We wholeheartedly welcome you to Kagbeni.
The history behind the name Kagbeni
The local name of Kagbeni is “ghaak” which means narrow junction because this is the place where four routes meet and from here the king of primitive times used to control and tax all the salt trade traffic from Dolpa, Tibet, Manang, and India.
As per the Nepali meaning, the word Kagbeni is derived from the word ‘Kag’ and ‘Beni’, in which ‘Ka’ means Kali, ‘Ga’ means Gandaki, and ‘Beni’ means the confluence of two rivers Kali and Gandaki. Kali river comes from Damodar Kund and Gandaki river comes from Muktinath and Kagbeni is the place where these two rivers mix. According to Puranas, Kagbeni is also known as Yakshya-Tirtha, because Nalakuyvera and Manigriva, the sons of the demigod Kuvera (Yakshya) passed through Kagbeni on their pilgrimage to Muktinath. According to Ramayan, Kagbhusundi meditated here on the suggestion of Saptarishis, after which it’s named Kagbeni.
History of Kagbeni
Kagbeni settlement is believed to have originated first from ‘Kaag Ngingba’ now (Ekli Bhatti). At the same place, the remains of old structures and the figures made on stones and walls are preserved and can still be seen. For the second time, the Kagbeni settlement was moved to what is now ‘Fu Jiling’. Man-made markings and the ruins of collapsed houses can still be seen in the caves.
For the third time, ‘Ghak’ i.e. the present ‘Kagbeni’ has taken place near the confluence of two rivers, Kaligandaki River and Zhong River. It’s yet a secret, exactly why and when these people abandoned this new place as a village. Some believe that Kagbeni’s location has changed to a total of two places due to the local reports of unidentified spiritual and supernatural activities. According to the Older aged locals, these activities only stopped happening since locals arrived at the current location.
The Kagbeni region is surrounded by three peaks and it is shaped like a Trident, so it is compared to the Trilok. In the local language, it is also called Ring Jing Gombo. Originally, Kagbeni was surrounded by a strong defensive wall and there were only two entry-exit gates on the Northern and Southern sides guarded by human guards. A century ago, two Khenis (meaning the ghost eaters) representing a man and a woman replaced the human guards at either entry-exit gate of Kagbeni.
There is a local myth that considers primitive figures to have spiritual powers and protect the Kagbeni area from negative and supernatural forces. There are also records of Aminism (a belief that objects possess a distinct spiritual essence) being practiced here long before the arrival of Tibetan Buddhism in the 11th or 12th century.
Ancient Routes and Features
The four ancient trade routes that cross Kagbeni were Upper Mustang from the north, Dolpa from the west, Manang from the east, and Nepal’s mid-hills from the south.
Kagbeni also provides spectacular views of Mount Nilgiri (7,060m), Tilicho Peak (7,139m), Yak Kawa (6,482m), Thorung Peak (6488m), and Tiri village. Chhongya Lake can be reached from Kagbeni with a 15-minute motorcycle ride. The best time to enjoy the views of these snow peaks and visit Kagbeni is from March to May and September-December in less cold weather.
Kagbeni is an about 1-hour drive from Jomsom over bumpy roads or a trek of three-four hours. Jomsom is the only airport in this region that only takes around 20 minutes from Pokhara. If you cross the border area of Kagbeni, you will reach the prohibited area. This area is a prohibited area for foreign tourists and they need a special permit to reach Upper Mustang and Lo Manthang. You can contact local authorities or tourist centers for any permit-related queries.
Kagbeni is famous for Pitri-Puja (ancestral worship) which is done to remove the lost soul of ancestors from hell and help them to reach heaven resulting in blessings to all the family members. Kagbeni is considered to be Pitri- Moksastala which is a location where this holy ceremony can be done to free the souls of ancestors. So, it is an important place for Hindus to perform Pitri-sraddha. The ritual is performed nearby Shaligram Mata Temple. It is believed that the sins of every living creature will be washed away only if there is only a splash of water here. The mine of Shaligram, considered to be the form of Lord Vishnu, is also located here.
Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling
Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling Monastery is also known as Kaag Monastery. The main deity of Kaag monastery is called ‘Gombo Hishi’ and he is known as ‘Mahakal’. The devotees worship the main deity as a living deity. Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling monastery was built in 1429 and constructed on an earthen wall that leans inward as it rises. It is made of horizontally set wooden beams that are visible from the outside and it is believed that they were used to increase the building’s shock resistance and thermal capacity. It demonstrates the durability of this ancient earthen architecture that has withstood the test of time.
Kag Khar Ruined Palace
There is the 108-room Kag Khar dynasty palace that is now in ruins. Kagbeni formerly was an important fortified palace along the “Salt Trade Road,” according to historical evidence. Even today, the town’s layout is a reminder of past conflicts and reflects its border location. It was built as a stronghold as protection from the Elements and Enemies. It is believed that the ancient palace wall’s foundation was pressed by the hooves of Yaks to make it stronger. The ruins of the ancient fort in the middle serve as a reminder that this area used to be important because of its strategic position at the intersection of the Mustang and Muktinath valleys.
It is a shrine of Guru Rimpoche also known as Padmasambhava located in the southwest region of Kagbeni. It is believed that Guru Rimpoche was staying in this area to protect the place from the demon. Before leaving this place, he made an idol of himself with his own hands and explained that his essence will always be with the people of this place through the idol even after he is gone. There are Chhorten houses with the idols of Guru Rimpoche and other gods.
Ancient Cave Ruins
Above Kagbeni lies a series of cave ruins that date back to prehistoric times. There are more than 10,000 abandoned cave settlements throughout Mustang, dug into the sides of cliffs. Nearly all evidence about their history has been erased with time. It is also believed that some of these caves were used by Buddhist scholars to meditate to become monks or fulfill their meditation.
Other Places in Kagbeni
There is also a view tower on the hill known as Golden Hill above Kagbeni. It provides a view of a wide range of mountains. There is also a health post and area police office in the Kagbeni Bazar area. The same area also has a bathing area and pure drinking water with hot water, operated by the Aama Samuha (Group of Mothers). Kangi Chorten, located in the market area, has various mandala paintings, while Kangi Chorten Mane is also located in this place. Many people also come here for self-purification.
Celebrations and Festivals
Kagbeni also has a great variety of festivals that are unique to this part of Nepal. On the Baisakh 1st of every year, the Festival of Archery(Dhajyang) is conducted. On the occasion of Yartung, which is the festival of harvests and horse races, celebrated during August/September, there was a unique tradition of cultural dancing ceremonies that were dramatical and full of comedy. Ton Famer Fakngyal is celebrated in June-July. During the reign of the royal family, traditions like the Lakhe dance were conducted in the Kag Khar Palace courtyard. Sonam Loshar is also celebrated by the people of this region in the winter Poush month.
Lama Dhyuchen Puja, Temba Chudim Puja, and 108 Kenggyur Tenggyur Kitab Puja are performed yearly. These pujas are performed for the welfare of mankind, animals, birds, and living beings, taking 108 books and roaming the fields, and worshiping the village guards in the north and south, (male and female kheni). According to the local date, Chesyu Puja is performed on the 10th Chhewa (day) of every month. It is believed that Padmasambhava promised to come on the day of Chesyu Puja and will come to fulfill his promise.
Kagbeni is home to the best quality Yarchagumba and Jimbu, while there are many local products as well as various dishes. Apart from this, there is cultivation and trade of Buckwheat, Barley, Potatoes, Beans, Apples, etc. here. Due to its special climate and soil, its yield and lifestyle are also unique.
Fenchok Chhepten Gurung (DHARA); (Former Chairman of Waragung Muktikshetra Rural Municipality)
Paul Jaquin. A history of rammed earth in Asia. International Symposium on Innovation & Sustainability of Structures in Civil Engineering, 2011.
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