Upper Mustang as a part of Dhaulagiri Zone in Nepal do have several synonyms. Often it is also known as city of caves. Yes, an estimated 10,000 and plus caves were discovered in The Last Forbidden Kingdom of Lo Manthang. Many of such mysterious caves are yet to be explored. Majority of them are either dug into cliffside or tunnelled from above. According to the explorer and researchers caves are thousands of years old. But still mystery is who built it and why they built it.
If you can’t make to Grand Canyon, go to Upper Mustang | Lo Manthang
Few out of world’s unsolved archeological mysteries, caves in Upper Mustang are hidden within highHimalayas. Secrets had not been revealed yet, how peoples in the past managed to climb a cliff about 155 feet above the Kaligandaki Valley. Late 1990, a cave with buried forty two ancient peoples was discovered. Archeologists believe about existences of many such hidden caves in Mustang. Major challenges that explorer teams need to face is cold and inhospitable environment of the Himalayas.
A series of such burial caves were discovered. A team lead by Pete Athans had figured out the bones of twenty seven individuals (consisting adult men, women, adolescents and of infants). Also bones of goats, cows and horses were collected.Bioarchaeologist Jacqueline had carried out anatomical research on these bones. He had also stated that 63 % of the bones have cut marks on them. It is a clear evidences of defleshing. The process of defleshing resembles with funerary rituals of ethnic Tibetan at present. Not just bones after defleshing, religious text and wall paintings were found in caves.
After an exploration trip lead by Pete Athans in 2007, another exploratory trip was set in 2008. The second expedition team had discovered several six hundred years old skeletons of human and precious manuscripts with small paintings. Those manuscripts were mixed of both Bon and Buddhist writing. After these identifications of scripts conclude that at least for a century or two Bon Religion was dominant in the region. After the Bon, Buddhism had been in practice from eight centuries. Also, after Buddhism was in practice, former king of mustang might have hidden those precious bon text. It was a good alternatives to hide the existence of Bon, rather than destroying them meaninglessly.
After second exploratory expedition, the team was full of suspects whether theses caves in Mustang could link to the hidden valley of Shambhala. Hidden Valley of Shambhala represents Buddhist Spiritual Paradise. Upper Mustang was a valley of mystery for many before 1992. It was completely closed to foreigners. Limited number of Upper Mustang Trekking permits were issued by Nepal Immigration. Also a rule of compulsion of local guides was implemented. This was for preventing any damages on culture and archeological remains. If you can’t make all the way to Lo Manthang, at least visit the Mustang Eco Museum in Jomsom. Museum displays, beads, jewelries and human remains collected from the caves of Upper Mustang.
Trail in between Kagbeni and Muktinath Temples also had some number of three hundred caves in Jhong, very near to the village of Jharkot. This is also just a part of Annapurna Circuit Trek, and you don’t need Upper Mustang RAP. It’s a cheap TIMS card and Annapurna conservation area project entry permit only. However, after the earthquake, permit cost for Upper Mustang trek might be dramatically reduced. It can be a golden age for Upper Mustang Trekkers if permit cost is reduced and intact isolation from an earthquake.
Here is a link for Upper Mustang Cave Gallery. All the pictures were taken by Copy Richards as a part of National Geographic Team. It was published on the website of National Geographic.
Finally Upper Mustang Trekking is not just about walking in predefined trail, it is about exploring ancient ruins and civilizations. Who knows you may discover other caves?