Introduction to Tiji Festival
The rural region of Upper Mustang lies close to the Tibetan border. This is where you can experience a three-day event that has remained largely unchanged over the years. Mustang was once an independent nation and shared Tibetan culture and language. Due to its advantageous location, Mustang was able to control trade between the Himalayas and India from the 15th to the 17th century. The kingdom was incorporated into Nepal at the end of the 18th century and became a part of the Kingdom of Nepal. However, the monarchy was declared to be extinct in 2008 by the Nepali government. Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista, the last king, passed away in 2016. The Buddhist kingdom was established in 1380 by the warrior Ame Pal, who also constructed much of Lo Manthang.
In Upper Mustang, Nepal, the Tiji Festival is the most auspicious lunar celebration with yearly variations in dates. The Tiji Festival is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil, according to an old belief. The region was in trouble, and a demon that spread sickness and stole water was wreaking havoc on it, according to mythology. Dorje Jono confronted and slew this monster. On the occasion, jubilant dances and invocation shouts are performed to celebrate his victory. Due to its unique celebrations, the Tiji festival, which the people of Mustang commemorate as a religious ritual, draws a lot of tourists and has lately increased the popularity of the Tiji Festival Jeep Tour and Mustang Tiji Festival Trek.
Highlights of the Tiji Festival
The most well-known celebration in Upper Mustang is the Tiji Festival, sometimes referred to as the "Tenchi" festival. It is a three-day celebration held in May and honors Lord Dorje Jono, who is said to have battled demons to prevent the realm from becoming hungry and dry. The Tiji Festival is an exuberant and colorful festival that honors the rich cultural legacy of the Mustang people. It is a holiday that is rich in symbolism and history. Locals and visitors get the chance to gather together to celebrate life, community, and culture.
The trip to the Tenpa Chirim-festival offers stunning views of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, mountain towns, Buddhist shrines, Chhortens, and the Kalighandaki River. Although the landscape is difficult, arid, and unforgiving, you may capture spectacular moments. The display of colors throughout the festival makes for the most fascinating observations. People behave like legendary figures while dancing while dressed in festive attire with many colors. This contributes to making this Buddhist event a particularly beautiful sight.
History of the Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang
Tiji, often referred to as "Tenchi," has a long history and holds symbolic value in Nepalese culture. Additionally, it has helped Upper Mustang rise to the top of the list of important journey locations. The main attraction of the celebration is Lo Manthang in Upper Mustang. Locals from nearby communities congregate in the courtyard of Tashi Gephel Palace where monks carry out the well-known "Vajrakila" ceremonies over the course of three days. The Mustang Tiji Festival has a long history that dates back to the 17th century. Back then, Tibet was a near neighbor to the sovereign kingdom of Mustang. Sakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga Sinam was invited to Lo Manthang by the then-King of Mustang, Samdup Rabten. The little time Sakya spent in Lo-Manthang Chhode Monastery was spent performing a unique Vajrakila ceremony. By eradicating all harmful influences, the ritual promotes Mustang's well-being.
It commemorates Dorje Jono's triumph against the demonic force that had previously attacked Mustang. This historical custom has been passed down through the ages to the monks of Chhode monastery. They now carry out these ceremonies once a year. Tenpa Chirim, a Buddhist phrase, served as the inspiration for this ritual's original name. The name's connotation suggested the advantages of Buddha's teaching for everyone's well-being. However, the technique of vajrakila was already well-established in Nepal, Tibet, and even India. This technique was introduced to Tibet by Nepalese Buddhist masters Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and Shilamnju towards the beginning of the eighth century. Even the sacred Vajrakila dance performed at Samye Monastery in Tibet had several important movements that Padmasambhava helped to create.
The practice of Vajrakila in Tibet over many years was later confirmed by a large body of information gathered. The Khon tradition Kila (Phurba), among others, is most associated with the Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Mustang Tiji festival's remarkable ability to endure hundreds of generations while retaining its individuality is amazing.
Significance of the Tiji Festival in Upper Mustang
The Mustang Tiji celebration symbolizes the triumph of virtue over evil, much like other celebrations in Buddhism and Hinduism do. Vajrayana Buddhism portrays Dorje Jono, the demon slayer, as courageous. The event may be seen as a significant period in both Nepal's history and mythology. All sentient beings are wished reciprocal prosperity throughout the celebration. The rituals, dances, prayers, and colorful displays that take place throughout the celebration are its highlights. Above all, it is commendable for such liveliness to originate from such a remote location.
