Mustang

Mustang, the plain of aspirations in Tibetan.

To find yourself in Mustang, trekking or just simply being there is a rare privilege.

Geographically it is a part of the Tibetan plateau. The district of Mustang was, until 1950, a separate kingdom within the boundaries of Nepal. The last king, the Raja of Mustang, still has his home in the ancient capital known as Lo Manthang. Mustang is a land of astonishing beauty located along Nepal’s border with the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

Upper Mustang was opened to non nepali trekkers only some fifteen years ago and even today, access is still highly restricted. While the Mustang trek is not particularly difficult, the highest point reached being only 3,800 meters, conditions can be arduous at times.

The lifestyle of the inhabitants of Mustang share ties to Tibetan culture and is strongly influenced by Vajrayana Buddhism. Centuries old monasteries and caves house precious artifact that holds the mystery of the area’s past. The high elevation, arid land with pockets of green surrounding its villages during summer contribute to make this place a very unique one.

Many of the dwellings are earthen-walled and the way of life of the people seems to have changed little for eons and you may be surprised to know that polyandry is still practiced.

Upper Mustang is perhaps the last enclave of pristine Tibetan culture. Forbidden and isolated from the rest of the world it was able to develop and maintain its own distinctive culture and unique and rich tradition.

Lo Mantang, the capital, is a walled city that was ruled by a religious king. Untouched by modern civilization, life in Mustang goes on as spectacular as the mountain scenery which is highlighted by Dhaulagiri Mount (8,167 meter high) and Annapurna Mount (6,000 meters high). Surrounded by some 35 mountain of an average of 6,000 meters.

Mustang is place really off the beaten track. However, development seems encline to want to take place rapidly and, the moment to experience Mustang in its purest essence is NOW.

Highlights

FOOD

Nepal’s most known dishes are probably dal bhat (rice and lentils) and the popular momos. Nepal does not have a distinct cooking style.

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However, food habits differ depending on the region. Nepali food has been influenced by Indian and Tibetan styles of cooking.

Exquisite yak cheese is a staple in the Himalayan region along with the traditional Tibetan butter tea and noodles.

THE PEOPLE

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The Loba, the about 6,000 inhabitants of Mustang, are very close to the Tibetans regarding culture, language and religion. In the 8th..
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century, Buddhism had been brought to Mustang by the Indian Buddhist master Padmasambhava and the inhabitants adopted it as their own.The Loba practice a form of Buddhism from the Sakya lineage. There is also a sect of the rare Bon religion here. The Bon priests practice along with Tibetan lamas at local festival. During the centuries many Buddhist teachers, Tibetan lamas and monks left the country. Lately, old deserted monasteries have been renovated with the help of the local population and are in use again.

The language of Mustang’s population, called Loba or Lowa, is a Tibetan dialect. In Mustang you also find other Tibetan dialects as well as Nepali. Most of the Loba live in the vicinity of the river Kali Gandaki. With the changing seasons, large parts of the population have to move to Nepal’s lower regions, since the rough climate makes agriculture and therefore survival impossible.

CULTURE & RELIGIONS OF MUSTANG

buddhist-woman

The origins of Buddhism go back to India to Gautama Buddha from the dynasty of Sakaya. In the eighth century, during the Yarlung…
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Dynasty, Buddhism reached Tibet. Then it spread further to Mustang. In the highlands of Tibet a new form of Buddhism emerged as part of the Mahayana Buddhism in which the Lama (Guru) played the central role integrating many rituals and locale religious tradition.

One special characteristic of the Mahayana Buddhism in the Kingdom of Mustang is the ideal of Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva is an enlightened being that renounces to the last step of enlightenment in order to provide the force of redemption to all creatures.

Like in all Buddhist parts of the Himalaya prayer flags are raised to spread blessings through the country.

Mustang, the Plain of Aspiration in Tibetan, is a rare jewel. One of the most preserved region of the world which was a kingdom until 1975. The Kingdom of Lo was abolished by the republican government of Nepal.

To find yourself in Mustang, trekking or traveling by jeep, but just simply being there is a rare privilege. I believe it is one of the most incredible place to encounter yourself and be in contact with the most ancient Tibetan traditions and people untouched by outsiders until recent times. More precisely until 1992, when it gradually started to accept few selected expeditions. Nowadays, this remotest part of Nepal which is kind of hard to access and highly restricted only accepts 1,000 visitors a year. The permit is expensive, the road trip maybe tiring at some points but the rewards to find yourself there, just right there, in this magical and mythical place, surrounded by mountain such as the Nilgiris emanating such powerful and imposing force and meeting with people living such different way of life (most likely a difficult to understand way of life to most foreigners) gives a feeling that goes beyond description.

Ranging between 1,372 and 8,167 meters high, this remote region is home to some of the oldest Tibetan ways of life and Buddhist Bön practices. Although polyandry is now legally forbidden, it is still practiced in some places.

The lifestyle of the inhabitants of Mustang share ties to Tibetan culture and is strongly influenced by Vajrayana Buddhism. Centuries old monasteries and caves house precious artifact that holds the mystery of the area’s past.

One fascinating feature of the district are thousands of cliff dwellings known as sky caves. They are a collection of some 10,000 manmade caves dug into the side valley in the Mustang. Conservators and archeologist are fascinated by their discoveries and it is still very undiscovered. Among many valuable Buddhist paintings, sculptures and manuscripts, mummified human bodies and skeletons that are 2,000 to 3,00 years olds…they found Bön and Buddhist manuscript dating for the 12th to 14th century.

Although food in Mustang is the most varied in the world, its simplicity goes along with yak meat, yogurt, cheese and butter, rice, tsampa, momos and some greens. It does include wild mushrooms, plants and you can have more than tour share of tea and/or butter tea. Being in Nepal it also offers the traditional dal bhat.

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