Mustang District

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Mustang
मुस्ताङ जिल्ला
སྨོནཋང
District
Location of Mustang
Location of Mustang
Country Nepal
Region Western (Pashchimanchal)
Zone Dhaulagiri
Seat Jomsom
Area
 • Total 3,573 km2 (1,380 sq mi)
Population (2011)
 • Total 13,452
 • Density 3.8/km2 (9.8/sq mi)
Time zone NPT (UTC+5:45)

Mustang District (Nepali: मुस्ताङ जिल्लाAbout this sound Listen ), a part of Province No. 4 in Dhawalagiri Zone of northern Nepal, is one of the seventy-five districts of Nepal. The district, with Jomsom as its headquarters, covers an area of 3,573 km² and has a population (2011) of 13,452.[1] The district straddles the Himalayas and extends northward onto the Tibetan plateau. Mustang is one of the most remote areas in Nepal and is second in terms of the sparsity of population.[2]

Sheltered by some of the world’s highest mountains, the 8000-meter peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, bordering China and the Tibetan plateau, Mustang is ancient forbidden kingdom, where strict regulation of travelers helped Tibetan traditions survive stronger than Tibet proper.[3] Upper Mustang was a restricted demilitarized area until 1992, which makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world due to its relative isolation from the outside world, with a majority of the population still speaking traditional Tibetic languages.[4] The name "Mustang" is derived from the Tibetan word meaning, "Plain of Aspiration."[5] Upper Mustang was only opened to foreigners in 1992 (annual quota at present of 1,000 people). It is a popular area for trekking and can be visited year round (regardless of season).[6]

Mustang district lies in Dhawalagiri zone. The headquarters is Jomsom. The district covers an area of 3,573 km2 and has a population of 14,981. The elevation ranges from 1,372 to 8,167 meters (Mount Dhaulagiri, the 8th highest mountain in the world), with several peaks above 7,000 meters. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the main occupations. The entire district lies within the Annapurna Conservation Area — the largest protected area in Nepal. Development programmes, tourism management, and so on are primarily overseen by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), a division of the National Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC).[2] The kingdom of Mustang was a dependency of the Kingdom of Nepal since 1795,[7] but was abolished by the republican Government of Nepal on October 7, 2008. The monarchy in Mustang ceased to exist on October 7, 2008, by order of the Government of Nepal, after Nepal became a federal democratic republic.[8] According to the Human Development Index, Mustang is a relatively wealthy district with a GDP per capita of US $2,466.[6]

Geography[edit]

Climate Zone[9] Elevation Range  % of Area
Temperate 2,000 to 3,000 meters
6,400 to 9,800 ft.
4.0%
Subalpine 3,000 to 4,000 meters
9,800 to 13,100 ft.
4.7%
Alpine 4,000 to 5,000 meters
13,100 to 16,400 ft.
2.7%
Nival above 5,000 meters 8.8%
Trans-Himalayan[10][11] 3,000 to 6,400 meters
9,800 to 21,000 ft.
79.8%
Mustang has a semi-arid climate
Kali Gandaki Gorge near Ghassa village
Kali Gandaki riverbed in Upper Mustang. View from Thsele village down to the Kali Gandaki river and the fields of Chhusang, with Nilgiri mountains's steep north face.
Description[12] Area covered (km2) % of Area
Total area of the district 3639.6 100%
Total forest area 123.2 3.38%
Total cultivable land 40.3 1.10%
Irrigated cultivable land 32.5 0.89%
Rain-fed cultivable land 7.83 0.21%
Pasture land 1476.8 40.57%
River, stream, cliff, mountain, stone etc. 1505.7 41.36%
Area covered by residence and buildings 3.20 0.08%
Area covered by snow 305.9 8.40%
Area covered by lakes 0.92 0.02%
Other 183.5 5.04%

Mustang, the second least populated district of Nepal, is flanked by the Nepalese districts of Manang, the least populated, to the east and Dolpa, the third least populated, to the west. The Tibetan frontier stretches north from Mustang's borders.[2][12] This is a high-altitude trans-Himalayan region spread over 3,640 square kilometers in area just north of the main Himalayan range.[12][13] Geographically this cold high-altitude steppe is a part of the highlands of Tibet.[2][13] This boot-shaped piece of land thrusts north into western Tibet is caught in the rain shadow of Dhaulagiri to the south and west and the Annapurna Massif to the north and east.[2]

Mustang has an average elevation of 13,200 ft (2,500m), coming to a peak at 8,167m — the summit of Dhaulagiri.[13][2] It is a vast high arid valley, characterized by eroded canyons, colorful stratified rock formations and has a barren, desert-like appearance.[13] The area receives an annual rainfall averages less than 260 mm at Jomsom in the Lower Mustang. Spring and autumn are generally dry, but some precipitation is brought by summer monsoons, which averaged 133 mm at Jomsom between 1973 and 2000. The mean minimum monthly air temperature falls to -2.7 °C in winter while the maximum monthly air temperature reaches 23.1 °C in summer. Both diurnal and annual variations in temperature are large. Only about 40.3 square kilometers, about 1 percent of the total land area, is cultivated and 1,477 square kilometers, about 40%, is pasture land.[12] Kora La at 4,660 metres (15,290 ft) in elevation is been considered the lowest drivable path between Tibetan Plateau and Indian subcontinent.[14]

The elevation of the district range from 1640m in nearby Kopchepani under Kunjo VDC to 7061m in Nilgiri North above from the sea level. The peaks above 6000m in Mustang district are Tukuche peak (6920m), Nilgiri South (6839m), Yakwakang Peak (6462m), and Damodar Himal (6004m). Thorung Pass (5416m), arguably the world's highest and busiest pass, is located in this district. This district share 134.16 km long international boarder with Tibet Autonomous Region of China where 16 boundary pillars are in existence from pillar no. 18-33.[15]

The Kali Gandaki River is a highly important feature of the district. Its source located near the Tibetan border coincides with the Tibetan border and Ganges-Brahmaputra watershed divide.[2] From there, it flows south towards the northern Indian plains through the ancient kingdom of Mustang.[2] It flows through a sheer-sided, deep canyon immediately south of the Mustang capital of Lo Manthang, then widens as it approaches Kagbeni where high Himalayan ranges begin to close in. The river continues southward past Jomsom, Marpha, and Tukuche to the deepest part of the gorge about 7 km south of Tukuche in the area of Lete. The gorge then broadens past the border of Mustang and Myagdi districts. Geographically, Lower Mustang lies between Tibetan plateau in the North and high Himalayan Mountains in the South. The region between Tibetan plateau and Himalayan Mountain is called Trans-Himalaya.[16]

The Kali Gandaki Gorge or Andha Galchi, measured by the difference between the river height and the heights of the highest peaks on either side, is the world's deepest canyon. The portion of the river directly between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna I (7 km downstream from Tukuche) is at an elevation of 2,520 m or 8,270 ft, 5,571 m or 18,278 ft lower than Annapurna I.[17] Major peaks along the gorge include Dhaulagiri (8,167 m or 26,795 ft) and Tukuche (6,920 m or 22,703 ft) on the west and Nilgiri Central (6,940 m or 22,769 ft) and Annapurna (8,091 m or 26,545 ft) on the east.

History[edit]

Flag of the Mustang Kingdom, founded by Ame Pal in 1380
Portrait of King Prithvi Narayan Shah who annexed the kingdom in 1769
The last king Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista before the kingdom was abolished in 2008

Most of the history of Mustang is now a matter of legend rather than recorded fact. However, it is believed that Mustang or the Kingdom of Lo was once a part of Ngari are of Tibet and a rather loose collection of feudal domains.[13] Though the people of Mustang live within the geographic boundaries of Nepal, their history is also tied to Tibetan religion and culture, geography, and politics.[2] It was often closely linked to adjoining kingdoms of Western Tibet and, during other periods of history, politically linked to Lhasa, the capital of Central Tibet.[18] Lo was incorporated into the Tibetan Empire under Songtsen Gampo, the most famous of the Tibetan kings.[13]

By the 14 Century much of Ngari became part of the Malla empire, whose capital was Sinja in western Nepal. Mustang was once an independent kingdom in its own right, although closely tied by language and culture to Tibet. From the 15th century to the 17th century, its strategic location granted Mustang control over the trade between the Himalayas and India.[19] It became an independent kingdom under the rule of Ame Pal, the founder king of Lo in 1380. The present royal family can trace its history 25 generations back to Ame Pal, and the city of Lo Manthang, which was the center of their power.[13] Ame Pal oversaw the founding and building of much of the Lo and Mustang capital of Lo Manthang, a walled city surprisingly little changed in appearance from that time period.[20] The only remnant of these kingdoms is the still-intact Kingdom of Lo, an area corresponding to the northern third of Mustang District.[2]