The celebration has evolved into a venue for the Mustang community to gather together, exchange prayers, and share contributions. The people of Mustang celebrate their ancestors' bravery and mythology each year. They humbly hold this legend to be true. After all, the border between believing and ignorance is quite thin. The former is preferred by the residents of Mustang, who are proud of it. There is an unspoken pleasure of victory hidden behind the masked dancers, hazy smoke, and faint songs. A monumental commemoration of this victory, known as Mustang Tiji, is held each year.
Traditional Rituals and Ceremonies during the Tiji Festival
The planning of events and exhibitions has brought the festival to a conclusion. A three-day consecutive open celebration should be planned. The veil motion, whose master is referred to as Dorje Jono, is one of the festival's core elements. He has to complete a quarter-year retreat in the religious community before entering the public setting. The Lamas from Choede Monastery of Lo Manthang are led by Dorje Jono, who wears a traditional face mask, as they participate in various ceremonial dances during the open Tiji ceremony.
The major ceremonial celebration is focused on Vakra Kumara and Vajra Kila (Dorje Sonnu and Dorje Phurba) taming the devil(s) and other evil(s). The main purpose of the ceremony is to control the bad powers and defend the region using the permed dances. Three days of the ritual are dedicated to it, including a day dedicated to preparation at Tampa Lhakhang. On this day of preparation, all of the representatives from the seven Lo villages—collectively known as Lo Tho Dun—assemble at Tampa Lhakhang and help to prepare the tormas required for the Tiji festival celebration.
Three-Day Celebration of Tiji Festival
First Day (Drums, Thangka, and Beginning of the Ritual)
The Upper Mustang Tiji festival's opening day feels almost theatrical. In the Chhode Gompa monastery, the monks and their offerings assemble. You will get to see the monks' early morning Vajrakila prayers. They reveal a 400-year-old hand-embroidered "Thangka" artwork of Padmasambhava and his two dakinis in the afternoon. Long copper horns, cymbals, and drums welcome the art to the courtyard. Six bowls of grain and torma are included in the offerings, which are placed on a wooden altar. Respected monks in red hats come to the site and sit down beneath the thangka. The "Khempo," the Chhode Gompa's chief, has a right to claim a seat on a higher stage.
The dancers perform for the King as he is seated in his private space. The lead dancer, known as the Tsowo, is the most well-known performer in this show. The remainder of the audience is waiting for them downstairs as the procession proceeds there. The opening few movements of the dance, which has about 52 steps, are slow pace and tentative. The next day, it grows ferocious, signifying the gods' waking and the purifying of the earth. We are unable to discern how Tsowo directs his performers through gestures and ideas since they are so subtle. Sound, color, and scent illuminate the entire scene. The opening day of the festival marks interesting nuances that get you ready for the rest of the celebration.
Second Day (Purification and the End of Evil)
The second day begins with the monks gathering in the plaza according to a very identical sequence. They practice offerings and repeat the Vajrakila prayers. They introduce a second substantial thangka artwork and set it next to the first. You will notice that the dancing moves start to get more combative when weapons and animal shapes are added to the mix. The Tsowo eventually lets go of a knife that represents the defeat of evil. The Tsowo swings the knife at a statue made of straw before tossing it into the air. The Tsowo performs a dramatization of the demon's killing, just as Dorje Shunu. These genuinely show how humans will do virtually everything to survive the worst-case scenario.
Third-Day (Conclusion of the Rituals)
Once more, on the third day, the monks gather in the monastery's plaza to present Vajrakila offerings and offer prayers. Once more, the monks dress like animals to perform the dances. Special nectar is served by the Tsowo as a gift from the gods. The dancers lead the way to accompany the King and his family as the rite approaches a conclusion. The Khenpo and the other monks are greeted by the King as well. On being fortunate enough to see yet another Tiji celebration, locals pray and give offerings. They thank the leader and reciprocate among the performers. The dancers may expect to spend a lengthy evening.
Best Time to Visit Upper Mustang for Tiji Festival
Typically, the Tiji festival takes place in May, which is a convenient time to visit the Upper Mustang region. In addition, the ideal weather, which includes easy accessibility, good visibility, and mild days, is offered in both spring and autumn. Autumn starts in mid-September and lasts until November in Nepal, whereas spring starts in March and lasts until mid-May. Upper Mustang is always accessible since it is in a rain shadow. However, the area sees extremely cold weather from December to February, making the walk tough to complete.
