyan Buddhas that once stood in Afghanistan have been a mute testimony to this.

There are three Maitreya Buddha statues that have been carved out of rock in the Kargil district. They are, Mulbekh Chamba which is the tallest, Khartse Khar Buddha in Kargil, Ladakh, and the Khartse Khar Buddha in Kargil, Ladakh. An interesting fact about these three Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil is that if you plot them on a map, they form an equilateral triangle.

The three Maitreya Buddha statues lie approximately equidistant from each other. These three may be the tallest standing statues of Buddha in the world that have been sculpted in rock. There is a possibility that there may be more, waiting to be discovered.

It may be worth mentioning here that smaller rock sculptures of Maitreya Buddha and Avalokiteshwara, both Bodhisattvas, have been found in Stagsboo near Dras.

Mulbekh Chamba – Maitreya Buddha Statues In Kargil  

Maitreya Buddha at Mulbekh

It was freezing cold and dark when we got out of our car at Mulbekh. We could barely make out the face of the Maitreya Buddha statue that towered over us, carved on a cliff that stood by the side of the road.

The towering Mulbekh Maitreya Buddha stands by the side of the Srinagar-Leh National Highway. The Maitreya Buddha statue is locally known as Mulbekh Chamba and measures 9 metres in height.

The almost 30 feet tall Maitreya Buddha statue of Mulbekh, has four hands and can be seen wearing ornaments. In one of its four hands can be seen sacred leaves, while one hand holds a Kumbha or pot of water.

A Mala or prayer bead can be seen in another hand, while the fourth hand points downwards in a typical Buddhist Mudra, with the palm facing outwards and four fingers pointing downwards towards the earth with a closed thumb.

Distance From Kargil Town: 37 Km

Khartse Khar Chamba | Buddha Statue Khartse Khar – Maitreya Buddha Statues In Kargil 

Khartse Khar Maitreya Buddha

“7th Century Buddha Statue Karchey Khar,” read a board by the side of the road. We followed the direction of the arrow on the board towards a narrow, rocky path, which was lined with patches of snow. The path descended downwards at a steep incline and we had to ford a narrow stream that lay frozen, using a makeshift bamboo, balancing ourselves precariously.

The less adventurous or the more sensible ones in our group preferred to simply step into the stream and walk across!

Maitreya Buddha at Khartse Khar

A 7-metre high Maitreya Buddha towered over us as we gathered at its feet. Our guide who also happened to be a local teacher, and was apparently passionate about the local heritage, explained about the Maitreya Buddha statue.

“There are many things about this statue that still needs to be explored and researched,” he said.

He went on to explain that recent findings indicated that the style of the sculpture was a blend of Gandhara and Kashmiri styles of art. Gandhara art generally alludes to a style of Buddhist visual art that flourished in the regions of what is now North-West Pakistan and Afghanistan. This style of art flourished between the 1st Century BCE and the 7th Century CE.

The Maitreya Buddha statue of Kharste Khar is dated to the 7th century CE and is believed to be a contemporary of the Bamiyan statues that once towered over Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The Kushan period was when Buddhism spread far and wide, fueled by the Silk Route.

Another important factor was that at that time the practice of Buddhism was not location-specific, it was not necessary for those following the religion to worship at a particular place. This gave rise to thousands of cave temples, big and small across Bamiyan and the Indian subcontinent.

Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil

The Buddha rock sculpture in Khartse Khar is well preserved, in spite of it being open to the elements. The statue, unlike the one in Mulbekh, has two hands. In its left hand, it holds a Kumbha or pot of water and the right hand is placed on the chest, which could be interpreted as a Hridaya Mudra posture.

The Maitreya Buddha can be seen, adorned with a different ornamentation. Two small figures flank the Maitreya Buddha, and these could be his two acolytes Asanga and Vasubandhu.

Distance From Kargil Town: 45 kilometres

Apati Buddha Statue Kargil – Maitreya Buddha Statues In Kargil 

Apati Buddha Statue, Kargil - Maitreya Buddha Statues In Kargil

The third Maitreya Buddha rock sculpture is located near the village of Apati in the Batalik sector. Popularly known as, ‘” the Maitreya Buddha of Apati,” this statue stands carved on the face of a mountain, beautifully hewn in the rock.

The Maitreya Buddha statue of Apati – Apati Buddha statue too has more or less the same characteristics as the ones in Mulbekh and Khar and is believed to date back to the 7th century.

Distance From Kargil Town: 17 Km

Buddhism In Kargil

The Union Territory of Ladakh is full of Buddhist monasteries and Stupas that tell the fascinating story of the spread of Buddhism in the region. We had explored quite a bit of the Buddhist trail in the Leh and surrounding regions when we covered the famous Naropa festival near the Hemis Monastery in Leh.

We had also explored a string of Buddhist monasteries including the Alchi Monastery. Lamayuru Monastery, Basgo Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, and Hemis Monastery among others.

However, the Buddhist trail in Kargil was a revelation, as currently, over 77% of its population is Muslim and about 17% Buddhist. But historical evidence suggests that Buddhism first came to Kargil which stood on the ancient Silk Route, from Kashmir, and from there moved towards the Leh region.

Our guide at the Khartse Khar Maitreya Buddha statue explained to us how the effect of Buddhism gradually faded from the region, probably around the 17th century. Kunga Namgyal ruled over the region of present-day Kargil in the 16th century, later during the 17th century, his descendant married a queen from Skardu, now in present-day Pakistan.