In 1769, the army of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the first King the Gorkha Kingdom and the Shah dynasty, unified what was a land of many small kingdoms to forge the kingdom of Nepal. Before that much of present-day Mustang was ruled by kings from Jumla, a region to the southwest, and independent kings and feudal lords.[2] At the end of the 18th century the kingdom was annexed by Nepal and became a dependency of the Kingdom of Nepal since 1795.[19] Swedish explorer Sven Hedin's visited the pass at the head of the Kali Gandaki Gorge in 1904.[21] British Tibetologist David Snellgrove visited and researched Mustang's Buddhist temples and monasteries in 1956, 1960–61 and 1978.[22]

During the late 1950s and 60s, Mustang became the center for Tibetan guerrillas who carried out small operations against the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959.[13] Tibetan guerrilla group Chushi Gangdruk operated out of Upper Mustang with the intention of raiding PLA positions in Tibet,[23] which led to a border incident that caused the killing of a Nepalese officer who was mistaken as a Tibetan rebel.[24][25] These guerrillas were assisted by the CIA and the Tibetan Khampas. With US president Richard Nixon’s visit to China in the 1970s, the CIA's support was withdrawn and the Nepalese managed to disband these resistance fighters.[13] In the book Merlins Keep, a novel by Madeleine Brent (alias of Peter O'Donnell) published 1977, Mustang is the setting for the heroine's youth and later adventures. In 1961, People's Republic of China and Kingdom of Nepal officially signed a border agreement .[26] setting the border between Mustang and TAR set slightly north of the traditional boundary marker demarcated by a stupa at 29°18′14″N 83°58′7″E / 29.30389°N 83.96861°E / 29.30389; 83.96861.[23]

Tibet conflict
Leader of a Mustang based guerrilla band fighting the annexation of Tibet[27]
Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the Karmapa who escaped Chinese authorities through Mustang

Up until 2008, the Kingdom of Lo or Upper Mustang was an ethnic Tibetan kingdom and a suzerainty of Kingdom of Nepal. The suzerainty allowed for a certain level of independence in local governance from the Nepalese central government.[23] Though still recognized by many Mustang residents, the monarchy ceased to exist on October 7, 2008, by order of the Government of Nepal.[28] After the civil war and overthrow of the Nepalese monarchy, Nepal became a republic, and Mustang lost the status as a tributary kingdom it had held from the late eighteenth century, and became a district of Nepal.[3] Mustang is the setting for a large part of the book The Kingdom, a novel by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood published in 2011. In December 1999, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th claimant Karmapa fled Tibet through this area.[29][30] In response, China built a border fence immediately after.[31] There is a PLA border outpost a few miles on Chinese side, it is the western most border outpost in Tibet Military District. The outpost was renovated in 2009 to have a modern facility.[32]

The last official and later unofficial king (raja or gyelpo) of Mustang was Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista (1930–2016), Bista succeeded his father Angun Tenzing Tandul in 1964, and whose lineage dates back to Ame Pal, the warrior who founded the kingdom of Lo in 1380,[33][34] He died in 16 December 2016 after living a retired life largely in Kathmandu since 2008 when Nepal abolished its own monarchy.[33][3][35]

Sky caves[edit]

Sky caves
Sky caves at Chhoser village, Lo Manthang

One of the most fascinating features of Mustang is literally thousands of cliff dwellings, some of which are highly inaccessible.[13] These Mustang Caves or Sky Caves of Nepal are a collection of some 10,000 man-made caves dug into the sides of valleys in the Mustang.[36][37] Several groups of archaeologists and researchers have explored these stacked caves and found partially mummified human bodies and skeletons that are at least 2,000–3,000 years old.[38] Explorations of these caves by conservators and archaeologists have also led to the discovery of valuable Buddhist paintings, sculptures, manuscripts and numerous artifacts belonging to the 12th to 14th century.[39][40] The caves lie on the steep valley walls near the Kali Gandaki River in Upper Mustang.

In 2007, explorers from the United States, Italy and Nepal discovered ancient Buddhist decorative art and paintings, manuscripts and pottery in the Mustang caves near Lo Manthang, dating back to the 13th century.[39] A second expedition in 2008 discovered several 600-year-old human skeletons and recovered reams of precious manuscripts, some with small paintings known as illuminations, which contain a mix of writings from Buddhism and Bon.[41] Research groups have continue to investigate these caves, as it is not clear who built the caves and why were they built. A theory is that they may date 8–10,000 BCE when Mustang was a much greener land.[13]

In 2007, a shepherd discovered a collection of 55 cave paintings near the village depicting the life of the Buddha.[42] A series of at least twelve caves were discovered north of Annapurna and near the village of Lo Manthang, decorated with ancient Buddhist paintings and set in sheer cliffs at 14,000 feet (4,300 m) elevation. The paintings show Newari influence, dating to approximately the 13th century, and also contain Tibetan scripts executed in ink, silver and gold and pre-Christian era pottery shards. Explorers found stupas, decorative art and paintings depicting various forms of the Buddha, often with disciples, supplicants and attendants, with some mural paintings showing sub-tropical themes containing palm trees, billowing Indian textiles and birds.[43]

Administration[edit]

Mustang district is part of Dhaulagiri Zone in Nepal's Western Development Region. Since establishment of Kingdom of Mustang until restructuring of local governance of Nepal, the area of this district was divided into one parliamentary constituency, nine Ilakas, and 16 Village Development Committees (VDCs).[15] While an Ilaka functioned as the local development unit, the VDCs functioned as local political units.[2][12] In 2017, Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (Nepal) re-structured the area into five Gaunpalikas or rural municipalities with five areas each, which are different from old VDCs.[44][45][46][47]

Gaupalika Population
2011
Area Population density Villages
5 each
Center
Gharpajhong (घरपझोङ) 3,029 316 10 Syang (स्याङ), Jomsom (जोमसोम), Chhairo (छैरो), Marpha (मार्फा), Thini (ठिनी), Chimang (चिमाङ) Jomsom
Thasang (थासाङ) 2,912 289 10 Lete (लेते), Tukuche (टुकुचे), Kunjo (कुञ्जो), Kobang (कोवाङ) Kobang
Barhagaun Muktichhetra (बाह्रगाउँ मुक्तिक्षेत्र) 2,330 886 3 Kagbeni (कागवेनी), Khinga (खिङ्गा), Jhong (झोङ), Chhusang (छुसाङ) Kagbeni
Lomanthang (लोमन्थाङ) 1,899 727 3 Chhoser (छोसेर), Lo Manthang (लोमन्थाङ), Chhonhup (छोन्हुप) Lo Manthang
Dalome (दालोमे) 1,423 1,344 1 Ghami (घमी), Surkhang (सुर्खाङ), Charang (चराङ) Charang

Village community councils[edit]

Map of Mustang showing new and old Local level structure

Before the VDCs there was the system of village community councils from 1960 to 1990, which forms the lowest strata of local administration.[48] The households’ participation and membership in the village community council was decisive for their entitlement to common property resources such as irrigation water, pastures and forests. The endowments of such common property resources belong to the community. All households were represented in the council and the council leader (gemba) is appointed on annual rotation among all present males between the age of 18 and 60. The council ensured equitable distribution of rights and responsibilities; it settled disputes and called all households for community work whenever it was needed.[49]

While each household made decisions for its private farm system,[50] the village council managed the community farming system.[51] All households in the village had entitlements to the pasture areas that exclusively belonged to the community. All households also had entitlements to collect wood from a nearby community forest, although foliage and wood from privately planted trees were more commonly used.[49]

Divisions[edit]

Traditionally, the Mustang district has been divided into four social and geographical regions. From south to north they are: Thak Satsae (also known as lower Thak Khola), Panchgaon (upper Thak Khola) and Baragaon (mostly considered part of Thak Khola, sometime called lower Lo) in Lower Mustang and Lo Tsho Dyun or (also known simply as Lo) in Upper Mustang,[2][52][16] though it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between areas along social lines as different castes and ethnic people started to live all over the region.[16]

Thak Khola[edit]

Along the Kali Gandaki River in Lower Mustang, the Thakkali are the dominant ehtnic group. The area, extending from Ghasa in south to district headquarter Jomsom in the north, is known as Thak Khola ("Thak River"). The area was ruled by a Tibetan ruler till 1786, when it was included in Nepal.[16] Historically, the region was under Tibetan ruler, but after 1786, it was included in Nepal.[16] Ethnically, Thakalis are categorized as Tamang Thakalis from Thak Satsae, and Mawatan Thakali and Yhulkasompaimhi Thakalis from Panchgaon. The languages spoken by Thakalis fall in Tibeto-Burman category, and they believe in Buddhism.[16]

