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Principality of Mustang, Nepal

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: nepal | mustang | mastang |
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image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 14 August 2008
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Flag discussion

I have contradictory information about the Principality of Mustang on the Nepal-Tibet border. The first flag I know of was published in Zászlóvilág, a Hungarian vexillological magazine, after a trip to the area by a Hungarian vexillologist. The flag has the Nepalese national colors in a different arrangement. Later I received different information from Michel Lupant who described many flags in use different from the reported one. I need some time for research about the topic. It seems that the later reported flags are the royal flag, a religious flag, and the religious chief's flag.

The Kingdom of Mustang consists only in 3 towns, among them Lo Mantang, the capital, and 24 smaller villages, in addition to 8 monasteries. The kingdom is also called Mastang and its sovereign is a subject of the king of Nepal (since 1795) and of Tibet. The sovereign is Tibetan and has the title of Raja in Nepalese and Lo Gyelpo (King of Lo) in Tibetan. The government is in the hands of seven noble families who are the only people with the right to marry into the royal house. In the beginning of the century the Raja was Jamian Pelbar, who died in 1905, and who was succeeded by Angun Tenzing Trandul. After the 1947 revolution this last abdicated and was succeeded by his son Angdu Nyingpo; after the premature death of this king in 1958 his father took back the throne but abdicated again in his other son Jigme Dorje randul, the 26th sovereign, still ruling.
Jaume Ollé, 28 October 2002

On and is the flag reported as vinous red with blue border and white sun at the center. So it is similar to the lower triangle in Nepali flag, but sun of Mustang has 16 rays, while that on current Nepal royal flag and proposal Nepal republic flag has 12 rays.
Jakub Grombíř, 6 February 2008

I have seen this alleged flag several times on internet, but I find it dubious. Mustang is an area of Tibetan culture, and the pattern of the flag doesn't fit with the traditional and religious patterns. It looks as if it had been designed by a Nepalese. Worldstatesmen also gives a royal flag which is swallow-tailed with a red field, blue borders on top and bottom, and white stripes between the blue and red parts, quite similar to the Nepalese national flag and very different from the known examples of flags from Tibetan cultures.
Corentin Chamboredon, 7 February 2008

image submitted by Jaume Ollé, 24 May 2020

I obtained two good photos of the flag of Kingdom of Mustang. Of course I don't know what flag existed in the 70s when was reported the red-blue flag with star or sun, but the flag I located existed no doubt at the moment of the abolition of the kingdom, hoisted in royal palace at side of the bhuddist flag, and is very different. Vexilla Belgica published also references about some flags don't quoting the already reported and claiming that were the true flag, but I believe that all the flags reported by Vexilla Belgica are religious flags. Vexilla Belgica reported 3 flags: the one attached (that can be the royal flag, but probably isn't), one triband of blue, yellow and red (religious flag) and five striped flag: B-Y-R-W-O (suposed to be religious chief flag). The flag drawing and photos will be published as soon as possible on Flag Report and then in Fotw, wikipedia, worldstatesmen, etc... Any one know the primary source of the flag what we have here?
Jaume Ollé, 22 and 24 May 2020

I bought a book titled " Mustang A Lost Tibet Kingdom" by Michel Peissel (1937-2011) in Kathumandu in 2010. The book is published in India in 1967 and 280 page travelogue detailing Mustang Kingdom based on author's two times visit to Angun Tenzing Trandul ,King of Lo and Raja of Mustang in 1966. I expected to find photo or text on the red and blue flag with sun but I could not. The book shows only white long featherlike prayer flag. I did not locate the source of the flag image in Nepal anyway.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 23 May 2020

