MUSTANG,NEPAL by Jimmy Nelson

BEFORE THEY PASS AWAY.

MUSTANG,NEPAL by Jimmy Nelson
The former kingdom of Lo is linked by religion, culture and history to Tibet, but is politically part of Nepal. Now Tibetan culture is in danger of disappearing, it stands alone as one of the last truly Tibetan cultures existing today. Until 1991 no outsiders were allowed to enter Mustang.“The one who is guilty has the higher voice”The traditions of the people of Lo are closely related to early Buddhism. Most still believe that the world is flat. They are highly religious, prayers and festivals are an integral part of their lives. The grandeur of the monasteries illustrates the prominent position of religion.

CHELE VILLAGE, UPPER MUSTANG
May 2011

The ‘Land of Lo’, as it is known to its 7,000 inhabitants, occupies a mere
2,000 square kilometres in the upper valley of the Kali Ghandaki River,
which flows straight from north to south. Routes parallel to the river
once served as a major trade route. Salt from the vast lakes deep inside
Tibet and wool from mountain yaks were traded for grain and spices
from India. Mustang in particular was a thoroughfare for this immensely
important trade, providing the surplus that enabled the construction
of large monasteries and the creation of stunning works of art,
particularly from the late 14th to the 17th centuries. At the end of the
18th century, the kingdom was annexed by Nepal.

CHOSER VILLAGE, UPPER MUSTANG
May 2011

The Loba’s traditions are closely related to early Buddhism. Most people in
Mustang still believe that the world is flat, illness is caused by evil spirits
and monks heal diseases with exorcisms. Honouring an ancient Tibetan
custom, a woman can marry several brothers at the same time.

One of Mustang’s most unusual Tibetan customs is polyandry amongst
brothers. In Mustang, the fertile land is scarce and if each brother married
a different wife, the land would be divided, making the family poor.

Lama doctors, or amchis, practise Tibetan medicine, the roots of which
stretch back more than 2,000 years. They believe that the body is a
microcosm of the universe, made up of the five basic elements: earth,
fire, water, air and space. Tension between the elements is the major
cause of disease.

TIJI FESTIVAL
May 2011

The people of Lo practise Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism,
monasteries and monastic communities play a major role. The people
of Mustang are highly religious, and prayers and festivals such as Tiji
form an integral part of their lives. In Mustang, nearly every village
has a monastery. The stunning grandeur of the monasteries in
Lo Manthang, in particular, illustrates the prominent position of
religion. This is also evident in traditional family structure, where the
eldest son will inherit the family’s property and families are expected
to give up their secondborn sons to the monasteries when they are six
or seven years old.

DORJE JONO
May 2011

Monks wearing masks and colourful costumes enact the story of a deity
named Dorje Jono, who battles against his demon father to save the
Kingdom of Mustang from destruction. The demon father wreaks havoc
on Mustang by causing a shortage of water, which in this extremely
arid land is the most precious life-sustaining resource.
Dorje Jono eventually defeats the demon and banishes him from the
land. Tiji is considered the most important Buddhist festival, held
annually at the onset of spring. The spring season symbolises the
regeneration of life, and the festival is about hope, revival and
affirmation of life.

Dressed in their finery, people from all over Mustang gather in
Lo Manthang to celebrate. In summer, the capital is host to the Yarlung
horse festival, with races, dancing, drinking and all sorts of festivities.

TANGGE VILLAGE, UPPER MUSTANG
May 2011

Mustang (from Tibetan Mun Tan, meaning ‘fertile plain’) is the former
Kingdom of Lo, lying on a high and windswept plateau between
north-west Nepal and Tibet, in one of the most remote regions in the
world. Although Mustang is linked by religion, culture and history to
Tibet, politically it is part of Nepal. At a time when Tibetan culture in
Tibet is in danger of disappearing, Mustang now stands alone as one of
the last truly Tibetan cultures existing today.

The people of Lo are called ‘Lopa’, and their language is a dialect of
Tibetan.

LOPA
May 2011

Daily life in arid Mustang revolves around animal husbandry (goats, horses,
mules, donkeys, cows and yaks), agriculture, trade and – since 1992 –
tourism. Most of the population of Mustang lives near the Kali Gandaki
river, 2,800 – 3,900 metres above sea level. The presence of water makes
sustenance agriculture possible. The main crops are barley and
buckwheat, while maize, apples, apricots and different vegetables are
also grown.

The land is carefully terraced and irrigated. In winter, a large migration
takes place into the lower regions of Nepal to escape the harsh conditions.

NAMGYAL MONASTERY
May 2011

They believe that the body is a microcosm of the universe, made up of the
five basic elements: earth, fire, water, air and space. Tension between
the elements is the major cause of disease. There’s good blood for the
healthy and bad blood for the ill, and there are 72 kinds of bad blood to be
taken from different parts of the body. If the illness in question is not
caused by bad blood, the amchis believe that it is caused by one of 1,080
demons, or dus, which invade the body to cause the 404 known diseases
in humans. The amchi then writes a prayer prescription for a fellow
lama to chant, beseeching one of the eight medical gods to vanquish the
demon. Lama’s are also religious scholars who dispute the evidence that
the earth is round. The Tibetan way teaches that the world is flat, with
Lhasa at its centre.

CHOSER VILLAGE, UPPER MUSTANG
May 2011

The Loba’s traditions are closely related to early Buddhism. Most people in
Mustang still believe that the world is flat, illness is caused by evil spirits
and monks heal diseases with exorcisms. Honouring an ancient Tibetan
custom, a woman can marry several brothers at the same time.

One of Mustang’s most unusual Tibetan customs is polyandry amongst
brothers. In Mustang, the fertile land is scarce and if each brother married
a different wife, the land would be divided, making the family poor.

Lama doctors, or amchis, practise Tibetan medicine, the roots of which
stretch back more than 2,000 years. They believe that the body is a
microcosm of the universe, made up of the five basic elements: earth,
fire, water, air and space. Tension between the elements is the major
cause of disease.

DORJE JONO
May 2011

Monks wearing masks and colourful costumes enact the story of a deity
named Dorje Jono, who battles against his demon father to save the
Kingdom of Mustang from destruction. The demon father wreaks havoc
on Mustang by causing a shortage of water, which in this extremely
arid land is the most precious life-sustaining resource.
Dorje Jono eventually defeats the demon and banishes him from the
land. Tiji is considered the most important Buddhist festival, held
annually at the onset of spring. The spring season symbolises the
regeneration of life, and the festival is about hope, revival and
affirmation of life.

Dressed in their finery, people from all over Mustang gather in
Lo Manthang to celebrate. In summer, the capital is host to the Yarlung
horse festival, with races, dancing, drinking and all sorts of festivities.

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