Thak Satsae[edit]

Tsampa gompa at Tukuche

Thak Satsae (“Seven Hundred Thak”) is the most southerly sub-region of Mustang.[52][15] The sub-region extends from the village of Ghasa in the south to the trading town of Tukuche in the north, bordering Jomsom (the district headquarter).[52][53] Traditionally believed to have 700 households, the sub-region encompasses 13 villages along Thak Khaki, a segment of the Kali Gandaki located south of Jomsom (also called Tehragaon or "thirteen villages"):[2][15][52] Ghasa, Taglung, Dhamphu, Kunjo, Titi, Sauru Khanti, Lete, Kobang, Nakung, Naurikot, Bhurjungkot, Larjung and Tukuche. They were distributed across four VDCs: Lete, Kowang, Kunjo and Tukuche[15][52][53][16]

Thak Satsae Area or Thak Khola is home to Tamang people, the largest group of Thakalis in Mustang, whow are known to outsiders as just Thakkalis.[52] The Thakkalis of Mustang, known for their enterprising skills as traders, innkeepers and hoteliers, are divided into four clans: Khuki (Bhattachan), Choki (Gauchan), Dinjen (Sherchan) and Salki (Tulachan).[15][53] The introduction of horticulture and tourism has made this region prosperous. Various kinds of liquor, Jam and Jelly made up of apple, apricot and plum are very popular commodities of this area.[15][53]

Panchgaon[edit]

Jomsom main street, near the airport

Panchgaon ("five villages") lies between the trading town of Tukche and the pilgrimage site of Muktinath.[2][52] Beyond the five villages — Marpha, Chhairo, Chimang, Syang and Thini — this area also includes more recent settlements such as Jomsom, Drumpa and Samle.[15][52] All these settlements were distributed across two VDCs: Jomsom and Marpha.[15] Jomsom is the district headquarter, Thini is historically one of the most important sites in the entire district, and Marpha is very popular for the apple orchards and apple brandy.[15] Panchgaon was once ruled by the king of Sum (or Sumpo) Garabdzong (near present-day Thini) and the bem-chag deal mainly with the foundation and boundaries of that kingdom. One of the most important sources for the study of the history of the Mustang are the village records or bem-chag kept in the five original villages including Thini, Syang, Marpha, Chairo and Cimang.[54]

The dominant ethnic group is Thakali, also known as Panchgaonle (“people of Panchgaon”).[15][52] People from Marpha, Chhairo and Chimang write clan names as their surname. The four clans are Hirachan, Lalchan, Jwarchan and Pannachan. But the people from Thini and Syang write their surname as only Thakali to identify by themselves.[15] Among the villages of Panchgaon, Mawatan Thankalis are from Marpha and Yhulkasompaimhi, Yhulgasummi or Yhulgasumpa Thakalis are from Thini, Syang and Chimang.[52][16] While more than 80 per cent of the Tamang Thakali are found outside Thak Khola, nearly half of the total Mawatan Thakali population still live in Marpha village.[55] Thini village, one of the oldest Thakali villages in Thak Khola region does not categorize itself within Panchgaonle (people from Panchgaon), instead they categorize themselves within Tingaonle Thakali (people from three villages) which includes Thini, Syang and Chimang. According to the informants from Thini, they do not categorize those people who are originated from Marpha and Chhairo as original Thakali. They even do not have socio-religious relationships such as marriage and other local religious activities with Marpha and Chhairo.[16]

Baragaon[edit]

Baragaon Muktikshetra: (1) Muktinath, (2) Jhong, (3) Chhusang, (4) Jharkot, and (5) Kagbeni
Ruins of ancient fortress in Tangbe village, Chhusang
Muktinath temple

Baragaon (“Twelve Villages”) is a northerly sub-region lying between Jomsom and the region of Lo, in and around the Muktinath Valley, extending from south of Ghilling to Lubra lying north of Jomsom.[2][52][16][56] It is sometimes called Glo Bosmad (“Lower Lo”), as it shares many geographical features of Lo proper, with some parts falling inside Upper Mustang.[52][56] The people who live are not categorized as Thakali.[16] They are known to outsider as Bhotia (“Tibetan”) or Baragaonle (“People of Baragaon”) and they share cultural similarities with Lo, though they often use Gurung, Bista or Thakuri as their surname for purposes of status emulation.[2][15][52]

This sub-region now consists of 19 main villages — Kagbeni, Khinga, Dakardzong, Jharkot, Muktinath, Chongur, Jhong, Putak, Purong, Lubra, Pagling, Phalek, Tiri, Chhusang, Tetang, Tangbe, Tsele, Ghyaga and Sammar. These villages were spread across four VDCs south of Lochhoden: Kagbeni, Muktinath, Jhong and Chhusang.[15] The central town of Baragaon is Kagbeni, at the confluence of Muktinath or Dzong (Jhong) River and Kali Gandaki River. Kagbeni is on the well-traveled route to the pilgrimage site of Muktinath.[52] Tibetan dialect (Pheke) prevails here, though the people of Tangbe, Chhusang, Tetang, Tsaile and Ghyaker also speak Seke, a language closely related to Thakali.[56]

The Muktinath temple is located in Muktinath Valley at an altitude of 3,710 meters at the foot of the Thorong La mountain pass close to the village of Ranipauwa. It is considered to be 106th among the available 108 Divya Desam (premium temples) considered sacred by the Sri Vaishnava sect. The ancient name of this place in Sri Vaishnava literature is Thiru Saligramam. The temple houses the Saligram shila, considered to be the naturally available form of the Hindu Godhead Sriman Narayan.[57] It is also one of the 51 Shakti peeth.[58] The Buddhists call it Chumig Gyatsa, which in Tibetan means "Hundred Waters". Although the temple has a Vaishnav origin, it is also revered in Buddhism.[59] For Tibetan Buddhists, Muktinath is a very important place of dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers, and one of the 24 Tantric places. They understand the murti to be a manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.[60]

Lo Tsho Dyun[edit]

The settlement of Lo Manthang
Inside Lo Manthang

The people of restricted northern areas of Mustang are known as Lopa. But, they use surname like Bista and Gurung outside their lands. The restricted area, lying between Tibetan border and Ghemi village, encompasses the historic kingdom of Lo Tsho Dyun ("seven districts of Lo" in local Tibetan dialect of Loke).[16][56] Lo Manthang is the only walled city of Nepal and it is also known as the cultural capital of this area. The palace and other structures within the wall were built by Ame Pal, the first king of Lo, during the period of 15th century. His lineage is recognized as the royal family of Mustang. Lo Tsho Dyun area consists of Ghiling, Ghemi, Dhakmar, Marang, Tsarang, Dhi, Surkhang, Yara, Ghara, Tangya, Dhea, Lo Monthang, Nhenyol, Chhoser, Nyamdo, Kimaling, Thinkar, Phuwa and Namgyal villages. They were spread across six VDCs: Dhami, Charang, Lo Manthang, Chhoser, Chhonhup and Surkhang.[15]

Lo Manthang[edit]

Tiji festival
The Royal Palace in Lo Manthang

Lo Manthang, a Village Development Committee with 876 people living in 178 households,[61] is the capital of the old kingdom of Lo, which included the northern two thirds of Mustang. Though capital of the Mustang district is Jomsom, the real Tibetan style district lies north of Kagbeni and is usually referred to as Upper Mustang. The old capital, Lo Manthang, where the present king lives, is a square-walled town sitting on the ‘Plain of Prayers’.[13]

Lo Monthang features the King’s Palace and many monasteries, which are currently being restored by art historians from Italy and other European countries.[62] The village is noted for its tall white washed mud brick walls, gompas and the Raja's or Royal or King's Palace, a nine-cornered, five story structure built around 1400.[63] There are four major temples: Jampa Lhakhang or Jampa Gompa, the oldest, built in the early 15th century and also known as the "God house"; Thubchen Gompa, a huge, red assembly hall and gompa built in the late 15th century and located just southwest of Jampa Gompa; Chodey Gompa, now the main city gompa; and the Choprang Gompa, which is popularly known as the "New Gompa".[64] Considered by some scholars to be the best preserved medieval fortress to the world and a UNESCO World Heritage candidate,[3] The land around Lo Monthang is arid and windswept, and not at all conducive to agriculture. The altitude is between 3000m and 3500m. Where there are small streams, however, willows grow and wheat, potatoes and barley are cultivated. The most famous festival in Lo Monthang is Tiji, which is generally happens in April/May, with lamas and monks perform costumed dances in the village square 3-days.[62]