After this, the area gradually converted to Islam. However, there are many contradicting versions and historians are divided. There is no historical evidence, as much of it was lost during the Dogra invasion.

Whatever be the case, it is a fact that the Maitreya Buddha statues stand tall as silent proof of the roots of Buddhism in the district of Kargil

Who Is Maitreya Buddha

If you are thinking of exploring the Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil, it would be recommended to get a brief understanding of who Maitreya Buddha is.

In Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are beings who are on the path to becoming a Buddha. Maitreya which means compassion refers to a Bodhisattva who is believed to be currently residing in Tushita (Heaven) and will descend to the earth as a future Buddha.

It is believed that he will take the physical form of Maitreya Buddha when the teachings of Gautama Buddha (Sakyamuni Buddha), are no longer practised and the world.

At that time the successor to Gautama Buddha, the Maitreya Buddha will arrive on earth to free its people from the tentacles of misery. It is interesting to note that this echoes with the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna says that he will incarnate as different avatars, whenever the world sinks into evil and goodness are lost.

There is a division of opinion among historians as to whether the Maitreya Buddha statues of Kargil depict the Maitreya Buddha or the Bodhisattva, Maitreya

Video Of Maitreya Buddha Statues In Kargil

Watch our video of the trail of the Maitreya Buddha statues here:

How To Get To Kargil – Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

Road to Kargil

The Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil can be easily reached from Kargil Town.

  • Kargil is the name of the town and district of the Union Territory of Ladakh in India
  • Kargil is the joint Capital of Ladakh along with Leh
  • Kargil is about 1,007 kilometres from Delhi
  • Kargil is almost equidistant from Leh and Srinagar

Getting To Kargil By Air

The nearest airports to Kargil are Leh and Srinagar. The distance from Srinagar to Kargil is about 202 kilometres while the distance from Leh to Kargil is about 217 kilometres. You can fly to either of these places and then proceed to Kargil by road.

Getting To Kargil By Road

There are two options for reaching Kargil by road. One can travel either from Srinagar or Leh. Self-drive cars, cabs, and public transport buses are the available options to reach Kargil.

Getting To Kargil By Rail

The nearest railway station to Kargil is Jammu which is at a distance of about 461 kilometres. You can travel to Jammu by train and then proceed by road to Kargil.

If you are planning to embark on the Buddhist trail in Kargil and its surroundings, you can book your tickets right here, through TripAdvisor or CheapAir or Cleartrip or Makemytrip or Priceline right here. If you are thinking of a road trip across Ladakh then you can get there by self-drive car or cab or bus.

Where To Stay In Kargil For Visiting Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

The stay options in Kargil depend on the time of the year that you are visiting. There are many resorts and hotels that offer a comfortable stay in Kargil.  Please note that during winter only a few of the hotels may be operating. However, as Kargil emerges as a popular winter destination, more and more hotels and resorts are sure to offer their services throughout the year.

Here are some of the resorts and hotels in Kargil.

If you are looking to book these or any of the best hotels in Kargil, Ladakh to book, you can do that right here. You can book your hotel in Kargil or your hotel in Leh through TripAdvisor or Cleartrip or Makemytrip or Priceline conveniently right here!

Click to book the best hotels in Kargil, Ladakh, or best hotels in Ladakh

FAQ – Maitreya Buddha Statues of Kargil

Who is the Maitreya Buddha?
Maitreya Buddha is believed to be a “future Buddha,” who is currently a Bodhisattva waiting to incarnate on the earth, as a successor to Gautama Buddha.

How far is Mulbekh from Kargil town?
Mulbekh is about 37 kilometres from Kargil.

How far is Maitreya Buddha Of Apati from Kargil?
The Apati Maitreya Buddha is about 17 kilometres from Kargil.

What is the distance of the Buddha statue Khartse Khar near Suru Valley in Kargil from Kargil Town?
The distance of the Kartse Khar Buddha from Kargil Town is about 45 kilometres.

We hope you are fascinated by reading about the unique Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil and as intrigued as us. Do let us know if you have any information about these Buddha sculptures to enable us to enhance this Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil blog post.

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Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil

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13 thoughts on “Amazing Maitreya Buddha Statues in Kargil – A Buddhist Trail In Kargil”

  1. While reading about Maitreya Buddha, I had the same thoughts that it resonates with Bhagawat Geeta. Very soon he will have to come on the earth and show its people the right path. This is a new piece of information that I read today.

  2. Thanks for sharing this information about Buddha statues, I was not aware of this and something now I wish to see. Going to bookmark this post for future reference.

  3. Thanks for sharing the complete guide. You are just awesome in your work … I am bookmarking this post for a future visit. It was on our bucket list for a very long.

    1. Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil is definitely one of its kind. To be frank I was not even aware about it. Thanks a lot for sharing and letting us know that a jewel like this exist in our country .

  4. These buddha maitreya statues are a great to explore ancient Buddhist culture. I had learnt a lot about their philosophy and it was interesting to know that this echoes with the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna says that he will incarnate as different avatars. thank you so much for sharing all details and covers all doubts in FAQ section. again an informative post from your side.

  5. What a sight it must have been for you to witness the Maitreya Buddha statues in Kargil! I would love to visit the site someday. Your posts are a treat to read and the pictures are just mind-blowing. This is yet another edition to my bucket list!

  6. These buddha maitreya statues are a great to explore ancient Buddhist culture. Definitely include this place in my bucketlist.

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