Upcoming Tiji Festival Dates for the years 2023, 2024, and 2025
|S.No.||Tiji Festival Year||Tiji Festival Happening Dates|
|1||Tiji Festival 2023||16th, 17th and 18th May 2023|
|2||Tiji Festival 2024||5th, 6th and 7th May 2024|
|3||Tiji Festival 2025||24th, 25th and 26th May 2025|
Permits and Regulations for Visiting Upper Mustang
In order to enter the Upper Mustang Region, all foreigners are required to get special permission. A Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is required; it costs $500 USD for 10 days and an extra $50 each day. You must go with a certified guide if you want to access restricted regions. In order to receive a RAP, your group must consist of more than two individuals. Don't be concerned if you are single. You may do the Upper Mustang Tiji Festival Trip because Green Valley Nepal Treks Team will organize a group for you to participate. Additionally, because the location is part of the Annapurna region, you must get the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) permit, which costs $30 USD and is valid for the duration of your stay. Keep in mind that this journey does not require the regular TIMS card.
How to Reach Lo Manthang?
There are two ways you could get to Lo Manthang for the Mustang Tiji festival.
Fly to Jomsom from Pokhara. From Jomsom, go by jeep or foot to Kagbeni. You may drive to Lo Manthang from Kagbeni, which serves as the gateway to Upper Mustang. You may witness the Tiji celebration there. Given that the altitude is fairly high, acclimate gradually.
Once at Kagbeni, you have the option of making the difficult trip all the way to Lo Manthang. Take a five- to six-hour walk from Kagbeni to Chele, then from Chele to Syanbochen, Syanbochen to Ghaymi, and finally from Ghaymi to Charang. On your Tiji festival trek, you may reach Lo Manthang from Charang on day nine.
Altitude Sickness during Tiji Festival Trip
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), often known as altitude sickness, is a medical condition that emphasizes how challenging it is for the body and brain to carry adequate oxygen. High-altitude areas with less oxygen relative to sea level are more prone to AMS. A person who has not sufficiently acclimatized throughout the journey may get altitude sickness due to the lack of oxygen or the thin air. The complexity of high altitude is inherent. Two prevalent altitude-related disorders that can be fatal are HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) and HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema).
High-altitude passes are frequently encountered on the Tiji Festival Trip in the Upper Mustang area. The trip takes one to an elevation of 4,200 meters above sea level. Despite being a challenging excursion, there is very little likelihood that you may have altitude sickness throughout it. Less or no cases of AMS, HAPE, or HACE have been reported among travelers in the area. The well-planned itinerary makes sure that the tourist has ample leisure to recover and acclimate during the whole trip.
Food or Meal Available during Tiji Festival Trip in Upper Mustang
The restaurants provide a wide variety of cuisines, including Thai, European, Indian, and many more. We strongly recommend that you try the Nepalese meal, Dal Bhat. With this rice dish with veggies and lentil soup, you could achieve a completely balanced diet. You will have three meals while you are at the Tiji Festival.
Breakfast menu you could enjoy while trekking includes Common Tibetan Bread, Chapati, French toast, Corn Flakes, Hash Browns, fried, scrambled, and boiled eggs, pancakes, porridge, Muesli, vegetable dishes, and other hot beverages.
You may choose from a range of lunch selections, including thukpa (noodle soup), dal and bhat, momos (dumplings), Tibetan chapati bread, macaroni, spaghetti, sherpa stew, steaks, potatoes, sandwiches, rice with curry, spring rolls, burgers, and pizza, as well as yak steak and desserts.
Dinner options include Momos (dumplings), Thukpa (noodle soup), Dal and Bhat, Chapati, Macaroni, Spaghetti, a variety of soups, steaks, potatoes dishes, Sandwiches, Pizza, rice with curry, spring rolls, Raman soups, burgers and Pizza, yak steak, dessert items, and hot and cold drinks.
Accommodation Facilities during Tiji Festival
You will stay in three-star hotels in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and perhaps some guesthouses in Mustang throughout the Tiji Festival journey. There are two twin beds in each lodge. On-demand and at an additional cost, a single supplement is available. Some teahouses only provide communal sinks and toilets, despite the fact that we will arrange rooms with attached facilities. Be aware that while single rooms are concise to get in Kathmandu and other lower-altitude areas, they could be challenging to find at higher altitudes. The accommodation is nice up to Kagbeni. After Kagbeni, regular teahouses with nearby restrooms are still available. Wi-Fi is generally available and accessible at most tea shops. There are elegant dining areas with traditional heaters so you can keep warm during the winter. More tea houses, lodges, and homestays were established in this area as a result of the significant increase in trekkers. These tea houses and other lodgings are frequently filled with trekkers during the busy season and during the Tiji festivities. As a result, you must reserve your space in advance.
Things to Consider When Planning a Trip to Tiji Festival
If you are planning to attend this unique cultural event, here are some things to consider:
- Time of the festival: The Tiji Festival is usually celebrated in May, so plan your trip accordingly. It is best to check the exact dates of the festival with local organizers.