Lopa people[edit]

Lopa men at Yartung, the biggest festival in Nepal’s trans-Himalayan region that happens every September. Apart from the festivities it features popular horse-riding competitions that attract competitors from even the Nepalese Army.[65]

Lo Manthang is the socio-cultural and political center of the ethnic Lopa people, the original inhabitants of Mustang.[3][43] They live in mud-brick homes that are whitewashed on the outside and decorated on the inside, much like Tibetan homes.[62] They build their homes out of stone, making the roofs out of thinly chiseled stone squares. The roofs are extremely uniform and smooth; and on each corner, a small square is constructed so that prayer flags may be hung there. Most houses are built close together and have no windows, only holes in the walls to protect against the high speed winds that race up the mountains. A Lopa home almost never built toward the South because of the fierceness of these winds. This is a drawback in summertime as the houses grow very hot due to the lack of ventilation. Hence, people often sleep on the terraces during the summer to escape the heat.[5]

The Lopa are primarily farmers, shepherds, or merchants.[5] They traditionally traded with Tibet but in the mid-eighteenth century the Thakali people to the south were granted a monopoly on the salt trade, so the Lopa lost a great deal of income. Local wealth deteriorated further when Tibetans began crossing the border in 1959 and encroached on the small pastures the Lopa used to feed their sheep, yaks, donkeys and mules, causing great hardship.[62]

Socially, the They are divided into three groups, one of which contains those of royal heritage. Rules of society are based on the values of respect and honor. The structure of their families is also based on these and other traditions.[5] They practice Tibetan Buddhism. They have marriages by parental agreement, capture or elopement. Like many people who live in harsh landscapes, they are kind and generous but also are shrewd businesspersons.[62] One tradition says that the eldest son will inherit the family's property. When he does, the next son must become a Buddhist monk.[5]

Nature[edit]

Lower Kali Gandaki valley forms the border to demarcate east and west for the distribution of flora and fauna of Mustang. It is rich in both temperate and trans-Himalayan biodiversity with flora and fauna that are most common to those that are highly rare.[15] Though biodiversity of Upper Mustang is comparatively well studied and documented, only limited information is available on biodiversity of Lower Mustang.[15]

Fauna[edit]

Celastrina huegeli specimen from Mustang

Mustang is rich in trans-Himalayan biodiversity, where five species of zooplankton, seven nematode species, two mollusc species, one annelid species, 25 insect species (seven aquatic insects and 18 butterfly species), one spider species, 11 amphibian species, eight lizard species, five snake species, 105 bird species and 29 mammal species have been recorded. Five butterfly species, extinct mollusk species (shaligram), two frog species, one reptile species, two bird species (Tibetan sandgrouse and Eurasian eagle-owl), and seven mammal species have only been recorded in Mustang in Nepal.[15] Out of the 18 butterfly species recorded in Mustang, two are new and three are endemic to the area. Mustang is the habitat for snow leopard, musk deer, Tibetan wild ass and Tibetan gazelle. The only native fish species, recorded at 3475m above sea level at Ghami Khola stream in Dhami, has been identified as the highest elevation fish in Nepal. Six of the mammal species recorded from Mustang area are protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973), while seven of the mammal species are included in different threat categories of IUCN Red Data Book.[15]

Flora[edit]

Rhododendrons in front of Nilgiri
Terraced fields in Tetang village, Chhusang

Vegetation in the Mustang District is of the steppe type and consists of grasslands interspersed with scrub. Cold desiccating winds, a short growing season, low precipitation and cold air temperatures limit the standing biomass produced from the steppe vegetation. Scrub is dominated by Juniperus squamata on gentle slopes, whereas steeper slopes are dominated by Caragana gerardiana, Chrysosphaerella brevispina, and Rosa sericea, as well various species of Ephedra and Lonicera. Vegetation above 5,000 metres consists mainly of Rhododendron anthopogon, as well as Potentilla biflora and various species of Saxifraga. Little or no vegetation is found above 5,800 metres.[12]

Forest covers 3.24 percent of Mustang’s total landmass. Forest cover ends near Jomsom and is very limited in Upper Mustang, which falls in the Alpine climatic area. It is distributed over one small patch each in Lo Manthang and Dhami VDCs, and seven patches in Chhuksang VDC.[15] The vegetation of Mustang has been categorized into eight types, including six types of mixed forest — Pinus wallichiana forest, Betula utilis forest, Hippophae salicifolia forest, Caragana gerardiana forest, Caragana gerardiana and Lonicera spinosa forest, Juniperus forest — and grasslands/rangelands with pure stocks of Poaceae.[66] Lower Mustang offers mixed broad leaved forest such as Acer species, conifers (mainly pine) and rhododendrons (Nepali: लालीगुँरास), and at the higher elevation conifers with birch Betula utilis.[15]

Mustang is rich in medicinal and aromatic plants with very high economic and ethnomedicinal values. Local people use a number of plants for food, spices, fibre, medicine, fuel, dye, tannin, gum, resin, religious purposes, roofing materials, handicrafts, etc.[15] In a study, traditional uses of 121 medicinal plant species, belonging to 49 vascular plant and 2 fungal families encompassing 92 genera, was recorded. These 121 species are employed to treat a total of 116 ailments. The most common growth form for medicinal plants was found to be herbs (73%), followed by shrubs, trees, and climbers. Several parts of individual plant species were found to be used as medicine.[66] Over 200 species of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) and medicinal and aromatic herbs (MAP) have been identified in Mustang.[15] These plants were found to be used for medicine (50), food (33 species), fuelwood (27), fence (24), fodder (19), ritual and religious (19), decoration (8), organic manure (7), dyes and soap (3), and psychoactive (3), and construction (2).[66]

Demography[edit]

Distribution of people by age:
00-04 Yrs. 864, 05-09 Yrs. 1,004, 10-14 Yrs. 1,148, 15-19 Yrs. 1,101, 20-24 Yrs. 1,112, 25-29 Yrs. 1,456, 30-34 Yrs. 1,086, 35-39 Yrs. 1,024, 40-44 Yrs. 942, 45-49 Yrs. 770, 50-54 Yrs. 750, 55-59 Yrs. 604, 60-64 Yrs. 519, 65-69 Yrs. 432, 70-74 Yrs. 353, 75-79 Yrs. 162, 80 Yrs.+ 125[67]

The district is divided into Upper and Lower Mustang. The northern two-thirds of the district (Upper Mustang or former Lo Kingdom), Tibetan language and culture prevails, is home to the Lopa, a Bhotiya people. The southern third or the Thak is the homeland of Thakali people who speak Thakali dialects and have a synthesis of Tibetan and Nepalese culture. The main languages spoken are Bhote, Sherpa, and Nepali.[6] The main caste/ ethnic groups are Gurung (45%) and Thakali (17%).[6]

As one moves southward, the Tibetan culture becomes less evident. Inhabitants of Lo in Upper Mustang are basically Tibetan in language and culture, whereas inhabitants from Panchgaon and Thak Satsae in Lower Mustang speak Thakali, a Tibeto-Burman language. Inhabitants of mid-Mustang of Baragaon speak both Tibetan and a language similar to Thakali. According to Aita Bahadur Thakali (District Livestock Service Office, Jomsom) 75 percent of the population is Buddhist and 25 percent is Hindu.[12]

There are 3,305 households in the district. The distribution of households by ethnic/caste group shows that about 59.3 percent are Gurung, 24.5 percent Thakali and 8.2 percent Kami/Damai. Magar, Thakuri and other account 3.1, 2.9 and 2.1 percent population respectively. Gurung and Thakali are the dominant ethnic groups in Mustang district's population.[15] In the district as a whole, Janajati population constitutes 86.8 percent of the total population whereas Dalit accounts for 8.2 percent and the remaining are 5.0 percent.[15]

According to demographic data published by Population and Housing Census 2011 (National Report),[67] 13,452 people lives in Mustang spread over an area of 3,573 km2. Which makes it the second least populated district, and with a population density of 4 per km2, also the second least densely populated district. 7,093 or them were male, and 6,359 were female. Among the Gurung, Thakkali and Bhote people, there also were 33 foreigners — 13 Indians, 3 Chinese, and 17 from other countries. Age of first marriage for Mustang people are varied — 15–19 Years 1,603, 20–24 Years 3,016, 25–29 Years 1,677, and others 1,030 (Total married 7,326).[67] According to the 1992 Census, the total population of the district was 14,319, not including area residents such as government and army officials, police, development workers, and Tibetan refugees.[2]

