This 30-minute PBS presentation is a small commitment of time to open your eyes wide and shine some light on a little known corner of the world. Mustang (pronounced Moo-Stahng) is variously known as the last kingdom and the lost kingdom of Tibet. Once part of Tibet and later taken by Nepal, this tiny, isolated kingdom is, in many ways, the last, best hope for keeping Tibetan spiritual culture and traditions alive.
In only a half-hour you are immersed in this world of intense color and music, like an island of saturated intensity amid the arid, bleak surroundings. Mustang is isolated in place (it takes five days by horse to get to the capital city, crossing windy, open plains and high mountain passes, some above 15,000 feet), and isolated in culture. It is a sanctuary of authentic Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Nepal first opened it’s southern border to outsiders in 1991, but traditions have lain fallow and neglect has taken hold. The once-glorious 15th-century monasteries began to collapse, the numbers of spiritually dedicated monks and caretakers dwindled, and sacred art and activity seemed poised to fall into dust.
This documentary, in addition to sharing the people and place, also follows the efforts of restoration of the monasteries. The freshly uncovered glory of the art that had been obscured by time is beautiful, as is the commitment of the King of Mustang who asserts that without cultural identity, there is nothing.
The show wraps up right at the time you’d expect a commercial break (or pledge break, as the case may be…by the way, when was the last time you donated to support the absolutely necessary and vital work of PBS? Donate here.) It is narrated by Richard Gere, and is an appetizer-sized tease, stoking the fire of your desire to travel. The DVD includes a special feature with video of the Tiji Dance Festival of Mustang.