- Permits: Travelers need to obtain a special permit to enter the Upper Mustang region. These permits can be obtained through a registered trekking agency in Nepal. Make sure to apply for the permit well in advance.
- Accommodation: The Upper Mustang region has limited accommodation options, so book your accommodation in advance. During the festival season, accommodation can be difficult to find, so it is advisable to book early.
- Dress code: The Tiji Festival is a traditional event, and visitors are expected to dress appropriately. It is recommended to wear conservative clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
- Weather conditions: The Upper Mustang region has a dry climate, with warm days and cool nights. However, weather conditions can be unpredictable, so it is best to be prepared for all eventualities.
- Altitude sickness: The Upper Mustang region is situated at a high altitude, and visitors may experience altitude sickness. It is important to acclimatize slowly and drink plenty of fluids.
- Cultural sensitivity: The Tiji Festival is a significant cultural event for the local people. It is important to respect their traditions and be mindful of your behavior.
- Trekking routes: The Upper Mustang region has some of the most scenic trekking routes in Nepal. It is advisable to hire a local guide who is familiar with the region.
- Travel insurance: It is recommended to purchase travel insurance that covers trekking and high-altitude activities.
- Medical facilities: The Upper Mustang region has limited medical facilities. It is advisable to carry basic medication and first aid supplies.
Other Attractions to Explore In Upper Mustang Beyond Tiji Festival
Upper Mustang is a beautiful and unique region of Nepal with many attractions beyond the Tiji Festival. Here are some of the top attractions to explore:
- Lo Manthang: Lo Manthang is the capital of the Upper Mustang and a must-visit destination. The city is home to many ancient monasteries, chortens, and palaces that reflect the rich history and culture of the region.
- Kagbeni: Kagbeni is a picturesque village located at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Jhong rivers. The village is known for its traditional architecture and stunning views of the surrounding Himalayan Mountains.
- Muktinath: Muktinath is a sacred pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. The site features a temple complex with 108 water spouts that are believed to have healing properties.
- Mustang Caves: Mustang Caves are a series of ancient caves located near the village of Chhoser. The caves are believed to have been used as meditation chambers by ancient Buddhist monks.
- Chhoser Village: Chhoser Village is a small, picturesque village located on the way to Lo Manthang. The village is known for its traditional architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
- Ghar Gompa: Ghar Gompa is a 1200-year-old monastery located in the village of Ghar. The monastery features ancient murals, statues, and thangkas that are of great historical and cultural significance.
- Yara Valley: Yara Valley is a hidden gem in Upper Mustang that is known for its stunning landscapes and traditional Tibetan villages. The valley is also home to several ancient monasteries and caves.
- Nilgiri Mountain: Nilgiri Mountain is a stunning peak located near the village of Kagbeni. The mountain offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes and is a popular destination for trekking and hiking.
Sustainability and Responsible Tourism Considerations during Tiji Festival
- Respect the Local Culture: The Tiji Festival is a traditional event that is of great cultural significance to the local people. Respect their traditions and customs and avoid any behavior that may be considered disrespectful or offensive.
- Use Eco-Friendly Products: Use reusable water bottles and bags instead of disposable plastic products. This helps reduce waste and protects the environment.
- Choose Responsible Accommodation: Choose accommodations that promote sustainable practices such as recycling, reducing waste, and conserving water and energy.
- Use Local Products And Services: Support the local economy by using local products and services. This helps promote sustainable tourism and supports the local community.
- Minimize Your Impact On The Environment: Take care not to damage the natural environment or disturb wildlife. Stick to designated trekking routes and dispose of waste properly.
- Learn about the Region's Biodiversity: Upper Mustang is a unique region with diverse flora and fauna. Learn about the region's biodiversity and the efforts being made to protect it.
- Support Local Conservation Efforts: Support local conservation efforts by volunteering or donating to local organizations working to protect the environment and promote sustainable tourism.
The Tiji Festival is a unique and fascinating cultural event that offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience the rich traditions and culture of the Upper Mustang in Nepal. The festival's three-day celebration includes colorful parades, traditional dances, and ancient rituals that are steeped in history and spirituality.
Visitors to the Tiji Festival can also explore the stunning natural beauty of the Upper Mustang region, with its rugged mountains, scenic trekking routes, and ancient monasteries and caves. The region's unique cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, culture, and adventure.
However, it is important to plan your trip carefully, taking into account the factors mentioned earlier such as obtaining permits, dressing appropriately, acclimatizing to the high altitude, and respecting local culture and traditions. By being mindful of sustainability and responsible tourism practices, you can help protect the environment and promote sustainable tourism in Upper Mustang during the Tiji Festival.