Religion[edit]

In 2011, The population of Mustang was divided between 60.17% Buddhists (8,095 people) and 37.46% Hindus (5,040 people). There also were 152 Christians, 98 Böns, 19 Kiratis, 5 animist or Prakritis and 3 Muslims.[67]

Health[edit]

Drying medicinal plants in Jharkot, Muktinath

Mustang district has 17 health posts for a total of 14,981 people. While the health post to population ratio (1:881) in the Mustang district is better much than the national average (1:5663), the remote location and rugged terrain do not permit easy access to these facilities.[66] There are 10 health posts and five sub health posts scattered throughout Lete, Kobang, Tukche, Marpha, Eklebhatti, Jarkot, Kagbeni and Chame. Jomsom has the only hospital.[6]

Because of low accessibility and other socioeconomic and cultural factors, traditional botanical medicine is the primary mode of healthcare for most of the population of Mustang district and traditional Tibetan traditional healers of Amchi serve as the local medical experts.[66] Local Amchis use 72 species of medicinal plants to treat 43 human ailments.[15] They recommended different forms of medication including paste (60 species), powder (48), decoction (35), tablet (7), pills (5), cold infusion (5), and others through oral, topical, nasal and others routes of administration. The majority of locals consider Amchi medicines and medical system to be effective and local people have a deep faith in them.[66]

The Amchi traditional method of maintaining the good quality of herbal medicine is unique. They always collect local medicinal plants themselves, stressing that only they have extensive experience in the identification of Himalayan medicinal plants. The time of collection of plant parts for medicine is also very important in capturing the active principles. Days or months for the collection of individual plants vary greatly and are known best by an Amchi, who collect specific plant parts strictly during a specific time to prepare their medicine.[66]

For centuries, Amchi have been storing herbal medicine in a bag created from the skin of Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), which is tied twice with thread. Tying the herbal medicine in M. chrysogaster skin allows it, according to Amchis to remain effective for one to two years. Horn and urine of M. chrysogaster as well as tortoise bones and other animal parts are also used by an Amchi along with plant parts.[66]

They use a stone slab instead of an electric grinder to prepare their medicine, because they feel that heat created by the grinder may degrade the active chemical constituents of the plant powder and thus reduce the quality of the medicine. The powder is then mixed with water and a sufficient amount of additives are added according to the need of the specific plant. Plant parts are generally prepared using hot or cold water as the solvent (100 species), but occasionally remedies were prepared with milk (14), honey (2), jaggery (2), ghee (2) and oil (1) to aid with the shape of prepared pills (rounded, rectangular etc.). Then the mix is boiled until complete evaporation of the water makes it easy to form the medicinal mixture into the preferred shape.[66]

Education[edit]

The literacy rate in Mustang district is relatively low, mainly due to its overwhelming rural character and remote location of the district. The pace of development started late in Mustang district, including The communication and transportation.[15] Schools in the district are run mostly by non-government groups on private support, with minimal state involvement. Text books are carried by mules to remote villages, and as a result arrive late. Most teachers are on contract, and unable to hold conversations in the mother tongue of the students, a language they are supposed to use as language of instruction. Government teachers are largely unfamiliar with the curriculum put together with European funding. The district school superintendent does not visit these remote areas regularly.[68] The total population aged 5 years & above in Mustang is 12,588, of whom 8,334 (66.20%) can read & write, 305 (2.42%) can read only 305, 3,945 (31.33%) can neither read nor write.[67]

Out of a of total 8,451 literate people 275 were beginners, 3,650 primary (1-5), 1,631 lower secondary (6 -8), 721 secondary (9 -10), 836 SLC & equivalent, 509 intermediate & equivalent, graduate & equivalent 208, post graduate equivalent & above 51, Others 73, Non-formal education 471, Not stated 26.[67]Most students in the district were not in age-appropriate classes and do not continue to higher education in 2017.[68] It is to be noted that education has improved dramatically in the past two decades in Upper Mustang, and some schools supported by international charities are better than many public schools in rural Nepal, although there is uncertainty about whether the schools can sustain themselves.[68]

A total of 768 people had SLC or higher education in 2011. Of them 164 studied Humanities and Arts, 170 studied Business and Administration, 167 Education, 43 Social & Behavioral Science, 47 Science, 13 Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction, 12 Health, 11 Agriculture, Forestry & Fishery, 9 Mathematics and Statistics, 8 Law, 3 Computing, and 1 Journalism and Information. 120 did not state their academic stream in the 2011 census.[67] In 2017, Nepal Fine Arts Academy recently organised an art workshop for students of Mustang district in Jomsom.[69]

Economy[edit]

Goats in Marpha
Yaks in Mustang
Chaffing grain in Kagbeni

Mustang area was an important means of crossing the Himalaya from Tibet to Nepal, and many of the old salt caravans passed through Mustang.[13] Once a major thoroughfare for the trade of salt and grain between Tibet and Nepal's southern hills, the Mustang District in Nepal's western Himalayas remains a trading route to this day.[2] For centuries, caravans roamed the Kali Gandaki between Tibet, China and India, with salt, yak wool, cereals, dried meat spices and other goods.[3] and the Kali Gandaki gorge was used as a trade route between India and Tibet for centuries.[70] The mountain pass of Kora La is one of the oldest routes between the two regions. It was historically used for salt trade between Tibet and Nepalese kingdoms.[31]

The border has been closed since the 1960s. However, there is a semiannual cross-border trade fair during which the border is open to local traders.[31] In 2012, Nepal and China agreed to open 6 more official border crossings, Kora La being one of them.[71] In July 2016, Nepalese government announced that they expected the border crossing to be open within and year to become the third most important crossing between the two countries.[72]

Kora La is currently being planned as vehicle border crossing between China and Nepal.[73] With the ongoing construction of the road through Mustang to connect China with Nepal, the region is seeking to regain its strategic location. When the road is completed it will become a highly accessible Himalayan corridor and Mustang is expected to change change significantly including a fear of losing the culture and identity of the region.[3]

Agriculture is the dominant economic activity in the district in which 80.65 percent people are engaged in the district.[15] People in this area practice a traditional form of agro-pastoralism which is quite common in mountain regions of Nepal.[49] Business (6.82%), government service (1.91%), house work (3.50%), foreign employment (3.97%) and others (3.14%) are others occupation types besides agriculture.[15]

Locals of Mustang are attracted to sheep and mountain goat farming as the district has comparative advantages of access to grazing fields, proximity to Kora La border point, good market price and subsidy plus technical help from District Livestock Services Office.[74] Yak-cow hybrids (jhopa, or dzo) serve as draft animals while horses are kept mainly for travel.[49] In 2016, a transaction of Nepalese rupee 270 million had been made by supplying 13,000 sheep and 9,000 mountain goats from the district. In 2017, the district supplied at least 25,000 sheep and mountain goats to different markets of Nepal during the Dashain festival. An estimated number of 9,000 mountain goats assumed as imported from Tibet in 2017, though traditional Tibetan traders are increasingly prioritizing Chinese markets.[74]

Herds of cows, goats and sheep are brought out daily to graze in the alpine meadows, while they are stall-fed during the winter with foliage, grass and crop residues. The winter fodder is cut during the growing season and stored for the winter. The livestock provide manure which is essential for maintenance of soil fertility through the recycling of micronutrients from forests and pastures to the cultivated fields. Manure is thus an important link in the agro-pastoral farming system. No inorganic fertilizers or pesticides are currently used.[49]

Mustang Apple at Marpha

According to District Agriculture Development Office (DADO), apple is planted in 415 hectares of land in Mustang, while a total of 1,115 hectares of land is considered suitable for apple farming across the district district which sometimes is called the capital of apples in Nepal. Mustang produced 5,300 tons of apples in 2017, recording an increase by 800 tons compared 2016. Along with the production, price of apple also increased in 2017. In 2016, apples were sold at Nepalese rupee 80 which had reached रु 100 in 2017.[75] Barley (Hordeum vulgare), wheat (Triticum aestivum) and buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum, F. tataricum) are cultivated in terraced fields, while fruits and vegetables are cultivated in orchards.[49] At the Mebrak and Phudzeling sites of upper Mustang, naked barley, lentils, buckwheat, cannabis and other crops were being cultivated between 1000 and 400 BCE. In Kohla, Nepal, free-threshing wheat, barley, oats, buckwheat and foxtail millet were being cultivated, 1385–780 BCE.[76]

