The ancient principality of Mustang straddles the border of Nepal and Tibet. Mustang is actually a Nepalese corruption of sMan-thang (pronounced Moo-stang), the capital of Lo, sometimes referred to as Lo Manthang. The ruler is styled Raja of Mustang by the Nepalese, and Lo sGyal-po in Tibetan. Although the history of the state is shrouded in myth and legend, early historical references can be dated from the 8th century AD.
The ruling family descends from Shres-rab bla-ma, a military commander and provincial commissioner of Lo for the Gung-thang kings. He held a semi-independent status, which allowed him to secure the government for his lineal descendants. Ama-dPal, the grandson of Shres-rab bla-ma, consolidated his power and extend his influence over a wide region in western Tibet, eventually establishing his own kingdom with the approval of his Gung-thang overlords. He was willingly recognised as an independent ruler, with the title of Chos-rgyal.
Ama-dPal's successors continued to rule independently until the second quarter of the sixteenth century. After many battles and countless incursions, the neighbouring principality of Jumla established control over Lo, during the reign of the fourth ruler, mGon-po rgyal-myshan. For a brief period after his death, no paramount ruler was recognised. The Jumla rajas divided the principality amongst regional commissioners and governors, these offices filled by various members of the Lo ruling family.
rGya-hor-dpal-bzang, grandson of mGon-po rgyal-myshan, recovered a measure of independence from Jumla and was recognised as Chos-rgyal, ca. 1560. However, his brother and successor succumbed to Jumla rule once more, and his descendants continued as vassals for the next century.
The vassal rulers of Lo made several valiant attempts at re-establishing their independence, but never actually succeeded. Their final chance came in 1788 when the Nepalese Regent, Prince Bahadur Shah, requested an alliance to complete his plans for unifying Nepal. He needed the help of dBang-rgyal rDo-rje to subdue the Raja of Jumla. After the successful completion of the war, the ruler of Lo accepted Nepalese sovereignty, securing the return of territories which had been annexed outright by Jumla. He became a tributary ruler of the Maharajadhiraja of Nepal, received a crown and other royal insignia, a large measure of self-government and the hereditary title of Raja of Mustang. For his achievement in delivering Lo from Jumla, dBang-rgyal rDo-rje is recognised as Chos-rgyal by his people. The last of his line to be so styled.
The government of Lo remained relatively free of interference from Katmandu for the next eighty years. However, the increasing centralisation under the Rana regime after 1846, together with mounting tensions between Nepal and Tibet, meant that the central government took increasing interest in exercising control. Nevertheless, Lo continued to manage its own affairs, retaining a large degree of local autonomy throughout the regime. After the revolution of 1951, the central authorities increased their control, banning a number of cultural and religious activities. The Chinese conquest of Tibet increased tensions right along the Himalayan border. After the Dilai Lama fled to India, many of his supported established themselves there, with the Khampa continuing guerrilla operations across the border. The Nepalese consequently closed off the region in an attempt to deal with these issues.
In 1961, the central government abolished the remaining principalities and vassal states. Although, the Rajas of the major states were permitted to retain their titles for three generations. The reigning ruler, A-ham bsTan-'dzin 'Jam-dpal dgra-'drul, fell into this category. His youngest son, the present ruler, A-ham 'Jigs-med dpal'bar, succeeded him in 1964. Despite the many changes in his official status, he retains a very high degree of influence in religious, cultural and community affairs. His status amongst his people remains undiminished. Indeed, the increasing interest of foreign travellers in Lo's culture, religion, and history, has enhanced his status considerably. Tourism and trekking have mushroomed, with the prince and his heir, travelling abroad for the first time in history.
STYLES & TITLES:
The ruling prince: A-ham (personal name), Lo rGyal-po or Sri Sri Raja (personal name) Bista*, Raja of Mustang, with the style of His Highness.
The consort of the ruling prince: rGyal-mo (personal name) or Rani Sahiba (personal name) Bista*, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: rGyal-chung (personal name).
The sons of the ruling prince: rGyal-sras (personal name).
* The surname, or caste name, "Bista" has been adopted by the present Raja and his family, including his wife, siblings and their descendants.
RULES OF SUCCESSION:
Male primogeniture, amongst the legitimate male issue of the ruler. According to tradition, the ruler may adopt an heir from amongst the near male relatives of his family, if he fails to produce legitimate sons. However, in these instances the succession is not automatic, and requires approval from the council of senior ministers and advisers.
ORDERS & DECORATIONS:
SELECET GLOSSARY: A-ham: vassal ruler, (ruling) prince
Blon-chen: chief minister. Bu sgos: guardian of a minor gate of the palace.
Chos-rgyal: Tibetan term for an independent ruler. dMag-dpon: general, military commander. Drung-pa chen-po: 'senior authority', a designation for a regent or prince exercising executive power while a rGyal-po reigned. Khri-dpon: Regional Commissioner. lHa-dpon: Head of Religious Affairs. rDzong-dpon: Military Commissioner. rGyal-ba sgos: guardian of a major gate of the palace.
rGyal-chung: deputy ruler, or heir apparent.
rGyal-po: precious ruler, or Raja.
rGyal-mo: consort of the ruler, or Rani. rGyal-sa: Royal capital. rGyal-sras, son of the ruler, or prince. sDe-pa bar-pa: 'middle commissioner'. sDe-pa chung- pa: 'junior commissioner'. Tsho-dpon: commissioner of a small district.
Yab-rGyal-po: title for a ruler who had abdicated executive power to another, but continued to reign. Zhabs-drung: Royal Abbot of a monastery.
Ramesh K. Dhungel. The Kingdom of Lo (Mustang). A Historical Study. Tashi Gohel Foundation, Kathmandu, 2002.
Nepal Almanac (A Book of Facts). Yuba Raj Singh Karki, Katmandu, Nepal, 1983.
Who is Who - Nepal. Katmandu School of Journalism, Dillibazar, Katmandu, 1977-1999.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact details at: Copyrightę Christopher Buyers