Upper Mustang is not about the Trans-Himalayan land and the old Tibetan traditional culture and tradition, but the land of Chhoser Cave, the 800 BC old cave.
Upper Mustang is the walled city of Lo Manthang, famously known as a Shangri-La. It is also known as the former kingdom of Lo. Being restricted until 1992, Upper Mustang is an isolated and most preserved region in the world, that has been preserved centuries years old Tibetan culture. The high population of this region still speaks traditional Tibetic languages and follows Tibetan religion and tradition. It used to be the trade link between India and China from the 15 century to the 17 century.
Upper Mustang – The land of Caves
Mustang is the land of caves where 10,000 artificial caves are dug in the Mustang district. These are also called the sky caves of Nepal. From the past several years, many archaeologists and researchers have been exploring these caves and discovered partially mummified human bodies and skeletons that are 2,000-3000 years old. Not only that they have also discovered the collection of 55 cave paintings depicting the life of the Buddha, sculptures, manuscripts, and numerous artifacts that are 12th to 14th century. No one knew who built these caves and for what purposes. And Chhoser Cave (Shija Jhong Cave) is also one of them.
Chhoser Cave / Shija Jhong Cave/ Sky Cave of Upper Mustang
Shija Jhong Cave or Chhoser Cave is one of the most mysterious and amazing caves in Upper Mustang, Nepal which lies near the border of China (Tibet). It is a 5 story building on the cliff. It consists of more than 40 rooms along with numerous ladders to go to another floor. There are windows too, and from the 5th floor, you can see the trans-Himalayan land of Chhoser valley.
Shija Jhong Cave has a very fascinating history. It is man-made cave which is craved during the time of the Tibetan War. Since the valley was under the threat, the people who were living in Chhoser and adjacent villages used to hide over there to escape from the brutality. The spacious interior of the cave is like a tunnel.
Why this Shija Jhong Cave/ Chhoser Cave is Built?
It is still unclear why the biggest sky caves are built. As per the discoveries and history, Upper Mustang people had used this cave for various purposes. In early 1000 BC. The caves were utilized for the burial chambers.
During the research, scientists found 27 human remains that had cut marks on the bones, dated from the 3rd to 8th centuries that relives burial ritual of the Bon- Buddhist practice, also sky Burial. Still, this burial system exists in the Mustang area, where the dead bodies are cut into pieces, including bones to be quickly grabbed up by the vultures.
At the time of 10 century, the frequent war led the villagers to hide in caves along with their families. During the 1400s, the caves were used to meditate storage unties and military lookouts reflecting the cave civilization of the ancient people.
How to reach the Sky cave of Mustang or Shija Jhong Cave?
It takes 2 hours of trekking or walking to reach Shija Jhong cave from Lo Manthang. And it takes 30 min to reach Shija Jhong Cave on a jeep or bike.
Best Season to Travel Upper Mustang, Nepal
Being rainshadow of the Annapurna mountains, the upper regions is perfect for trekking even during the pick monsoon season in Nepal. They have very little rainfall which made the upper Kali Gandaki valley dry. In winters the climate will be very harsh it is better to avoid going over Upper Mustang in winter.