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Your Mustang Tiji Festival guide for 2024 is here. This blog has everything you need to know about this grandest Tibetan-Buddhist festival celebrated at Upper Mustang’s Lo Manthhang City. 

Upper Mustang lies in the remote north-central region of Nepal, close to the Tibetan border. In ancient times, it was known as the Kingdom of Lo, which was opened to visitors only in 1992. It is famous for its picturesque landscapes, rugged terrains, and ancient caves. Likewise, Tibetan Buddhism has a massive influence in the region. This restricted kingdom still requires visitors to take a special restricted area permit to access.  

Tiji Festival is the biggest festival celebrated in the Upper Mustang annually. It follows the Tibetan lunar calendar and lasts three consecutive days. The festival has cultural, historical, and religious significance. Let us explore more about the festival and its intricate details. 

Mustang Tiji Festival

The Mustang Tiji Festival is one of the famous Himalayan festivals whose origins date back over 300 years. The festival is also locally known as Tenchi, a short form of Tenpa Chirim. Its literal meaning is a prayer for world peace. 

Tiji Festival is related to Guru Rinpoche and the popular Vajrayana Buddhist deity, Dorje Jono (Vajrakila). Thus, the festival is associated with Vajrayana Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche, also known as Guru Padmasambhava was the master of Tantric Buddhism in the 8th century who introduced the Vajrakila practice in Nepal. 

It is believed that Dorje Jono battled and defeated the demonic forces under the instruction of Guru Padmasambhava. His victory purified and brought prosperity to Lo Manthang. Since then, the monks of Chhode monastery have performed the rituals annually, which came to be known as the Tiji Festival. 

The official historical record of the Tiji Festival dates back to the 14th century. The ritual was performed for the seven villages in Mustang. After Upper Mustang opened its doors in 1992, Tiji has attracted visitors worldwide. The festival represents the local people’s essence, religious beliefs, and traditions. 

Before the festival, monks collect flour and ingredients to make colorful ritual cakes, Torma. The Chhode monastery monks make Torma by hand and use it for Tiji. Tsowo leads the prayer and dance in the center. The festival is celebrated as a purification ritual using the Vajrakila practice. 

The three-day ritual consists of prayer chants and colorful mask dances. The dancers adorn themselves in colorful dresses and reenact the battle between Dorje Jono and demonic forces. The prayers, dances, and music are all part of the Tiji Festival ritual. It is believed to bring peace and prosperity to Lo Manthang and the world. Likewise, it signifies the battle between good and evil and the victory of good over evil. 

When Does The Mustang Tiji Festival Occur in 2024?

The dates for the Mustang Tiji Festival in 2024 are May 5th, 6th, and 7th. It is a three-day festival, and each day has its significance. Here is a brief on each day:

First Day (May 5th)

The first day’s dance of the Mustang Tiji Festival is Tsa Chaam. It begins at noon, and loud horn sounds from Tibetan horns, Dhungchen, double-reeled horns, drums, and cymbals signal the festival’s start. 

The festival begins at Chhode Monastery, where monks, performers, and offerings gather. Then, the monks make their way to the town square. They sit under the large Thanka painting on the square’s southern wall. After this, the mask dance begins. 

The lead dancer is known as the Tsowo, and the dance represents Dorje Jono’s story. It includes 52 steps and starts slowly. 

Second Day (May 6th)

The second day’s gathering follows the same pattern as the first. Right next to the Thanka painting of the previous day, another huge Thanka is hung. The monks recite the Vajrakila prayers and make offerings. This day’s mask dance is known as Nga Cham. 

Unlike the Tsa Chaam, Nga Chaam’s movements are more hostile. Animal shapes and weapons are also used during the dance. The performance reenacts the story of Dorje Jono trying to return the demons to the Buddha realm. The Tsowo also takes a dagger to dramatize the act of Dorje Jono killing the demons. 

