The region of Mustang has a long, rich and complex history that makes it one of the most interesting places in Nepal. The early history of Lo is shrouded in legend, myth, and mystery, but there are records of events in Lo as early as the 8th century. It is quite likely that the Tibetan poet Milarepa, who lived from 1040 to 1123, visited Lo Upper Mustang was once part of Ngari, a name for far western Tibet. Ngari was not a true political entity, but rather a loose collection of feudal domains that also included part of Dolpa. By the fourteenth century much of Ngari, as well as most of what today is western Nepal, was part of the Malla empire government from Sinja.
It is generally believed that Ame Pal (A-ma-deal) was the founder of King of Lo in 1380. The ancestry of the present Mustang Raja can be traced 25 generations back to AmePal.AmePal, or perhaps his father conquered a large part of the territory in the upper Kali Gandaki and was responsible for the development of the city o
f Lo Mantahng and many Gompas.
To the west, The Mallaempire declined and become split into numerous petty hill States. By the18th century, Jumla had consolidated and reasserted its power. To develop itself as a trading center and to obtain Tibetan goods, Jumla turned its attention eastward and in the mid 18th century assumed control over Lo, from which it extracted an annual tribute. When he ascended the throne in 1762, Prithvi Narayan Shah began to consolidate what is present-day Nepal. At the time of his death, the kingdom extended from Gorkha eastward to the borders of Sikkim. His descendants directed their efforts westward and by1789, Jumla had been annexed. The Gorkha armies never actually entered Lo; they recognized the rule of the Mustang Raja and, although Mustang became part of Nepal, the Raja retained his title and Lo retained a certain amount of autonomy. Lo maintained its status as a separate principality until 1951. After the Rana rulers were overthrown in November 1950 and King Tribhuwan reestablished the rule of the Shah monarchs, Lo was more closely consolidated into Nepal. The Raja was given the honorary rank of colonel in the Nepal army.
During the 1960s, after the Dalai Lama had fled to India and Chinese armies established control over Tibet, Mustang was a center for guerrilla operations against the Chinese. The soldiers were the Khampas, Tibet's most fearsome warriors. They had the backing of the CIA; some Khampas were secretly trained in America. At the height of the fighting, there were at least 6,000 Khampas in Mustang and neighboring border areas. The CIA's support ended in the early 1970s when the US, under Kissinger and Nixon, initiated new and better relations with the Chinese. The government of Nepal was pressed to take action against the guerrillas, and making use of internal divisions within the Khampas leadership, a bit of treachery, and the Dalai Lama's taped advice for his countrymen to lay down their arms, it managed to disband the resistance without committing to action the10,000 Royal Nepal Army troops that it had sent to the area. Though Mustang was closed, the government allowed a few researchers into the area. Toni Hagen included Mustang in his survey of the entire kingdom of Nepal, and the Italian scholar GiuseppiTucci visited in the autumn of 1952. Professor David Snellgrove traveled to the region in 1956 but did not visit Lo Manthang. Longtime Nepal resident Barbara Admas traveled to Mustang during the autumn of 1963. The most complete description of the area is Mustang, the Forbidden Kingdom written by Michel Peissel who spent several months in the area in the spring of 1964. Dr, HarkaBahadurGurung also visited and wrote about the upper Mustang in October 1973. Several groups legally traveled to the upper Mustang during the 1980s by obtaining permits to climb Bhrikuti Peak 6364 meters, which is located southeast of Lo Manthang. Other than a few special royal guests, the first legal trekkers were allowed into Mustang in March 1992 upon payment of USD 500 per week for a special trekking permit.
The form of Tibetan Buddhism practiced in Mustang is primarily that of the Sakyapa sect. This sect was established at Sakya Monastery in Tibet and dates from 1073. The Sakyapa sect is more worldly and practical in outlook and is less concerned with metaphysics than the more predominant Nyingmapa and Geluppa sects. Sakya Monastery is unique for its horizontal grey, white, and yellow stripes on its red walls, an identifying feature of Sakyapa structures. Most chortens and gompas in Lo are painted in these colors that reflect the surrounding hills.
THE LAND OF LO
The trek to Lo is through an almost treeless barren landscape. Strong winds usually howl across the area in the afternoon, generally subsiding at night. Being in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, Lo has much less rain than the rest of Nepal, though the skies are cloudy and there is some rain during the monsoon. In the winter there is usually snow, sometimes as much as 30 or40 centimeters on the ground. In Lo itself the countryside is similar to the Tibetan plateau with its endless expanses of yellow and grey rolling hills eroded by wind. There is more rain in the lower part of the upper Mustang and the hills tend to be great red fluted cliffs of tiny round stones cemented together by mud. Villages are several hours apart and appear in the distance almost as mirages; during the summer season, after the crops are planted, they are green oases in the desert-like landscape. House and temple construction throughout the region uses some stone but mostly sun-baked bricks of mud. Astonishing edifices, such as the city wall and the 4-story palace in Lo Manthang, are built in this manner. It is said that there were once large forests in Lo, but now wood for construction is hauled ll all the way from Jomsom or pruned from Pipal trees that are carefully planted in every village. The people of the upper Mustang call themselves Lobas. To be strictly correct, this word would be spelled "Lopa", meaning "Lo People", in the same way as Sherpa, which means "east Nepal," of Khampa, which means "Kham People". The people of Lo: probably because of regional dialect, pronounce the word with a definite B sound instead of the P sound that the Sherpas and Khampas use. I will follow Lo tradition and spell the word as it is pronounced: Loba: most anthropological texts, however, disagree with this.