In Tibetan customs, when a person passes away, there are several options for handling the deceased. These include cremation, water burial, traditional burial, sky burial (where the body is offered to vultures), and a unique addition by the Mustangese:
Cremation: The body is cremated in accordance with traditional funeral rites.
Water Burial: The body is placed in a river.
Traditional Burial: The deceased is buried in the ground.
Sky Burial: The body is dismembered and offered to vultures.
Unusual Ritual: In Mustang, a distinct practice exists. If a man dies without leaving any sons or grandsons, his body can be temporarily enclosed within the walls of his house until a male heir is born. At that point, the body is moved to a hill and offered to demons in exchange for the long life of the male heir.
During exorcism ceremonies, monks wear elaborate ceremonial robes and yak-hair boots. They symbolically launch painted arrows from bows, stones from slingshots, and bullets from muzzle-loading guns at masked demons. A policeman-monk, wielding peacock feathers as a nightstick, maintains order during these rituals. Every gesture, chant, and prayer must adhere to strict guidelines, as the Mustangese believe that any deviation may result in the expulsion of demons not being successful. These customs and ceremonies showcase the deeply rooted spiritual and cultural beliefs of the region.
In Mustang, the people’s livelihoods revolve around agriculture and animal husbandry. They cultivate barley and raise goats and sheep for their milk and butter. Horses and yaks are essential as beasts of burden in this region. Notably, Marpha, Lete and Kobang in the Mustang district are renowned for apple farming and apple-based products such as dried apples, apple jams, and brandy, particularly the famous Marpha apple brandy.