Today, female performers are adorned in traditional attire and jewelry. Likewise, the dance performance highlights the creation of deities and celestial palaces. 

Third Day (May 7th)

On the final day of the Mustang Tiji Festival, the monks perform the Rha Chham dance. This dance represents Dojre Jono expelling and defeating the demons. The monks assemble at the monastery plaza, pray, and offer offerings to Dorje Jono. 

The dance tune of Rha Chham is vibrant, and the dancers dress as animals. As the dance ends, the monk who performs as Dorjee Sonam throws an effigy made from Tsampa (barley). It represents the demon Ma Tam Ru Ta. The Tsowo also offers nectar, which represents the gift of God.    

Mustang Tiji Festival Trekking Route

Nepal Alternative Treks’ 8 Days Upper Mustang Tiji Festival Tour 2024 itinerary is carefully crafted to ensure the best experience. Look at the Mustang Tiji Festival Route:

Your tour will begin with a drive from Kathmandu to Pokhara. It is a 7-8 hours drive and 200 km from Kathmandu. The winding and scenic road follows the Trishuli River, passing by green hills, forests, and small villages.  

From Pokhara, you will get on a morning flight to Jomsom. It is a 25-minute scenic flight. Jomsom is the headquarters of the Mustang district. Jomsom is a large town in the Kaligandaki area that links the ancient Trans-Himalayan salt trade route to Tibet. From Jomsom, you will drive to Ghilling.

You will head towards Lo Manthang, known as the capital city and the plain of aspiration of Mustang. The route is filled with remote and scenic landscapes. Lo Manthang is a walled city that sits amidst the remote landscape. The whole drive takes two hours. You will spend three nights here and enjoy the Mustang Tiji Festival. 

After participating in the vibrant three-day festival, we will drive back to Jomsom. From there, we will take a return flight to Pokhara. On the last day of the tour, we will drive back to Kathmandu.  

Guide and permit cost for the Upper Mustang Tiji Festival in 2024

While trekking and touring in Nepal, it is mandatory to hire a licensed guide. They help to ensure your safety and security. Likewise, their valuable insights and local expertise enrich the touring experience. 

Individual trekkers cannot access the restricted area. At least two trekkers must participate, while the maximum limit is 30 trekkers. The cost of hiring a guide can vary depending on the guide’s experience, trek season, and duration. But the cost usually ranges from USD 25 to USD 35.

Similarly, you will need two permits for the Upper Mustang Tiji Festival. You will need an Annapurna Conservation Area Project Permit (ACAP) and a special restricted area permit (RAP). The cost for each permit is as follows: 

  • ACAP cost: USD 30 per person
  • RAP cost: USD 500 per person for the first ten days. Additional fee of USD 50 per day after ten days. 

Cost of food and accommodation

The accommodations mostly found at Upper Mustang consist of tea houses and lodges. They provide basic facilities and meal services. The accommodations generally offer a room with twin bed sharing, shared bathroom, and communal dining space. 

But you can also find rooms with attached bathroom facilities. A separate room is more expensive than sharing. The cost per room can range from USD 6 to USD 9 per day. 

These accommodations mainly serve the staple Nepali meal, Dal Bhat. But you can also find menus like noodles, momos, sandwiches, pasta, etc. The cost per meal can be around USD 5. Likewise, the cost of water ranges from USD 0.5 to 4, a cup of tea can cost around USD 1.5 to 4, and a cup of coffee costs around USD 2 to 5.  

Note that accommodations and meals will get expensive as you move to higher elevations. 

Is there any Chance of Altitude Sickness During the Tiji Festival?

Many trekkers experience altitude sickness at higher elevations past 2500 meters. This medical condition occurs when the atmosphere’s oxygen level and air pressure decrease. The lack of oxygen leads to trekkers experiencing altitude-related sickness like headache, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid pulse, etc. 

