Tiji, also known as Teechi is a 3 days long festival held in the ancient settlements of Lo Manthang. Mythologies surrounding the festival reveals how the Tiji festival was instigated to prevail victory over the evil being the true purpose of the celebration. As per the legend, in the ancient times, the current regions of Mustang was being destroyed by a demon who spread diseases and took away waters. A reincarnation of Buddha- Dorje Jono fought and defeated this demon and the festival celebrated his victory over the wicked with prayers and colorful dances.
Dorjee Jono, also known as Dorje Phurba, Vajrakila or Vajrakumar is a name of a deity in Vajrayana Buddhism, an archaic Buddhist practice in Nepal and India. The Buddhist masters Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra and Shilamnju from Nepal went on to introduce and disseminate this practice in Tibet around 8th century CE, where it branched into many lineages. Padmasambhava instructed steps for the sacred dance of Vajrakila at Samye Monastery in Tibet. Chhode Monastery in Upper Mustang is famous for this particular dance rituals.
However, the festival of Tiji didn’t start until the 17th century. When the King of Mustang Samdup Rabten invited Shakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga Sinam to come to Lo Manthang, he stayed at the Chhode Monastery and performed the sacred Vajrakila ritual for the wellbeing of the people and to vanquish all evil elements of Mustang. Since then, the festival has come to be and the Chhode Monastery has been celebrating this sacred dance in Lo Manthang, over three days and in the courtyard of the Mustang Royal Palace. Originally it was performed at the end of the twelfth month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar, but nowadays this has shifted to the third month (May) of the Tibetan Lunar calendar.
The main dancer (Tsowo) completes a three months retreat before the main event. The event is attended by the Royals of Mustang, local villagers and people from all seven provinces of Upper Mustang, which is accompanied by many sacred rituals. Tiji or Teechi, pronounced as per the Lobo dialect (native to the indigenous people of Mustang) is a part of meditation practice based o the Tantric text related to Vajra Kumar (Vajra Kila).
There are two kinds of activities leading up to the meditation: first being peaceful dance steps, followed by the conquering of the negative elements, depicted in Mele, the second phase-the dance. The dance ritual has three main parts. In the primary stage of the ritual dance, there is a total of 15 steps. Then in the main part, various ‘celestial palaces’ and ‘deities’ are signified in two steps. In the final stage, there are ways to clear away eternal and nihilistic views and to provide propitiousness Different poses of dance represents different meditation process in a symbolic way and all the difficulties in life are believed to have been cleared by seeing these steps with faith and respect.
Upper Mustang and its cultural and traditional aspects have been in close ties with those of Tibet. Due to the proximity to Tibet and influences, it can be witnessed predominantly. Once an independent kingdom, Mustang had remained in secrecy until it became a dependency of the Government of Nepal and was opened to the public. The last king of Mustang, Jigme Dorje Palbar Bista died in 2016. His ancestors were the direct benefactors to establish Lo Manthang as the Buddhist Kingdom and built much of Lo Manthang as we know today.