image compiled by Pete Loeser, 24 May 2020

I think what we are dealing with here is a suppositious flag, meaning a flag that is based on errors repeated so often they have become accepted as fact. I think the Principality of Mustang, or upper Mustang, most likely didn't have a flag until about 14 years ago, when one was invented for them. Since then its existence has spread far and wide. Flag manufacturers are certainly making it, and it is finding its way into use in various places. Mustang, now a district of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is one of the seventy-seven modern districts making up the country. As a tourist attraction, a modern flag was a must. In shops in Nepal, for example, as illustrated on this attached "Historical National Kathmandu City Mustang Banner" plate, a flag is available. This illustration plate is quartered into the following panels starting in the upper-right with the Nepal flag of 1928-1962, then the upper-left shows the 1962-current Nepal flag, the lower-left shows the Kathmandu flag and lower-right corner is featuring their Kingdom of Mustang flag. It would be interesting to discover if the flag itself is used in any official capacity in Nepal or Mustang.
Pete Loeser, 24 May 2020

I believe that the flag in Fotw never existed, was fictitious or a misinterpretation from a partial Nepal flag. I believe from memory that source is a publication in a vex bulletin from Czech repúblic or from Hongary (when has also a vex bulletin) in the 80s. I don't think that is now a district flag Is believe that the districts of Nepal haven't flags. I was some weeks in Nepal in 2007 and I don't see any district flag (where I was, central and south of the country) In fact Wikipedia don't give this flag as district flag, but as the old kingdom flag, same as Fotw About the real and royal flag of Mustang I believe that only one exemplar exist in use but seems to be manufactured industrially (perhaps there's more exemplars in reserve for substitution because the climate is hard, with many wind, rain, cold...). If this (or other) flag was used already many years ago probably was manufactured by hand, like the religious flags, but the photo is from 2008 and show a relatively simply but modern flag, similar in fabric (and only) to the buddhist flag Perhaps the kingdom has no flag before the years 70s, when first travellers arrived on. Some traveller from outside or some student from inside can be the responsibles.
Jaume Ollé, 24 May 2020