Alternative livelihoods in tourism, transport services and labor migration are now accompanying agricultural production as a source of livelihood. As a result, widespread abandonment of agricultural land has occurred in Jharkot and more generally in Mustang over the last couple of decades,[77] just as in the neighbor district Manang.[78] The herds of animals and the number of people have historically been higher than today. The number of large households in the village has also declined. While 216 households were registered in Muktinath VDC in 2001,[77] now there are 169. Still, agro-pastoralism constitutes the economic and social backbone of the community. The terraced fields which are now abandoned could in fact contribute to flexibility in the farming system, as agricultural production may be increased if people in the future choose to return to farming.[78]

Living and lifestyle[edit]

Building material
Houses in the village of Lete

Following are distribution of households by building material:

  • By foundation material: Mud bonded bricks/stone 3,097, Cement bonded bricks/stone 146, RCC with pillar 3, Wooden pillar 31, Others 7, Not stated 21
  • By inner wall material: Mud bonded bricks/stone 2,366, Cement bonded bricks/stone 303, Wood/planks 29, Bamboo 9, Unbaked brick 565, Others 10, Not stated 23
  • By roof material: Thatch/straw 31, Galvanized iron 192, Tile/slate 83, RCC 26, Wood/planks 20, Mud 2,902, Others 23, Not stated 28
National Population and Housing Census 2011 (National Report)
  • By toilet type: Without toilet 1,211, Flush toilet 1,382, Ordinary toilet 696, Not stated 16
Tenancy and ownership
Following are distribution of households by amenities:
  • By tenancy: Owned 2,278, Rented 706, Institutional 182, Others 139)
  • By ownership: Both house & land 266, Land only 118, Neither house nor land 2,911
  • By size: One person 465, Two persons 610, Three persons 744, Four persons 602, Five persons 434, Six persons 280, Seven/eight persons 120; Nine or more persons 99
National Population and Housing Census 2011 (National Report)


People in the district are mostly holds small housing units for dwelling.[15] According to demographic data published by Population and Housing Census 2011 (National Report), Mustang had 3,305 households in the district, second lowest in Nepal, with an average household size of 4.01.[67]

Improved transportation has brought many changes to Upper Mustang. According to GMA News Online, "Kerosene lamps have given way to solar panels, denim sneakers have replaced hand-stitched cowhide boots and satellite dishes are taking over the rooftops of homes," and the local Lopa people are "swapping handspun Tibetan robes for made-in-China jeans."[79]

When government-owned Nepal Television first came to Upper Mustang in 2007, people used to pay 20 rupees (18 cents) for a three-hour sitting in someone's house.[79] In 2011, 1,033 households had cable television, 1,237 households had radio, and 451 had television without a cable connection. 101 households had computers, 48 had internet, 240 had telephones, and 2,353 households had mobile phones. 89 households had motor vehicles, 224 had motorcycles, 9 had bicycles, and 455 had other vehicle (i.e. animal-drawn or human-drawn vehicles). 202 households had refrigerators.[67] There are seven police stations established in Nechung, Thinkar, Kagbeni, Phedi, Jomsom, Ghasa and Lete. Jharkot and Jhong has post offices, while there is a bank, an airport and Nepalese Army's High Altitude and Mountain Warfare School in Jomsom.[6]

More than 91.65 percent population of the district is benefited by secured drinking water supply whereas 8.35 percent population of the district is unsecured. Tap/pipe water are considered as secured system of water supply. In Mustang district 3029 households use tap/pipes, 174 using river/streams, 76 households use spout water, and 9 households using wells/kuwas.[67][15]

Energy[edit]

Mustang district is not much facilitated by the National Electricity Grid. So, alternate sources of energy are mostly used in this district. In the past, diyalo (heartwood) and pine wood were mostly used for illuminating homes, but now other methods like iron stoves, solar water heating systems, back-boilers, smoke water heaters, etc. have taken increasingly being popular. Fire wood, Cow dung, LP gas are the main fuel used as domestic source of energy in rural areas of Mustang district. About 54.01 percent households apply wood/firewood as the domestic energy for cooking purposes. Cow dung is used by 24.99 percent households. Most of the businesses and hotels of the district use LP gas (18.12%) as cooking fuel. Local people collect firewood mostly from the forest.[67][15]

1,785 households in Mustang use wood or firewood as cooking fuel, 52 households use kerosene, 599 households use LP gas, 826 households use cow dung, 24 use electricity, while cooking fuel of 19 households are unknown. As lighting fuel, 3,177 use electricity (including 824 solar electricity using households), 71 use kerosene, while 39 households did not report their lighting fuel.[67] The lower part of Mustang has recently been connected to the National Electricity Grid. This project is attempting to connect Upper Mustang too. Right now, most of the households of Upper Mustang benefit from micro-hydro projects. But, these projects can only be operated for about 6–7 months due to freezing of rivers in winter. The VDCs facilitated with electricity from National grid are Kunjo, Lete, Kobang, Tukuchhe, Marpha, Jomsom, Kagbeni, Mukthinath and Jhong. A sub-station of 504 Kilowatts has been established in Kobang.[15]

For lighting, hydro-electricity is widely used by the rural population. Nearly 71.20 percent households depend on electricity for light. Areas within southern VDCs - Kunjo, Lete, Kobang, Tukuche, Marpha and Jomsom- are connected with national grid for electricity supply. Still more than 25.48 percent household use solar systems for light, kerosene (2.15%) and other sources of energy (1.18%).[67][15] The Hydro Power Project of Chokhopani generates 744 KW of electrical energy. There are two micro-hydro plants currently working and two are under construction.[15] Despite significant potential, solar and wind power generation have not been met with much success in Mustang as of 2017,[80][81] though Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) maintained that, together with neighboring Manang District, Mustang has a potential of 2500 MW of wind electricity.[82] 853 households have solar home systems for lighting in 10 VDCs.[15]

Transport and Himalayan trade[edit]

Jeep going from Jomsom to Muktinath
Horse caravan in Upper Mustang

Upper Mustang is on an ancient trade route between Nepal and Tibet exploiting the lowest 4,660 metres (15,300 ft) pass Kora La through the Himalaya west of Sikkim. This route remained in use until China's annexation of Tibet in 1950. China eventually decided to revitalize trade and in 2001 completed a 20 kilometres (12 mi) road from the international border to Lo Manthang.[83] Across the TAR border is Zhongba County of Shigatse Prefecture. China National Highway 219 follows the valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo River some 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of the border. Till today Manang and Humde are accessible only on feet or on horseback.[6]

Meanwhile, Nepal is building a road north along the Kali Gandaki River, to within 9 kilometres (6 mi) of Lo Manthang as of 2010. But, road-building from the south was inhibited by difficulties along the Kali Gandaki Gorge, and proceeded incrementally. In 2010, a 9 kilometres (6 mi) gap remained but the road was completed before 2015 and is suitable for high clearance and four-wheel drive vehicles. Currently, the easiest and only widely used road corridor, from Kathmandu to Lhasa—named Arniko Highway in Nepal and China National Highway 318 in the TAR—traverses a 5,125 metres (16,810 ft) pass. This is some 465 metres (1,530 ft) higher than Kora La. Lo Manthang is served 20 kilometres (12 mi) by unpaved road from a border crossing into Zhongba County of Shigatse Prefecture, TAR. This road continues about 50 kilometres (31 mi) from the border to China National Highway 219, which follows the valley of the Yarlung Tsangpo River.

Mechanized access to Nepal began with the opening of an Jomsom Airport at Jomsom, 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of China, at the approximate boundary between the southern Thak and northern Lo sections of the valley, which was in operation by the 1960s. Jomsom Airport is a STOL airport located on the bank of the Kali Gandaki River serving Jomsom and the Mustang District.[84][85][86] The airport resides at an elevation of 8,976 feet (2,736 m) above mean sea level.[84][86] It serves as the gateway to the Mustang District that includes Jomsom, Kagbeni, Tangbe, and Lo Manthang, and to Muktinath temple, which is a popular pilgrimage for Nepalis and Indians.[87] The airport is capable of handling aircraft from the Nepalese Army Air Service. It has one asphalt paved runway designated 06/24 which measures 2,424 by 66 feet (739 m × 20 m).[85][86] There is a down slope of 1.75% up to about 418 feet (127 m) from the threshold of runway 06.[86] There are also scheduled flights from Kathmandu and daily flights between Pokhara and Jomsom during daylight hours in good weather.

