The inhabitants of Mustang are culturally a Tibetan people, speaking the Tibetan language and following Tibetan Buddhism.
Up until 1992 Mustang was closed except for to a few royal guests. The first legal trekkers were allowed in only in March 1992, upon payment of a high royalty, minimum $700 for 10 days, which is changed now ($500 for a 10 days permit).
For these reasons, trekking to Upper Mustang/Lo is a rare privilege. Not many foreigners go there, but those that do discover a traditional way of life, landscape, architecture and art so enthralling that it cannot be forgotten.
To the south of Mustang live the Thakalis, who provide a cultural and geographical bridge between Mustang and the middle hill tribes of Gurungs and Magars. A famous place of pilgrimage in this area for both Hindus and Buddhists is Muktinath, also known as Chumig Gyatsa (One Hundred Springs), located 18 km northeast of Jomsom.
If you extend the trek from Jomsom to Beni, you’ll end up back in Gurkha country a midst typical Nepalese scenery. The fauna and flora become richer as you descend from alpine to temperate and finally into sub-tropical forests. The views and the backdrop of the Himalayas are stunning throughout.
If you are Trekking to Mustang then you must coinside Tiji (Tenchi/Tenpa Chirim) Mask dance Festival in Lomanthang
The beating of drums and singing fill the air as the ancient thangka (religious scroll painting) of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhism's Lotus-born Saint) is brought from the Palace of Lo Manthang into the square. The people of Lo (Upper Mustang) eagerly await its arrival through clouds of incense, and with great clamor and anticipation, the monks place the thangka on display by rolling it down a huge wall.
This is the beginning of Tenpa Chirim, the most important festival of Lo, which is celebrated by the people of Lo Tso Dhun (the seven provinces of Upper Mustang).
The term 'Tenpa Chirim' literally means "the hope that the Buddha's Dharma will prevail in all places and among all people of the world". The festival is popularly known as "Tiji', which is a mispronunciation of the word 'Tenchi', which itself is the short form for Tenpa Chirim.
Tiji (Tenchi) is revered as a harbinger of hope and peace, and is based on the myth of a deity named Dorje Shunu (Vajrakila), who was reborn in order to defeat the demons and evil forces that created hell and suffering on earth. Through the power of his dances and the variety of forms he takes, he is able to defeat the demons and thereby bring peace and prosperity to the country. Thus, the festival depicts the triumph of good over evil.
During this three-day masked dance festival, Dorje Shunnu reveals his various forms, and an ancient thangka of Padmasambhava in unfolded. The King (Gyalpo) of Mustang is dressed in their traditional attire when attending the ceremony. Over the years, this festival has now become a major tourist attraction in Upper Mustang.
History of Tiji (Tenchi/Tenpa Chirim)
Allegiance to the Phurba (Sa Phur) tradition i.e. invoking the wrathful deity of Dorje Shunu who is considered to banish all forms of obstacles has prevailed since the time of Lama Lowo Khenchen (1418-1482). This influence could be due to the visits of the great Sakyapa master Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo who was invited by Amedpal (1388-1447) the first ruler of Lo and was honoured as his chief religious preceptor Lowo Khenchen was considered as one of the greatest Buddhist teachers of his time, and he played a major role in spreading Buddhism in Mustang.
Tiji (Tenchi/Tempa Chirim) is believed to have started around the time of Lowo Khenchen and continued with great pomp and fervour in the few centuries thereafter. It thus became one of the main festivals of Lo. The country at that time was flourishing, food was plentiful, and Buddhist religious was practiced and followed by the Royal family as well as the lay people. Large monasteries were built and great teachers were born. Evidence of this golden age of religion and prosperity can still be seen in most villages in the form of monasteries dzongs, large houses and private chapels.
During the reign of the 15th King of Mustang, Ahang Jamba Dadul, (enthronement approx 1816, died 1837) the country of Lo witnessed unrest and economic downfall. The Queen was also unable to bear a son, so to appease the gods and remove obstacles to the Buddhist religious traditions, Ngachen Ngawang Kunga Sonam, a great Sakyapa master from Tibet, was invited to visit Lo. As the festival of Tiji this master is said to have performed the masked dances as the main dancer, or tsowo. Folklore describes a mound outside the city walls of Lo Manthang where the arrow used by the great master to drive away the demon is said to have been buried, and left an indent upon the mound. This place is known as Sa Kawo or the "White Land", and exists to this vary day. Following Ngachen Ngawang Kunga Sonam's visit to Lo, the festival regained its popularity and prior glory.
However, towards the mid 19th century, political changes in Nepal affected Mustang, and many age-old traditions were abolished including Tiji. Although the main ceremony in the city's square no longer took place, Choed Gompa, the central monastery of Lo Manthang, continued to celebrate the festival within the monastery without economic support from the people. This has been practiced since 1963, and still continues today, despite the main festival having being revived.
An intriguing story behind the most recent revival of Tiji denotes that an apparition appeared to Pemba, a layman from Lo Manthang, and it was prophesized that if the Tiji festival was not practiced, great evil and suffering would befall Lo. Epidemics would plague the area and there would be death, suffering and poverty everywhere. So the present King, now 25th in the lineage, Jigme Dadul Palbar Bista met with the late Khempo (Head Lama) Tashi Tenzin of Lo Manthang's Choede Gompa, the representatives of Lo Tso Dun and high officials to discuss the matter.
It was then decided that the festival would be restarted, and by the 1970s the main festival in the square (in front of the King's Palace), within the high city walls, was again celebrated with great enthusiasm. It can thus be said that despite much antagonism (both political and economic), the tradition and continuity of Tiji was never really broken, and continues in its original form to this day.
Arrival KTM airport. Pick-up at airport and taken to Hotel.
Breakfast at hotel. Visit Basantapu, Swayambhu and Thamel. Hotel
Early departure by van to Pokhara. Hotel.
Early morning flight to Jomsom meet the staff & trek to Kagbeni. Tented Camp.
Enter the restricted region. Trek to Chele. tented camp.
Trek to Syanboche. Tented camp.
Trek to Ghami. Tented camp.
Trek to Charang. Tented camp.
Lo Manthang . Tented camp.
Lo Manthang. Tented camp.
Trek to Dhakmar. Tented camp.
Trek to Syanboche. Tented camp.
Trek to Chhusang. Tented camp.
Trek to Muktinath. Guest house.
Trek to Jomsom. Guest house.
Fly to Phokhara. Hotel.
Fly to Kathmandu. Hotel.
Visit Bhaktapur, Boudha and Pashupati. Hotel.
Breakfast at the hotel and early pickup for departure.