Historical background

HISTORY OF MUSTANG The country was known as the Land of Lo, and is first mentioned in 7th-century Christian and Ladakhis cr. He became a principality under the authority of the Gungthang kings of Western Tibet; Buddhism was introduced at the same time as in Tibet, and old animist beliefs were abandoned. The great Tibetan sage and Buddhist reformer, Padmasambhava, according to the original tradition of Lo, and went to Tibet to found the monastery of Samye (the oldest in Tibet) which was initially dependent on the monastery of Lo Gekharal pa s de Lo (Mustang). Nothing is known about the history of the sgaireb country until the 13th century when the figure of the warrior Ame Pal emerged, who subdued the various military leaders of the region and unified the ruling kingdom from the fortress of Ketchen Dzong, being the ancestor of the dynasty reigned until 2008. Consolidated in power, he established the capital on the edge of the fortress, a place he called Lo Manthang (The Plain of Inspiration) and which gave the country its name because Mustang is simply a corruption of the cartographers of the name Manthang. Ame Pal was a devout Buddhist who built numerous temples; for its consecration vademanar the presence of the famous s sakya lama Ngorchen KungaSangpo, who after seven years thinking about it, finally went to bread if he consecrated some temples in 1427; he returned twice, in 1436 and 1447; he established a chain of monasteries and promoted a revival of Buddhism. The country of Lo became the main stronghold to the west of the Sakya Buddhist sect, a position it maintained throughout the Mongol period in China. The city and its surroundings were the scene of several wars: first with bandits from the area and later with the coming kingdom of Jumla in the southwest. Jumla was now a small village at the foot of the Dhaulagiri Mountains at that time and for four centuries was the capital of a rival kingdom of Lo. The Dolp Mountains formed the border between the two kingdoms. The conflict lasted until the eighteenth century. Great fortresses such as Tsarang and Ghemi were built during the peace period. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the people of Lo gained importance, becoming a first-rate Buddhist religious center in the Tibetan world. At this time the walls of Lo Manthang were built 20 feet high (6 meters) with a single door that is still locked today. The city and its surroundings were the scene of several wars: first with bandits from the area and later with the coming kingdom of Jumla in the southwest. Jumla was now a small village at the foot of the Dhaulagiri Mountains at that time and for four centuries was the capital of a rival kingdom of Lo. The Dolp Mountains formed the border between the two kingdoms. The conflict lasted until the eighteenth century. Great fortresses such as Tsarang and Ghemi were built during the peace period. The country of Lo and the country of Dolpo were considered extreme points of Tibet, and therefore the religious exchanges between the kingdoms did not decay. The dolmens of Dolpo went to Tibet through the route that passed through Lo Manthang; the monks of Lo went to Tibet to receive formation. Lo Manthang became an important center of pilgrimage for Him laia. So what really made Lo's country important was eating and especially eating salt: the passages between India and Tibet were alps below 15,000 feet (about 4,500 meters) and the access was The valley of the Kali Ghandaki River was good, which placed it in a strategic position. Elpa s had no conditions for agriculture, for many inhabitants they could live on food. The Tibetan salt from the lakes north of the Tsangpo River was exchanged for wheat, barley, and produced in the fertile valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara. Traders moved in yaks, goats and sheep and brought grain to Tibetan centers where they collected salt that reached the south to places like Tukche and the Ghandakion Valley were stored waiting for southern farmers to come with their crops; they could also be sold to the merchants of Takhali to be taken south. Salt was the main food item and was also important for livestock, wool and food products. From 1544 to 1560 Lo remained in the hands of the kingdom of Jumla, to get rid of it with the help of Ladakh and in the late 16th century the country of Lo remained under the protectorate of Ladakh, so it did not give up the kings of Jumla de their ambitions about the territory. In 1719 the king of Lo vaconcertar the marriage with a princess of Ladakh; on her journey to Lo Manthang, she was captured by bandits from Jumla and imprisoned in Kagbeni, demanding a ransom from the king of Lo, who then sent her best warriors to free her from escape and was imprisoned for several years. months until Ladakh and his ally, the kingdom of Parbat, sent troops who secured liberation. Around 1740, when Ladakhhavia lost its former power, Jumla attacked Lo, and conquered it by dominating for forty years by 1780 the kingdom of Jumlafou destroyed t by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the first of the reisgurkhes who unified Nepal, and the pa s de Lo regained her independence; the Gurkha kings ignored this region despite its strategic position. In 1802 a treaty was signed by which the kingdom of Lo Manthang became under the protection of the Gurkha kings in exchange for an annual tribute. The Nepalese dynasty was overtaken by its prime ministers and it was not until the 1950s that the restoration of dynastic power changed the situation of Mustang, losing the king of this territory many of its powers. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, China closed the border with Mustang and as the Tibetan Khampian guerrillas operated in the country, Nepal also sealed off the area. Six thousand Khampian guerrillas settled in the country (which therefore doubled its population) and fought the Chinese on the northern border, with CIA financial support, and also with training, as several guerrillas were sent in advance to Camp Hale in Colorado and returned once well trained for guerrilla warfare. Although the khampes only had some old rifles at their disposal, they achieved remarkable victories over the Chinese, destroying Chinese communications and controlling southern and southeastern Tibet. The people of Mustangels supported it because of the tension between Beijing and Kathmandu and a brutal Nepalese military campaign. The Khampa guerrillas lasted until CIA support stopped when Nixon visited China in 1972. Nepalva reopened the area south of Kagbeni and made some reforms (schools, health care ...) to increase Palestinian and Hindu influence. Proclaimed a republic in Nepal, the kingdom was formally abolished on October 7, 2008.
Original Catalan text by Jaume Ollé, translated by Pete Loeser, 24 May 2020

Just a question concerning the real degree of independence of the Mustang kingdom and its possible implication of the absence of local flag: was it really, as it is generally said, an independent kingdom like Bhutan or Sikkim, or simply a traditional royal entity, like some other ones, included in the Nepalese territorial system? In the latter case, one could understand that the only tolerated flag, in a country with strong linguistic and national identity like Nepal, was the Nepalese flag.
Jean-Marc Merklin, 23 May 2020

