Culture and Peoples of Mustang
The Upper Mustang Trek is a great alternative for travelers who want to experience real Tibetan culture as it was in the past. The Loba (Lo Pa) people are ethnic Tibetan and practice a form of Buddhism from the Sakya lineage. There is also a sect of the rare Bon religion here. The Bon priests practice along with Tibetan lamas at local festival. For those who are interested in religion, anthropology, Asian studies, mythology, art or antiquity this is a great field study.
The Loba, the about 6,000 inhabitants of Mustang, are very close to the Tibetans regarding culture, language and religion. In the 8th century, Buddhism had been brought to Mustang by the Indian Buddhist master Padmasambhava and the inhabitants adopted this religion as their own. During the centuries, though, many Buddhist teachers, Tibetan lamas and monks left the country. Lately, old deserted monasteries have been renovated with the help of the local population and are in use again.
The language of Mustang’s population, called Loba or Lowa, is a Tibetan dialect. In Mustang you also find other Tibetan dialects as well as Nepali. Most of the Loba live in the vicinity of the river Kali Gandaki. With the changing seasons, large parts of the population have to move to Nepal's lower regions, since the rough climate makes agriculture and therefore survival impossible.
Culture and Religions of Mustang
The origins of Buddhism go back to India to Gutama Buddha from the dynasty of Sakaya. In the eighth century, during the Yarlung Dynasty, Buddhism reached Tibet. Form Tibet it spread further to Mustang. In the highlands of Tibet a new form of Buddhism emerged as part of the Mahayana Buddhism in which the Lama (Guru) played the central role integrating many rituals and locale religious tradition.
In Buddhism the concept of Karma, the law of cause and effect and the belief in reincarnation are essential. All beings suffer and take part in the eternal circle of reincarnation. Thos who dedicate their lives to teaching and meditation can escape this circle and reach the Buddha status – the enlightenment. This way they reach Nirvana and redeemed. One special characteristic of the Mahayana Buddhism in the Kingdom of Mustang is the ideal of Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva is an enlightened being that renounces to the last step of enlightment in order to provide the force of redemption to all creatures.
Like in all Buddhist parts of the Himalaya prayer flags are raised to spread blessings through the country.