On the day of Janai Purnima, August 10, the settlements of Lower Mustang will wake up to the boisterous festivities of Yartung Mela. And as in previous years, the residents are all set to welcome visitors from near and far to enjoy the scenic beauty of the hidden valley and participate in an age-old ritual.
Regarded as one of the major festivals in Lower Mustang, Yartung Mela is celebrated primarily by the Thakali people of the Mustang region, to mark the end of the harvest season. The three-day celebration sees enthusiastic participation by the locals, who take part in various activities like horse racing, dancing and singing—all accompanied by liberal amounts of sumptuous food and drinks.
As per the culture, the festival is initiated by the head monk of the village. Subsequently, the first day of the festival is dedicated to the village chief, the second day to the monks and the third day to the rest of the people. The locals also make offerings to Lord Buddha, and receive blessings from the village chief on the occasion. Jaypang Thakuri, who runs the tour company Majestic Mustang, one of the many companies planning to use the festival as a tourist draw, regards the festival as the ideal opportunity to allow visitors to understand Mustang and its culture. “People come to Mustang, but they do not get to know the real culture. Our main purpose is to show the hidden treasures of Mustang and to promote its natural and cultural beauty globally.” He wants to promote the festival not just to attract tourists from home and abroad, but also to disseminate information about this valley to people who might not know about Nepal.
Many travel agencies are promoting this festival, and many have introduced a variety of packages to suit visitors’ budgets and schedule.