Is Mustang a Country? :- As most of the people residing in Nepal knows that mustang is not a country but district of Nepal. To clear the doubt of people within the Nepal and outside of the Nepal, Mustang District is one of the 77 districts of Nepal.
The name for this place i.e. “Mustang” is taken from the old Tibetan word. Mustang denotes the meaning as, “Plain of Aspiration”. The headquarter of mustang district is Jomsom. Mustang covers a total area of 3,573 km.
This district is lies in Dhaulagiri Zone and this district is a part of Gandaki Pradesh in northern side of Nepal, straddles the Himalayas and extends northward onto the Tibetan Plateau. The district is one of the remotest areas in Nepal. The elevation ranges from 1,372 to 8,167 meters i.e. mount Dhaulagiri which is the 7th highest mountain in the world, and there are several peaks above 7,000 meters.
Mustang is a very old prohibited kingdom, surrounded by the Tibetan Plateau and sheltered by some of world’s tallest peaks, including 8000-meter high mount Annapurna and mount Dhaulagiri.
Strict regulations of tourists here have aided in maintaining Tibetan traditions. Upper Mustang was most restricted demilitarized region until the year 1992, which makes it one of the most conserved areas in the world because its relative separation from the outer world.
The majority of the people living here in the upper mustang still speak their own traditional Tibetan languages. Upper Mustang was only opened to foreigners. It is a popular area for trekking and can be visited year round.
The average elevation of Mustang is 2,500 meters, coming to a peak at 8,167m — the summit of Dhaulagiri. It is a vast and arid valley, famous by tough canyons, brightly painted stratified rock formations and high-altitude land with unproductive land.
This region never receives an average annual rainfall of more 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 average lowest monthly air temperature falls to approximately around -2.7 °C in winter whereas in summer the highest monthly air temperature reaches to approximately around 23.1 °C.
Both monthly and annual variations in temperature are large. Only about 40.3 square kilometers which is about 1 percent of the entire land part, is cultivated and remaining 1,477 square kilometers, which is about 40%, is pasture land. Kora La at 4,660 meters in elevation has been measured the lowest travelable trail sandwiched between Tibetan Plateau and Indian subcontinent.
The elevation of this district ranges 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) is the busiest pass and debatably world’s highest pass, is also located in this district. This district divide up to 134.16 km extended worldwide boundary with Tibet Autonomous Region of China where about 16 border pillars are made and also numbered from pillar no. 18 to 33.
The Kali Gandaki River flowing here is the most important characteristic of this district. Its source is situated near the Tibetan border and coincides with the Tibetan border and Ganges-Brahmaputra watershed divide. After that, the river flows south towards the northern part of Indian plains all the way through the ancient kingdom of Mustang.
It flows throughout a sheer-sided, deep valley right away to south of the Mustang’s capital of Lo Manthang, then the river widens when it approaches Kagbeni where high Himalayan ranges start on to close in. The river continues to flow southward past Jomsom, Marpha, Tukuche and so on to the deepest part of the gorge which is about 7 km south of Tukuche in the area of Lete.
The gorge afterward broadens past the boundary of Mustang and Myagdi districts. Physically, Lower Mustang is sandwiched between the Tibetan Plateau of the North and tall Himalayan Mountains of the South. The region located between the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan Mountain range is mostly known as Trans-Himalaya.
The Kali Gandaki Gorge or also known as Andha Galchi is calculated by the difference between the height of rivers and the heights of the highest peaks on both sides. It is also called the world’s deepest canyon.
The segment of the river between Dhaulagiri and Annapurna I is at an elevation of 2,520 m or 8,270 ft, 5,571 m or 18,278 ft lower than Annapurna I. 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) furthermore Annapurna (8,091 m or 26,545 ft) on the east.
The ancient kingdom of mustang was closed to foreigners, until the year 1992. Professor David Snellgrove, Italian scholars Giuseppe Tucci and Michel Peissel went to Mustang. Their tales regarding Tibetan kingdom in a dry and separate from the rest of the world raised the curiosity in Mustang District.
The only westerner to reach Mustang district was Toni Hagen at that time, who was a Swiss explorer as well as a geologist. French scholar Michel Peissel was taken as the first westerner to live in Lo Manthang, in the first official exploration of Mustang in 1964.
Most of the tourists take a trip by foot by the same trade route used in the 15th century. Over a thousand of western trekkers currently visit mustang. August and October months of every year are the main visiting months.
Now that upper Mustang is open to all the foreigners on a restricted basis, the Lopa have improved the quantity of horses in the hopes of earning money from tourism industry.
So, mustang is not a country but a part of a country Nepal and is quite similar to desert at it is barren; fields and grounds are unproductive but is the best place for adventure. Though people cannot earn form agriculture there but can earn from tourism industry as the number of tourist visiting each year is increasing.
Note: Most of the Nepalese will be surprized that Mustang Country is one of the Hollywood film which was released on March 1976 (USA).
By Saughat Jung Thapa