The Mustang Tiji Festival takes place in villages that are above 3000 meters. Hence, there is a risk of altitude sickness during the Tiji Festival. However, the risk is comparatively minimal. Proper acclimatization and rest during the trek can help to minimize the risk of altitude sickness. 

Difficulty obtaining a visa

You can get a visa on arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. You can also obtain a visa from the Nepal Embassy of your home country. To obtain the visa, your passport must have at least six months before expiry. 

The cost of a visa varies depending on the duration of your stay. The costs of a visa are as follows:

  • 15 days (single-entry visa): USD 30
  • 30 days (single-entry visa): USD 50
  • 90 days (single-entry visa): USD 125

Specific cultural aspects of the Tiji Festival other than the masked dances

The Mustang Tiji Festival showcases the vibrant culture, traditions, and local customs. It combines traditional music and performance along with colorful customs. Likewise, the festival showcases the religious aspects, rituals, traditional arts, and craftsmanship. 

The royal family members of the villages guide the festival. Meanwhile, the village chiefs from each village and monks of Chhode Monastery come together to organize the Mustang Tiji Festival. Hence, it shows a strong sense of community and bond among the villages. 

The Mustang Tiji Festival symbolizes the victory of good over evil. It has religious significance as well as cultural significance. The monks pray for peace, prosperity, and a fruitful harvest. Furthermore, the festival signifies the end of the dry season. 

Other Information Required For the Tiji Festival in 2024

The Mustang Tiji Festival takes place in May. It falls in spring, so it is an ideal time for the Upper Mustang Tour. Because of the perfect season, the route can be pretty crowded. Accommodations and transportation can be fully booked. Hence, it is best to book everything in advance.  

Upper Mustang lies in the higher elevations where facilities and infrastructure are limited. So, do not expect luxury accommodations or services. All the facilities are basic, and amenities are limited. Internet/WiFi services may be non-existent or very poor. 

It is a good idea to pick up strength-building exercises and training. Mental preparation is also necessary to be best prepared for the Mustang Tiji Festival Tour. There is a minimal requirement for trekking equipment and gear. 

Faqs

Are foreigners allowed to participate in the Tiji Festival? 

The Mustang Tiji Festival is a traditional three-day festival celebrated in the Upper Mustang area. It is held every May and features religious dances and prayers. The festival is open to everyone and has no restrictions.

What are the dates for the Tiji Festival in 2024?

The dates for the Tiji Festival in 2024 are May 5th, 6th, and 7th. The festival is celebrated according to the Tibetan Calendar.  

Is there a risk of altitude sickness during the Tiji Festival?

Altitude sickness is common among trekkers when they cross 2500-meter elevations. It is due to the reduced oxygen level and air pressure in the atmosphere as you climb higher. During the Tiji Festival Tour, you will reach up to 4200 meters. So, there is a risk of altitude sickness. Proper acclimatization is necessary.

Are ATMs available during the Mustang Tiji Festival Tour route? 

You will find ATMs in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Jomsom. Other than these places, you will not find any ATMs. Also, remember that the card facilities are unavailable along the Mustang Tiji Festival Tour route. So, carry cash with you while you embark on the journey. You will need it for personal expenses and other services. 

Is travel insurance necessary for the Mustang Tiji Festival Tour?

Yes, you will need travel insurance for the Mustang Tiji Festival Tour. The insurance should cover medical and emergency expenses, including helicopter rescue and evacuation. Likewise, it should also include high altitude and altitude sickness. The insurance will provide a safety net in case of unforeseen accidents and emergencies.

 

 

Tej Bahadur Gurung

With an experience of almost two decades, founder Mr. Tej Bahadur Gurung has established Nepal Alternative Treks as a widely recognized and reliable tourism operator. His degree in Tourism Studies and devotion to the sector has given him in-depth knowledge about trekking, climbing, cultural, and geological aspects of the country. He is a pioneer in introducing the concept of ‘off-beaten tracks’ and ‘alternative routes’ as well as treks and tour packages surrounding it.

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