The Kingdom of Lo, as it was known in the ancient world and until fairly recently was a restricted to outsiders and hence also become known as the hidden Kingdom. Opened to foreigners in 1988, nowhere are Tibetan culture, architecture, and art better preserved than in Mustang. The long isolation helped retain old Tibetan language, the old lifestyle and the distinctive white painted walls of villages along with hundreds of stupas and wayside inns; this is a place like no other.
Geologically, Mustang lies north of the Himalayas and is technically part of Tibetan Plateau, hence the similarity is landscape albeit with beautiful and unique features. A high altitude desert perpetually battered by the wind, the eroded cliffs bring out the natural colors of local earth pigments in variations of red, yellow, brown complemented by clear blue skies and white snow caps of nearby mountains, two of which stand as the biggest gate columns in the world, Mount Annapurna and Mount Dhaulagiri.
This is where Mustang Madness happens, the circuit trail in such a rich and technically challenging area makes for one of the most beautiful and self-actualizing mountain bikes rides in the world.
Myths of Mustang
- Protected by the three goddesses.
Upper Mustang has a trans-Himalaya climate which is cool and semi-arid with precipitation in the range of 250-400mm. It is the rain shadow of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges
The last king of Nepal is still surviving. Though still reconciled by many Mustang residents, the monarchy ceased to exist on 7th October 2008, by order of the Government of Nepal. The last official and current unofficial king (raja or gyelpo) is Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (born c. 1933), who traces his lineage directly back to Ame Pal, the warrior who founded this Buddhist Kingdom.
Ghar Gompa is the first ever monastery of Nimapa sect of Buddhism, more commonly referred to as Tibetan sect of Buddhism was built by Guru Rimpoche himself. The deity who was a real historical character responsible for bringing Buddhism to Tibet and parts of modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. Paintings are statues depicting him are in every single monastery of the sect. After several failed attempts to build the first place of worship in Smaye in Tibet, Ghar Gompa becomes the first one.
The town of Kagbeni also has one of the oldest writings on rocks that date back to at least 1000 B.C.
Mustang is arguably the place of largest interaction between civilizations in southern Indian sub-continent and Northern Tibetan plateau and further to China and central Asia. Being one of the biggest trans-Himalayan trading post, it was also a place for constant warfare among powers that wanted to control it for its strategic location and vast revenues generated from Silk route trade. Thousands of cave dwellings have paintings that feature both Tibetan style of art and arts that resemble one from southern plains.
In 2007, a shepherd in Mustang discovered a collection of 55 cave paintings depicting the life of the Buddha. Such discoveries are frequent and speak volumes of its rich history.
Foreigners need to obtain a special permit to enter costing USD $ 50 per day.
The westerners in Mustang was Toni Hagen, Swiss explorer and geologist, who visited the Kingdom in 1952 during one of his travels across Himalayas but French Micheal Peiseel is considered the first westerner to stay in Lo Mantling during the first authorized expiration of Mustang in 1964.
Mystery of the ancient Caves
Approximately 10,000 human built caves exists in Mustang and they are of diverse functions ranging from houses to monasteries to depot and as tombs as well among many functions. In the mid-1990’s archaeologists from Nepal and the University of Cologne began exploring the stacked caves and round several dozen bodies, all at least 2,000 years old. The caves housed mummies too, a rather rare cultural proactive in this region, even in ancient days. Mummies are founds not just in pyramids of Egypt but also in caves of Mustang.
Scientists divide cave use in Upper Mustang into there periods. As early as 1000BC, the caves were used as burial chambers. During the 10Century, the region is thought to have been frequently nattered over and consequently, placing safety over convenience, families moved into caves, turning them into living quarters. By the 1400s the caves functioned as meditation chambers, military lookouts or storage units as people moved into villages.