580 years old gompa in Mustang

One of the major reasons to pay a visit to Muktinath in Mustang region is the splendid beauty that accompanies the trekkers while another is the presence of Hindu holy site where the Lord Vishnu is enshrined. However, for those who are interested in neither trekking nor a Hindu pilgrimage site, especially the followers of Buddhism, there is one reason why they should visit Muktinath.

Passing through the Kali Gandaki River’s floodplain is the ancient fort city of Kagbeni. There still lay a special gompa or monastery of Kag Chode Thupen Samphel Ling, although its walls are crumbling and its king is present only as a memory. The tall stone and mud building belonging to the Sakya lineage of Buddhism stays right in the center of the town.

Kagbeni is recognized as a place where Tibetan Buddhist lifestyle is followed in a way that does not even exists in Tibet itself. It is nestled at the foot of Upper Mustang surrounded by huge rounded sandstone hills. Roaming around the place makes one wonder if they are still in Nepal or somewhere else.

The locals are engaged doing their kora or rounds around the town and the monastery from early morning to late evening. It continues throughout the day with the haunting sounds of a Manakal protection ritual, a tantric ritual which has continued for centuries and is led by the monks of the monastery.

The gompa was started more than 580 years ago by Tibetan scholar Tenpai Gyalsten and was built by the locals to be their spiritual center. Hundreds of monks from 12 surrounding villages used to live here in its glorious days, however, the number has done down to 40 in present days and even the Rimpoche, The highest teacher lives in India. While you visit the monastery, do not forget to enter into its ritual room in the middle of the three floors where the main golden Buddhist idol as well as many items such as tantric masks adorn the room and its walls. The ceiling is painted in mandalas, the cosmic roadmaps of life, which is used for meditations. The splendid views of the mountains with the scene of crumbling city in the foreground can be seen from the gompa’s roof. There are many prayer wheels around the monastery, however, some fist-sized ceramic conch-like items are tucked in behind the wheels which encase items such as grains of rice from past rituals.

This 580 years old gompa is definitely a place to be for those who are in search of inner peace and wants to observe Tibetan Buddhist culture.