The Region of Mustang has long, rich and complex history that makes it one of the most interesting places in Nepal. The early history of Lo is shrouded in legend, myth and mystery, but there are records of events in Lo as early as the 8th Century. It is quite likely that the Tibetan poet Milarepa, who lived from 1040 to 1123, visited Lo Upper Mustang, was once a part of Ngari, a name for the far western Tibet. Ngari was not a true political entity, but rather a loose collection of feudal domains that also included part of Dolpa. By the 14th century, most of Ngari, as well as most of what today is western Nepal, were part of the Malla empire government from Sinja.
It is generally believed that Ame Pal (A-ma-dpal) was the founder King of Lo in 1380. The ancestry of the present Mustang Raja (King) can be traced 25 generation back to Ame Pal. Ame Pal, or perhaps his father conquered a large part of the territory in the Upper Kali Gandaki and was responsible for the development of the city of Lo Manthang and, many Gompas. The King's Palace is an imposing 4 – Storey building in the center of the walled city. It is the home of the present King - Jigme Parbal Bista. The Honorary Title "Bista – a high caste title in Nepali" was conferred by the King of Nepal.
To the west, the Malla Empire declined and become split into numerous petty hill States. By the 18th Century, Jumla had consolidated and reasserted its power. In an effort to develop itself as a trading center and to obtain Tibetan goods, Jumla turned its attention eastward and in the mid 18th century assumed control over Lo, from which it extracted an annual tribute. When he ascended the throne in 1762, Pritihivi Narayan Shah began to consolidate what is present day Nepal. At the time of his death, the kingdom extended from Gorkha eastward to the borders of Sikkim. His descendants directed their efforts westward and in 1789, Jumla had been annexed. The Gorkha Army never actually entered Lo, they recognized the rule of the Mustang King and although Mustang becomes the part of Nepal, the King retained his title and Lo retained a certain amount of autonomy. Lo maintained its status as a separate principality until 1951. After the Rana Rulers were overthrown in November, 1950 and King Tribhuwan re established the rule of the Shah monarch. Lo was more closely consolidated into Nepal. The King was given the Honorary rank of Colonel in the Nepal Army.
During the 1960’s, after the Dalai Lama had fled to India and Chinese Army established control over Tibet, Mustang was a center for Guerrilla operations against China. The soldiers were the Khampas, Tibet’s most fearsome warriors. They had the backing of the CIA; some Khampas were secretly trained in America. At the height of the fighting, there were at least 6,000 Khampas in Mustang and neighboring border areas. The CIA’s support ended in the early 1970’s when the US, under Kissinger and Nixon, initiated new and better relations with China. The Government of Nepal was pressed to take action against the Guerillas, and making use of internal divisions with the Khampas leadership, abet of treachery and the Dalai Lama’s taped advice for the countrymen to lay down their arms, it managed to disband the resistance without committing to action the 10,000 Royal Nepal Army troops that it had sent to the area. Though Mustang was closed, the government allowed a few researchers into area. Toni Hagen included Mustang in his Survey of the entire Kingdom of Nepal, and the Italian Scholar Giuseppi Tucci visited in the autumn of 1952. Professor David Snellgrove traveled to the region in 1956 but did not visit Lo Manthang. Longtime Nepal resident, Barbara Adams traveled to Mustang during the autumn of 1963. The most complete description of the area of Mustang, the Forbidden Kingdom written by Michel Peissel who spend several months in the area in the spring of 1964. Dr. Harka Bahadur Gurung also visited and wrote about Upper Mustang in October 1973. A number of groups legally traveled to Upper Mustang during the 1980’s by obtaining permits to climb Bhrikuti Peak (6,364m), which is located southeast of Lo Manthang. Other than a few special royal guests, the first legal trekkers were allowed into Mustang in March 1992 upon payment of USD 500/- per week for a special trekking permit.
RELIGION IN MUSTANG
The form of Tibetan Buddhism practiced in Mustang is primarily that of the Sakyapa Sect. This sect was established at Sakya Monastery in Tibet and dates from 1,073. The Sakyapa sect is more worldly and practical in outlook and is less concerned with metaphysics that the more predominant Nyingmapa and Geluppa sects. Sakya Monastery is unique for its horizontal grey, white and yellow stripes on its red walls, an identifying feature of Sakyapa structures. Most Chortens and Gompas in Lo are painted in these colors that reflect the surrounding hills. The trek to Lo is through an almost treeless barren landscape. Strong winds usually blow across the area in the afternoon, generally subsiding at the night. Being in the rain shadow of the Himalayas during the Monsoon. In the winter, there is usually snow, sometimes as much as 30 or 40 centimeters on the ground. In Lo itself in the countryside, is similar to the Tibetan plateau with its endless expanses of yellow and grey rolling hills eroded by wind. There is more rain in the lower part of upper Mustang and the hills tend to be great red fluted cliffs of tiny round stones cemented together by mud. Villages are several hours apart and appear in the distance almost as mirages; during the summer season. After the crops are planted, they are green oasis in the desert like landscape. House and Stupa construction throughout the region uses some stone but mostly sun baked bricks of mud. Astonishing edifices, such as the city wall and the 4 Story Palace in Lo Manthang, are build in this manner. It is said that there were once large forests in Lo but now wood for construction is hauled all the way from Jomsom or pruned from papal trees that are carefully planted in every village. The people of Upper Mustang called themselves Lobas. To be strictly correct, this word would be spelled “Lopa”, meaning ‘Lo People’ in the same way as Sherpa, which means ‘East Nepal’ of Khampa, which means ‘Kham People’. The people of Lo probably because of regional dialect, pronounced the word with a definite B sound instead of the P sound that the Sherpas and Khampas use.
TIJI FESTIVAL IN LO-MANTHANG
Tiji Festival also known as Tenchi Festival in Lo Manthang is a three day festival in Tibetan rituals that celebrates the myth of the son who had to save Mustang Region from destruction. Tiji is the abbreviation of 'Tempa Chirim' which means 'Prayers for World Peace'. It is the celebration of victory of Lord Buddha's incarnation, Dorjee Sonnu over demon Man Tam Ru which was a vicious creature . It is believed that Dorjee fought and defeated demon who was supposed to destroy Mustang by feeding on humans, spreading diseases and taking away all the waters,causing droughts.
This festival started celebrating only after 17th Century by monks of Chodde Monastery in the courtyard of Mustang Royal Palace with colorful dances and praying chants. Chodde Monastery is headed by Rimpoche and belongs to the Sakya sect of Buddhism. Around 60 to 70 monks from Lho Manthang, Nhenyul and Chhosyer reside in the monastery. The harassment of demon called Tsa Chham in dance on the first day, as the birth of Dorjee as Demon's son Nga Chham in the second day and the last and final day as attempt to return the demon to Buddha's Realm are performed during the festival. Tiji Festival is celebrated in the 3rd month of Tibetan calendar in the month of May. Upcoming Tiji festival will be celebrated from 27th to 29th May, 2022.