The allegiance of the Phurba (Sa Phur) tradition, i.e., involving the wrathful deity of Dorje Sonnu who is considered to banish all form of obstacles, has prevailed since the time of Lama Lowo Khenchen (1456 – 1532), the son of the Lo’s 2nd King Amgon Sangpo (1419 -82). This influence could be due to the visit of the great Shakyapa master Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo. Amedpal (1388 -14470), the first ruler of Lo, invited and honored him as a chief religious’ preceptor. Lowo Khenchen was one of the greatest Buddhist teachers of his time. He played a significant role in expanding Buddhism in the Mustang region. Tiji festival was supposed to begin around Lowo Khenchen and remained with great pomp and enthusiasm in a few centuries after that.
The Tiji Festival & its history
Tiji festival, therefore, converted to one of the main festivals of the Upper Mustang region. The country at the time was thriving and plenty of food. Also, the Buddhist religion observed and made large monasteries as well as born great teachers.
Faith and prosperity can still be visible in most Upper Mustang villages in the form of dzongs, monasteries, big houses, and private chapels as evidence of this golden age.
The 15th King of Mustang, Ahang Jampa Dadul, (enthronement approx. 1816, died 1837) the country of Lo witnessed unrest and economic downfall during his reign.
The queen was also not capable of bearing a son, so to appease the gods and remove obstacles to the Buddhist religious traditions. Ngchen Ngawang Kunga Sonam, a great Shakyapa master from Tibet, was invited to visit Lo.
At the Tiji festival, this master is to have to perform the masked dances as the principal dancer, or tsowo. Folklore describes a mound outside the walls city of Lo-manthang. The great master used the arrow to chase away the demons, buried them, and left the indent on the mound.
To this very day, this place is considering the “White Land,” or Sa Kawo. After Ngachen Ngawang Kunga Sonam visited Lo, the festival regained its popularity and prior glory.
The Festival revealed
However, Nepal’s political changes affected Mustang, and many age-old traditions were abolished, including the Tiji festival towards the mid-19th century.
Although the main celebration in the city’s square no longer took place. Chhoede Gumpa, the central monastery of Lo-manthang, continued to celebrate the priory festival without economic support from the people. It has been following since 1963 and remains still now, despite restored the main celebration.
An intriguing story beyond the most recent revival of the Tiji festival denoted that an apparition appeared to Pemba, a layman from Lo-manthang. It prophesized that if the Tiji festival were not practice, great vicious and suffering would occur Lo.
The Plague would increase in the area, and there would be death, misery, and scarcity everywhere. So, the current King, now 25th in the lineage, Jigme Palbar Bista, met with the late Khenpo (Head Lama) Tashi Tenzin of Lo-manthang’s Chhoede monastery, the representatives of Lo Tso Dun, and top officials to talk over the circumstances.
It revealed again and restarted the festival. The main festival in front of the King’s Palace was celebrated again with great enthusiasm by the 1970s. It can thus be said that despite its antagonism, the tradition and continuity of the Tiji festival were no interruption and continues in its original form to this day.