Tiji festival is a three-day festival during the month of May (the third Tibetan month) and is regarded as a very auspicious occasion in the Upper Mustang area. Tiji festival, which is a popular festival in the Himalayas of Nepal and India, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. A festival continued as a legacy from the 17th century features colorful events such as Vajrakila rituals consisting of dance performances to lift curses and spread the message of well-being and good luck. Celebrated as a religious ceremony by the locals of Mustang, the Tiji festival attracts several tourists due to its unique events and has popularised the Tiji festival tour and Mustang Tiji festival trek over the recent years.
History of Tiji Festival
The word ‘Tiji’ comes from the name ‘Tempa Chirim’ which means ‘World Peace’. Legend says that the Kingdom of Lo (now in Upper Mustang) was in great danger due to the terror of a vicious demon called Man Tam Ru threatening to spread diseases and destroy all water sources. Dorje Jono, a deity in Vajrayana Buddhism, then defeated the beast and restored peace in the valley. In some scriptures, Dorje Jono is also regarded as the incarnation of Lord Buddha. The processes of these historical events are showcased through dances on each day of the Tiji festival. On the first day, the havoc caused by the demon is shown through a dance called “Tsa Chham”. The birth of Dorje Jono is shown on the second day through another performance called “Nga Chham”. On the final day, the enactment of Dorje Jono’s attempts and success of transferring the demon to Buddha’s realm is focused.
Tiji Festival Celebration Process
Tiji was also considered a prayer from the then King and Queen of the Kingdom of Mustang for the protection of the kingdom. The tradition is still preserved to date, hence Tiji is going to be celebrated in 2023 as well. The Tiji festival date for 2023 is 16th, 17th & 18th May 2023. Each day differs from another due to the different ceremonial processes. The Upper Mustang Tiji Festival trek allows you to get the closest look into these celebrations and even participate according to the permission granted by local authorities. The festival will take place in the courtyard of Mustang Palace by the Chhode Monastery belonging to the Sakya sect of Buddhism and will involve over 65 monks from Lo Manthang, Nhenyul, and Chhoser.
Tiji Festival 2023 Date:
The Tiji Festival, 2023 will be celebrated 16th, 17th & 18th of May 2023. Apart from strolling along the stunning and exceptional surroundings of Upper Mustang with the magnificent views of the snow-capped peaks, you can take part in this vibrant and lively festival which will be a lifetime experience.
First Day of Tiji Festival: 16th May,2023
The auspicious event starts with the early morning Vajrakila prayers and offerings by the monks who assemble at Chhode square. The main ceremony starts in the afternoon when the square is blessed with the tunes of Dhungchen (copper horn) and drums all the while a huge Thangkha portrait of Padmasambhava is put up on the south wall. After that, the tantric (priests) carry on to offer bowls of rice on the wooden altar. The monks are seated under the huge Thangkha while wearing long pointy red hats.
The most awaited performance of the masked dance then commences in the private room of the Mustang Palace. The Tsowo has a distinguished gear on his head that makes him stand out. After dancing in the palace, the group slowly moves towards the people’s square where onlookers and travelers wait for their arrival. The dance performance in the square lasts for about 2 hours and consists of the blares of the traditional instruments with the colorful clothes of the dancers swooning in the cool breeze. At the end of the day, almost 52 different steps are performed. The end is signaled by the Tsowo through unique callings.
The second day of the Tiji festival: 17th May 2023
The second day also starts with a series of prayers and offerings, in the early morning. In the afternoon another handcrafted Thangkha is unfolded next to the one from the first day. The dances of the second day are more attractive due to the active depiction of the battle between the demon and Dorje Jono. The end of the dance showcases the end of the demon as Dorje Jono slays it with a powerful dagger.
The third day of the Tiji festival: 18th May 2023
The last day is filled with dances from the monks with masks. The final rituals take place in the Mustang Palace and prayers are offered by the priest. The final prayers were offered by the king of Lo before the monarchy ceased to exist in 2008. The people of Mustang also pray for their valley’s well-being and the three-day festival comes to an end with smiles on everybody’s faces.
Often recognized as the hidden Himalayan kingdom, Mustang, and to be even more precise, Lo Manthang, offers celebrations of the endemic Tiji festival to be enjoyed by tourists as well. The Tiji festival is a greatly preserved tradition in this age and time. Grab this opportunity and embark on a journey to this culturally enriched city. You can easily book Tiji festival trek on numerous websites offering a great array of services and trip packages.