At an altitude of 2,704 meter, 204 km from Srinagar in the west, Kargil is the second largest urban center of Ladakh and has Kargil town as district headquarters. Surrounded by Kashmir, Kishtwar, Kullu and Gilgit-Baltistan, Kargil marks the easternmost extent of Muslim incursion into Ladakh. The streaming rivers that originate in the greater Himalayas and flow down helps Kargil to be somewhat greener than Leh. Being a mountainous district, Kargil is accessible only through mountain passes. Kargil once served as an important trade and transit center in the Pan Asian trade network. It lost its commercial importance due to various reasons, but since 1975, travellers from across the globe have replaced the traders of the past and Kargil has regained importance as a center of travel related activities. The frequent infiltrations of terrorists from the Pakistan caused the
famous Kargil war during May 1999 and the town remains heavily fortified.
Mulbekh Chamba An intricate 9-metre rock sculpture of Maitreya, the Future Buddha is the chief attraction of the Mulbekh Chamba. Its execution combines esoteric Saivite symbolism and early Buddhist art. It dates back to the period when Kashmiri Buddhist missionaries came travelling east of the Himalayas.
JfH How to get there
Kargil can be reached only by road and there are regular bus services from Srinagar. Besides, travellers also have the option of hiring cars and other travel-by-road options. Chartered jeep services are available from Kargil to Srinagar and Leh. There is no other way of reaching this mountainous region.
■ IN KARGIL
Most visitors come to Kargil only to break the journey between Srinagar and Leh, or change buses for the trip to Zanskar. There are spectacular views from the serene village of Goma (Upper) Kargil, which can be reached by a steep walk above the hospital. Kargil’s high elevation topography offers wonderful opportunities for those who love trekking and mountain climbing. The populartrekking trails are the Padum-Phuktal trek, the Nun- Kun trek, the Hemis-Zangla-Padum trek and the Lamayuru-Lehtrek.
H around kargil
Mulbekh is a typical Buddhist village at an elevation of 3,230 meters, 45 km east of Kargil on the road to Leh. The village and the surrounding valley take their name from a small stream that originates in the Zanskar range and joins the Suru River at Kargil. A day is enough to visit most of the monuments of the early Buddhist era in this village.
Mulbekh Gompa: Situated about 45 km east of Kargil and about 190 km from Leh, the Mulbekh gompa (monastery), perched atop a rocky cliff, dominates the valley. Like all monasteries it is adorned by frescoes and statues.
Shergole: This is a small village (5 km short of Mulbekh) right of the Wakha brook on the Kargil-Leh road. Visible from afar as a white speck against the brown granite, the monastery here literally hangs out of a cliff. Urgyan Rzong: This is a meditational retreat tucked away behind an amazing natural mountain fortress. Concealed inside is a green circular valley with a monastic establishment at its centre. The hillsides have caves where high ranking Buddhist saints perform penance in isolation. It can be reached only through a footpath laid on a narrow gap in the rocky walls.
H Tourist information
Tourist Reception Centre is located behind the share-jeep stand. Ph: 232721.