Politics in the Himalayas are always a little puzzling for Westerners. Traditionally, there were rarely neat and well defined boundaries and relationships. For examples, some "independent" kingdoms of Eastern Tibet were not territorialy based but rather organized on a clanic base. The five Hor states shared a common territory but each family obeyed only one king. It was also true for bigger entities such as Tibet herself, which had several foreign enclaves and internal lay and religious principalities which had administrative autonomy and so on. So, as far as Mustang is concerned, it was strictly independent until the second Sino-Nepalese war (1791-1792) but then only had relations with its direct neighbours (Tibet and Nepal). I haven't found much informations but I think the kingdom probably remained mostly untouched, if not for some formal vassality to Nepal until 1951. Then the occupation of Tibet by China somehow forced Nepal to reconsider and formalize its northern borders in 1961. The closure of the border meant that Mustang lost its ability to trade with Tibetans, a fact worsened by the arrival of several hundred Tibetan resistance fighters who used Mustang as an operation base, not necessarily with the approval of the locals. I guess from the 50's to 2008 the kingdom was only a special district which was gradually impoverished and became more and more dependent from Nepal, after which it formally disappeared as a kingdom when Nepal became itself a republic. I'm afraid there are very few books on Mustang, most of them being travel or photography books (see the ones indexed by French national library). I have checked the English translation of Peissel's book : Mustang, the forbidden kingdom, exploring a lost Himalayan land (1967, E. P. Dutton & Co) and found no photograph showing this flag nor any mention of it. The only thing that was close enough was this quote : "To this day the goat's head has been the sacred emblem of Lo Mantang." (p. 181, Lo Mantang is Mustang's capital).
Corentin Chamboredon, 24 May 2020

1. Regarding the status of the kingdom, Michel Peissel is an author I recall having read since long time, notably a beautiful book on Zanskar, but his infos seem more for traveling than to know about the local status of the territories. As Corentin says, relations between countries in the region are complex with a tangle of suzerainties that does not always fit with the Western square or pyramid thought with no vacuum let. However, the Nepalese administration does not appear to have been so aleatory in authorizing local systems while being strict on the Nepali national symbols like the flag and the language. I think one can wonder whether the Mustang was not just one of the traditional kingdoms whose existence continued after the conquests but which ended up being included in the system (Panchayat) districts because it seems to follow the same path as all the other traditional kingdoms whose final incorporation was roughly done in two stages, in 1962 (establishment of a new district/jilla system) and 2008 (start of the current long territorial reform). Nepal had then the distinction of having abolished its monarchy (in 2006) while continuing to maintain kingdoms. 2. Concerning the symbols of Mustang, I can resume like this: - There is the attestation of Jaume Olle concerning the blue flag with white star from the time of the end of the kingdom in 2008, the one we see everywhere and whose, as say Peter, one can effectively wonder if it is not a late touristic creation. - There is a royal flag on WSM, as reported by Corentin, whose origin J. Olle specifies to be Vexilla Belgica. - Now Nozomi shows a white vertical flag of the "Bhutanese style", provided that it is indeed an emblem for the country, it seems to be the only one attested by a photo. - And for the emblem, Corentin quotes a goat head for the capital, which also gave its name to the kingdom. - Finally, on the royalark website ( ) one can also see a symbol which seems to linked to the kingdom .
Jean-Marc Merklin, 24 May 2020

The said symbol actually looks like a variant of Triple Jewel (/Triratna/), a Buddhist symbol which is certainly used in Mustang, but not in the capacity we discuss here. In Tibetan tradition, it is depicted as placed atop a lotus and surrounded with flames which symbolize its shine, while its three segments usually have curved edges, as depicted there.
Tomislav Todorovic 25 May 2020

As Jean-Marc Merklin pointed out, a white vertical flag in the photo of the book looks very similar to Bhutanese prayer flag. The flag is not definitely Nepalese Hindu style.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 24 May 2020