Airlines Destinations
Gorkha Airlines Pokhara[88]
Nepal Airlines Pokhara[89]
Simrik Airlines Pokhara[90]
Sita Air Kathmandu, Pokhara[91]
Tara Air Pokhara[92]

The airport is available throughout the year but visibility is not adequate for visual flight rules (VFR) flight about 15% of the time. As the wind often prevents airport operation after midday, airlines schedule flights to Jomsom for the early morning when wind speeds are low.[93] In the 2013 movie Planes produced by DisneyToon Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures one of the stops in Wings Across the World race is Nepal where the Planes land in Mustang. There also are 5 helipads in Muktinath, Thotong Phedi, Ghermu, and Bahundanda.[6]

Tourism[edit]

The sign says, "Now you are entering the restricted area of “Upper Mustang”. It is not allowed to proceed further from here without holding special trekking permit issues by the department of immigration, Kathmandu. You must have to register yourself at ACAP’S check-post and visitor’s information centre. Illegal entry to Upper Mustang will be illegal. Thank you. -- NTNC/ACAP" (Kagbeni)
Guest House in Marpha

The kingdom was closed to foreigners, with rare exceptions, until 1992.[2] Explorers such as Professor David Snellgrove and Italian scholars Giuseppe Tucci and Michel Peissel visited Mustang in the 1950s and it has largely been their tales of a Tibetan-like arid region locked off from the outside world that has fueled interest in the area.[13] The first westerner in Mustang was Toni Hagen, Swiss explorer and geologist, who visited the Kingdom in 1952 during one of his travels across the Himalayas. French Michel Peissel is considered the first westerner to stay in Lo Manthang, during the first authorised exploration of Mustang in 1964.[94]

Although Lo is now open on a restricted basis to foreign travelers, tourism to the region is still strictly restricted and hard to access, with foreign visitors required to obtain special permits and pay some fairly steep fees.[3][2] Recognizing the special nature of this old, tiny kingdom, the Nepalese have imposed a surcharge for anyone wishing to trek past Kagbeni, the border of Upper Mustang.[13] Foreigners need to obtain a special permit to enter, costing US$50 per day per person, and liaison (guide) to protect local tradition from outside influence as well as to protect their environment.[95] The Nepalese Department of Immigration requires foreign visitors to obtain a special permit, which costs $50 per day per person, and liaison (guide) to protect local tradition from outside influence as well as to protect their environment.[95] Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) check post/info posts are spread along the trails in Jomsom, Muktinath, Kagbeni and Lo Manthang.[6]

Resolutely off-limits to foreigners until 1992, thanks to its ancestral isolation Mustang retains its ancient culture almost intact, and remains one of the last strongholds of traditional Tibetan life.[3] In this ancient forbidden kingdom traditions have survived longer than in Tibet proper following its annexation by China.[3] The lower Mustang areas (much of Baragaon, Panchgaon, and Thak Sat Sae along the Annapurna Circuit are among the most heavily trekked routes in Nepal.[2] The scenery of the trail ranges from forests of bright rhododendron fields to rocky cliffs and desert. The culture along the trekk is a rich combination of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhism. The trail's highest point is Muktinath at 3800 m, (a popular Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site for centuries. The Kali Gandaki Gorge is part of the popular trekking route from Pokhara to Muktinath. The gorge is within the Annapurna Conservation Area.[70]

Drinks, smokes and food
Tea-house on Thorong La pass that serves butter tea
Momo and local beer served at a guest house in Kagbeni

In addition to trekking routes through the Lo Kingdom (Upper Mustang) and along the Annapurna Circuit (lower Mustang), the district is also famous for the springs and village of Muktinath (a popular Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage site), apples, and Marpha brandy made from a variety of fruits (pear, apricot, apple) produced on a farm managed by the Pasang Sherpa. There are safe water stations in Ghasa, Near Lete at ACAP museum, Kobang, Tukche, Marpha, between Jomsom and Dhapus Peak, Kagbeni and Muktinath. Thorung, Phedi, Letdar, Manang, Humde, Pisang, Chame, Bagarchhap, and Tal has the most famous view points in the district.[6]

Most tourists travel by foot over largely the same trade route used in the 15th century. Over a thousand western trekkers now visit each year, with just over 2000 foreign tourists in 2008.[43] August and October are the peak visiting months. On August 27, 2010, local youth leaders in Mustang threatened to bar tourists beginning October 1, 2010 due to the refusal of the Nepalese government to provide any of the $50 per day fee to the local economy. Visitation, however, continued uninterrupted beyond that date.[96] Now that upper Mustang is open to foreigners on a restricted basis, the Lopa have increased the number of horses kept in the hopes of benefiting from tourism. Trekkers in this and other restricted areas of Nepal are required by government regulation to porter in all food and fuel, thereby minimising environmental impact.[2]

According to the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, a total 39,017 tourists visited the trans-Himalayan district in the year. Among them, 15,478 tourists were from India and the remaining from other countries around the world, according to ACAP Jomsom Chief Tulasi Dahal. The record shows a significant rise in the arrival of tourists than that of last year, which was 23,272. Some of the tourist attractions in the district include Lomanthang, Muktinath, former Mustangi royal palace, studying Tibetan arts and culture there and trekking in the Annapurna Circuit. As per the data, highest tourist arrival was recorded in the month of May with 6,816 people and the lowest was in January with only 365.[97]

Further reading[edit]

