Tiji festival is the biggest and most famous in Upper Mustang region of Nepal. This colorful and spectacular event has its history dating back to 17th century. The celebration is believed to honor the victory of Dorje Jono, a god in Vajrayana Buddhism, over a demon set to wreak havoc & take away the water source from the now Upper Mustang region.
This annual festival is three day long and takes place in Lo Manthang the former capital of Mustang Kingdom. The festival dates vary each year as they are based on Tibetan calendar but generally fall around May – June. This is also the time tourism in Upper Mustang is at its peak.
During my last trek to Upper Mustang, I was lucky enough to witness the full festival. And it was nothing short of amazing! In this post I am showcasing the highlight moments of the festival through the photos I took. If you are interested in more information about trekking in Mustang, check out my other post about Upper Mustang Trek.
Tiji starts with the showcasing of thangka on courtyard of former king’s palace in Lo Manthang
Thangka refer to Buddhist art paintings which depict certain Buddhist themes. Tiji is a rare opportunity where you get to see century old thangka displayed in public.
There’s a whole ritual performed prior to the display which involves monks chanting and praying. Then thangka is rolled down on a wall in the courtyard of the King Palace. Locals consider it holy and they do believe that the pure sight of it is already a blessing.
The first thangka is being displayed to the public.
Demonstration of Deity Dorje Jono defeating the devil under the form of dance
The first thangka display is followed by a dance demonstrating Dorje Jono’s fight and victory over the devil.
It starts with the monks marking some patterns on the courtyard. Then comes the chanting & praying and the colorful dance.
Tiji festival is no doubt of substantial spiritual importance to Mustang people. It’s the occasion people of all ages and areas in Mustang gather in Lo Manthang. Everyone’s in their best dresses & cheerful mood.
Local Mustang people gathering in Lo Manthang for Tiji festival
On the second day of the festival the second holy thangka is displayed. The procedures are repeated as in the first one, with lots of praying and chanting led by the monks.
Crowds are gathering as the second thangka is being displayed on Tiji festival
There are four monasteries (Gompa) in Lo Manthang including Thupchen Gompa, Jampa Gompa, Chode Gompa and Dragkar Thegchen Ling Gompa.
During the three days of the festival the monks perform prayers and puja in these Gompas from early morning till evening.
“The scenes I witnessed were so extraordinary and so unexpected that I dared not believe my eyes and even today I have some trouble in believing in the reality of what I saw that day.”Michel Peissel 1964