Mustang and it’s Culture

Mustang is a hidden paradise of natural beauty, Tibetan arts, culture and ancient history. Which is situate in the high altitude of 3,840 meters, and surrounded by the beautiful high Trans-Himalaya’s Annapurna and Nilgiri mountain ranges.  Basically, Mustang is differentiated into two parts i.e. Lower Mustang & Upper Mustang. Lower Mustang is fully dessert vegetation area with beautiful scenic views and the some of Nepal’s oldest Buddhist Monasteries, ancient and isolated villages. Similarly, the upper Mustang belongs to Thakalis or Tibetan culture and traditions. Though the Language and culture are more closely similar to the Tibet’s.

Lo Manthang Castle, upper Mustang and its culture.

The Mustang is highly influenced by Tibetan cultures and traditions because Mustang was a lost kingdom of Tibet. Although now it is a politically part of Nepal, the traditions and cultures remain same as purely Tibetan. In the eighth century, during the Yarlung Dynasty, Buddhism reached Tibet. From Tibet, its cultures and religions are spread further to Mustang.

A group of senior monks gather for a ceremony on a field outside of Lo Manthang. mustang and its culture,

The population of Mustang called as Loba or Lowa which is a Tibetan dialect. The Loba (Lo Pa) people are ethnic Tibetan and practice a form of Buddhism from the Sakya lineage. They are very close to the Tibetans regarding culture, language and follows Buddhism religion. There is also a sect of the rare Bon religion here and the Bon priests practice along with Tibetan lamas at the local festival. They celebrate four major religious festivals: Gine, Gensu, Gelung, and Nayuene. But the Tiji festival is more popular in Mustang. Its three-day festival consisting of Tibetan rituals known as “The chasing of the Demons”. Also in Mustang, you may also find Nepali culture and religions in many areas celebrate different festivals.

Crowd gathers to witness a dance perfomance at Tiji festival in Mustang and its culture

Another interesting topic in Loba culture is marriage. Quite commonly, a Loba woman will be married to several men, a practice is known as polyandry. This is done due to the idea that there is less chance of a woman becoming a widow if she has many husbands. This is a unique feature of the Loba, but nowadays in new modern time that is slowly diminishing. The younger Loba want to discard it, but the older generation feels it is necessary. The old cultures and religions are more influenced by modern time as the as the time goes on the Tibetan cultures or Loba’s are continuously decreasing.

Elderly women sit in Lo Manthang to spin prayer wheels and pray together. This is a daily communal ritual for most retired Loba, mustang and its culture

Until 1992 the Mustang was strictly restricted for outsiders and only a small numbers of tourist or visitors permits allowed to visit. Due to long time isolation and low interactions from the outer world; the valley is gone hidden and the Mustang known as the Forbidden Kingdom. Hence that’s why there’s Tibetan arts, cultures, traditions and ancient villages are well preserved. But tourism to the Upper Mustang is still regulated and Foreigners need a specific special permit to enter the kingdom.

mustang and its culture

For those who have interest in different religions, cultures, mythology, and ancient arts then you must visit Mustang. when enters to this region the peoples feel like going back into the ancient Tibetan time and completely submerge yourself in the peaceful heaven on earth.

Mustang- A Heaven on earth

Mustang situated in the high Himalayas of the western Dhaulagiri zone and follows Tibetan cultures and religions, but politically it’s part of Nepal. Filled with views of numerous giant mountains in the region such as Dhaulagiri, Nilgiri, and Annapurna, the high Himalayan desert is definitely a heaven on earth. The title heaven on earth is claimed by many including the national daily newspaper The Himalayan Times.
So, why is Mustang a heaven on earth? We give you 5 reasons:

a. The Mountains:

Mustang is surrounded by the snow-capped high Himalayas. Mount Dhaulagiri, Annapurna massif, and Nilgiri are the notable peaks that can be seen. However, numerous small peaks are present throughout the region. The deepest gorge in the world, Kali Gandaki gorge falls in the region. The gorge is formulated between two giants of the region, Annapurna, and Dhaulagiri.

 

Landscape from Kagbeni

b. Culture and traditions:

Mustang is heavily influenced by Tibetan Buddhism and is the prominent religion in the region. Having given entry to internationals only in 1992, the true essence of Tibetan Buddhism is well preserved. Mani walls, prayer flags, and chortens are a common site while in the high Himalayan deserts.

Religious Shrie at Lo-Manthang.

c. Tiji and Yartung Festivals:

Mustang is known for its festivals such as Tiji and Yartung festival. Tiji festival is celebrated in Mid may and lasts for 3 days. The festival is the celebration of the defeat of a demon called Man Tam Ru by Lord Buddha’s incarnation Dorjee Sonnu. The festival depicts the harassment of Man Tam Ru on the first day, the second day describes the birth of Dorjee Sonnu and the final day describes the annihilation of the demon. People from throughout the region appear to soak in the festival.

Yartung Horse Festival is another prime festival in Mustang which is celebrated on August full moon day every year. The festival takes place to celebrate the end of summer and is celebrated with horse race by men and women of the Thakali tribe. The festival is celebrated throughout Mustang, but the pilgrimage of Muktinath is the prime location for the festival.

Crowd gathers to witness a dance perfomance at Tiji festival in Mustang.

(Pic courtesy: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ACAP_Tiji_Dance.jpg )

 

d. Desert Landscapes:

Geographically Mustang shares border with Tibet and is part of the Tibetian plateau. Hence, the landscapes are similar to that in Tibet. Treelines can be found in the lower belt of Mustang. However, after Kagbeni, the start to Upper Mustang, the landscape turns deserted with virtually little tree line visible.

Desert landscapes of Mustang.

e. Mystery caves:

Until mid of 1990s nobody knew about the caves 155ft high from the ground then the exploration begins an Archaeologists groups from Nepal and the University of Cologne began exploring the stacked caves. Since then, groups have continued to investigate the remote Upper Mustang site, but no-one has discovered who built the caves. However, it’s vast, mysterious, and nearly impossibly complex system of man-made caves, and hence one of the great archaeological mysteries of the world. “Those who have seen the mysterious caves say the effect of them on the cliff face makes it look like a giant sandcastle.” Considered to be one of the greatest wonders of the world, the caves in Mustang never cease to mystify and baffle human kind.

Visit HoneyGuide App’s blog for a detailed info on the caves in Mustang.

"Jhong" Cave in Chosser.