Sky caves
Cultural transformation
Languages

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Population and Housing Census 2011 (National Report)" (PDF). Central Bureau of Statistics. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Pasture Management, Indigenous Veterinary Care and the Role of the Horse in Mustang, Nepal
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mustang: The Last Lost Kingdom
  4. ^ Kaushik. "The mysterious caves of Mustang, Nepal". Amusing Planet. Retrieved 29 December 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Loba, Mustang in Nepal
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Great Himalayan Trail: Preparatory Study
  7. ^ Principality of Mustang, Nepal
  8. ^ Xinhua News Agency. "Nepali deputy PM asks district "king" to step down". China View News. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  9. ^ The Map of Potential Vegetation of Nepal - a forestry/agroecological/biodiversity classification system (PDF), Forest & Landscape Development and Environment Series 2-2005 and CFC-TIS Document Series, No.110., 2005, ISBN 87-7903-210-9, retrieved 22 November 2013 
  10. ^ Shrestha, Mani R.; Rokaya, Maan B.; Ghimire, Suresh K. (2005). "Vegetation pattern of Trans-Himalayan zone in the North-West Nepal". Nepal Journal of Plant Sciences. 1: 129–135. Retrieved Feb 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ Banerji, Gargi; Basu, Sejuti. "Climate Change and Himalayan Cold Deserts: Mapping vulnerability and threat to ecology and indigenous livelihoods" (PDF). Pragya. Gurgaon, Haryana, India. Retrieved February 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Transhumant Pastoralism in Yak Production in The Lower Mustang District of Nepal
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Kingdom of Mustang
  14. ^ Peissel, Michel (October 1965). "Mustang, Nepal's Lost Kingdom". National Geographic. Retrieved 2017-02-10. high point of 4660 m at Kora La on the Mustang-TAR border, the lowest drivable corridor through the Himalayas linking the Tibetan Plateau via Nepal to the tropical Indian plains 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Resource Mapping Report–2014, District Development Committee Mustang
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dilli Prasad Poudel, Livelihood and Common-Pool Resources, University of Bergen
  17. ^ Annapurna (1:100,000 map), Nepal-Kartenwerk der Arbeitgemeinschaft für vergleichende Hochgebirgsforschung Nr. 9, Nelles Verlag, Munich, 1993. Also see Google Earth
  18. ^ The Raja of La, for instance, continued to pay tithes to Lhasa until the 1950s. For more information about the historical connections between Tibet and Mustang, see Jackson 1978, Vinding 1988, and Ramble 1993 a and b.
  19. ^ a b Flagspot
  20. ^ Peissel, Michel (1992) [1967]. Mustang - A Lost TIbetan Kingdom (2nd ed.). Book Faith India, Delhi. pp. 227–31. 
  21. ^ Sven Hedin's Transhimalaya (published 1909 by MacMillan & Co, Ltd, London), Vol II, pgs. 78-79 in the Chapter headed "A peep into Nepal"
  22. ^ Snellgrove, David (1989). Himalayan Pilgrimage, a Study of Tibetan Religion by a Traveller through Western Nepal (Second ed.). Boston & Shaftesbury: Shambhala. 
  23. ^ a b c Cowan, Sam (17 January 2016). "The curious case of the Mustang incident". The Record. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  24. ^ "Chinese Troops Kill a Nepalese; 18 Captured in Reds' Raid Across Border -- 'Urgent' Protest Sent to Peiping". New York Times. 30 June 1960. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  25. ^ Elleman, Bruce; Kotkin, Stephen; Schofield, Clive (2014). "China-Nepal Border". Beijing's Power and China's Borders: Twenty Neighbors in Asia. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN 9781317515654. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  26. ^ (in Chinese) Wikisource link to 中华人民共和国和尼泊尔王国边界条约 [China-Nepal Border Agreement]. Wikisource. 1961-10-05. 
  27. ^ Thondup, Gyalo; Thurston, Anne F. (2015). The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet. Gurgaon, India: Random House India. p. 169. ISBN 978-818400-387-1. Most of the resisters in India were followers of Andrug Gompo Tashi, a wealthy, patriotic Kham trader from Litang where the resistance had begun with the introduction of China's so-called reforms. Popular outrage had been further fueled with the death and destruction unleashed when the Chinese attacked and bombed the local Litang monastery. 
  28. ^ China View news
  29. ^ "The Karmapa's Great Escape (December 28, 1999 – January 5, 2000)". Karmapa – The Official Website of the 17th Karmapa. Retrieved 2017-02-10. we were not discovered and arrived in Mustang, Nepal, on the morning of December 30, 1999 
  30. ^ Crossette, Barbara (31 January 2000). "Buddhist's Escape From Tibet, by Car, Horse and Plane". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  31. ^ a b c Murton, Galen (March 2016). "A Himalayan Border Trilogy: The Political Economies of Transport Infrastructure and Disaster Relief between China and Nepal". Cross-Currents E-Journal. ISSN 2158-9674. Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  32. ^ "中国边海防巡礼之昆木加哨所" [Tour of Chinese Border Guards and Coast Guards - Kunmuja Border Outpost]. chinamil.com.cn (in Chinese). Retrieved 2017-02-11. 西藏军区最西边的哨所——昆木加哨所 
  33. ^ a b Last ruler of remote Buddhist kingdom dies in Nepal, The Star Online
  34. ^ Wild, windy and harsh, yet stunningly beautiful; The Sunday Tribune; April 21, 2002
  35. ^ Royal Ark
  36. ^ Finkel, Michael. "Sky Caves of Nepal". National Geographic. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  37. ^ Bond, Anthony. "Mystery of the ancient kingdom discovered in Nepal where thousands of caves are carved 155ft off the ground". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  38. ^ BBC. "The ancient mysteries of Mustang's caves". BBC. Retrieved 29 December 2016. 
  39. ^ a b Sharma, Gopal. "Explorers find ancient caves and paintings in Nepal". Reuters. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  40. ^ Rahman, Maseeh. "Shepherd leads experts to ancient Buddha cave paintings". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  41. ^ Owen, James. ""Shangri-La" caves yield treasures, skeletons". National Geographic. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  42. ^ Shepherd leads experts to ancient Buddha cave paintings; Guardian Unlimited; May 4, 2007.
  43. ^ a b c Gopal Sharma, Explorers find ancient caves and paintings in Nepal, Reuters, May 3, 2007, Accessed October 28, 2012
  44. ^ "Final District 1-75 Corrected Last for RAJPATRA" (PDF). Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. MoFALD. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  45. ^ "हेर्नुहोस्, तपाईं कुन गाउँपालिका वा नगरपालिकामा पर्नुभयो?". Setopati. Retrieved 9 June 2017. 
  46. ^ "यी हुन् थपिएका गाउँपालिका र नगरपालिका (सूचीसहित)". Online Khabar. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 
  47. ^ "स्थानीय निकाय भङ्ग, अधिकारसम्पन्न ७४४ स्थानीय तह क्रियाशील". सेतोपाटी. २८ फाल्गुण २०७३. Retrieved २८ फाल्गुण २०७३.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  48. ^ "The Panchayat System under King Mahendra". 
  49. ^ a b c d e f Flexibility of Scope, Type and Temporality in Mustang, Nepal. Opportunities for Adaptation in a Farming System Facing Climatic and Market Uncertainty
  50. ^ J. Dixon and A. Gulliver, Farming Systems and Poverty: Improving Farmers' Livelihoods in a Changing World, FAO and World Bank, Rome and Washington DC, Italy and USA, 2001
  51. ^ A farming system is defined as "any level of unit(s) engaged in agricultural production as it is wedded in a social, political, economic, and environmental context". Ref: B.L. Turner and S.B. Brush, Comparative Farming Systems, p. 13, The Guildford Press, New York, USA, 1987
  52. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Donald A Messerschmidt, The Thakkali of Nepal
  53. ^ a b c d Who are the Thakkali, Indigenous Voice
  54. ^ The Bem-chag Village Recored and the Early History of Mustang
  55. ^ Michael Vinding, The Thakali: A Himalayan Ethnography, page 359, Serindia Publications, Inc., 1998, ISBN 0906026504
  56. ^ a b c d Mustang District, Caravan Himalaya Adventure
  57. ^ http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/sep97/0045.html
  58. ^ "General Information about Muktinath". 
  59. ^ Mittal, Sushil (2004). The Hindu World. New York: Routledge. p. 499. ISBN 0-203-67414-6. 
  60. ^ Zurick, David (2006). Illustrated Atlas of the Himalayas. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 153. 
  61. ^ "Nepal Census 2001". Nepal's Village Development Committees. Digital Himalaya. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2009. .
  62. ^ a b c d e People of Nepal
  63. ^ Mustang: The Forbidden Kingdom, Royal Mountain Travel, 2004, Accessed May 3, 2007.
  64. ^ Upper Mustang Trek, Osho World Adventure Pvt. Ltd., Accessed June 2, 2013.
  65. ^ Rajan Kathet, Yarlung, Nepali Times
  66. ^ a b c d e f g h i The use of medicinal plants in the trans-himalayan arid zone of Mustang district, Nepal, BioMed
  67. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m National Population and Housing Census 2011 (National Report)
  68. ^ a b c Pawan Dhakal, Education is the most neglected service in two of Nepal’s most neglected districts, Nepali Times, 28 April 2017
  69. ^ Nepali art could benefit from Mustang, The Kathmandu Post
  70. ^ a b Nepal Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation website
  71. ^ Prithvi Man Shrestha; Jaya Bahadur Rokaya (24 March 2016). "Nepal, China rush to open Hilsa border". Kathmandu Post. Retrieved 2017-02-10. Nepal has also given priority to opening this border point along with Kimathanka and Korala in Mustang. 
  72. ^ Tripathi, Binod (8 July 2016). "'Korala border to open within a year'". Kathmandu Post. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  73. ^ Tripathi, Binod (19 Jun 2016). "China extends road up to Korala border". Kathmandu Post. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  74. ^ a b Mustang to supply 25,000 sheep and mountain goats for Dashain, my Republica
  75. ^ Apple production increases in Mustang, Republica
  76. ^ Report: September 2011, Tibet Archaeology
  77. ^ a b Sustainable Development Plan of Mustang, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC)/Government of Nepal/United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Kathmandu, Nepal, 2008.
  78. ^ a b T.H. Aase, R.P. Chaudhary and O.R. Vetaas, Farming flexibility and food security under climatic uncertainty, Manang, Nepal Himalaya. Area 2010, 42, 228–238.
  79. ^ a b Ammu Kannampilly (AFP), Road brings jeans, satellite TV to Himalayan Shangri-La, GMA News Online,July 18, 2016
  80. ^ Santosh Pokharel, Mustang starts generating electricity from wind, My Rebuplica, August 16, 2017
  81. ^ Nepal is saving the planet but not its own citizens, Kathmandu Tribune
  82. ^ Sameer Pokhrel, Nepal is saving the planet but not its own citizens, Kathmandu Tribune, August 31, 2017
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  85. ^ a b Jomsom Airport at AirportGuide.com
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  88. ^ "Destinations". Gorkha Airlines. Archived from the original on March 28, 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  89. ^ "Schedule Effective from 15 May, 2010 to 30 October, 2010". Nepal Airlines. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  90. ^ "Simrik Airlines Flight Schedule". Retrieved 15 August 2016. 
  91. ^ "Destinations". Sita Air. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  92. ^ Tara Air Destinations
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  94. ^ Peissel, Michel [1967]. Mustang, a Lost Tibetan Kingdom, Books Faith, 2002
  95. ^ a b Nepal Trekking Permit Fees, TAAN Nepal, Accessed June 2, 2013.
  96. ^ Mustang to Bar Tourists
  97. ^ Rastriya Samachar Samiti, 39,000 tourists visited Mustang in 2016, The Himalayan Times, January 12, 2017

Coordinates: 28°47′0″N 83°43′50″E / 28.78333°N 83.73056°E / 28.78333; 83.73056