Kagbeni | History of Kagbeni

  • Hemanta Budhathoki
  • Last Updated on Jul 21, 2024

Table of Contents

Kagbeni is a Tibetan village that is the only “Gateway to upper Mustang” located in the Valley of Kali Gandaki River. Kagbeni is known as one of the oldest villages in the Himalayas. Kagbeni lies in the Baragubg Muktikshetra rural municipality of Mustang district in Gandaki province of western Nepal. Kagbeni is situated at an altitude of 2,804 m away from sea level with an area of 58.3 km2. Kagbeni receives power from a hydroelectricity facility from the nearby Kali Gandaki River. Being a small village it has its’ own popularity and stardom throughout the world because of its natural beauty, culture, tradition, and landscape.

Kagbeni lies in the route of Annapurna Circuit Trek which brings a great experience of walking through the narrow path between the old mud houses with colorful prayer flags. It feels like medieval time is passing right in front of your eyes. You are in the rain shadow of the Greater Himalayas and the climate and landscape are similar to the Tibetan Plateau and can be cold, windy and dry. Foreigners other than Nepali cannot enter north of Kagbeni without an Upper mustang permit but can explore the village nearby.
Kagbeni village
Kagbeni village view from Muktinath Jomsom driving route

The important place of Hindus

Kagbeni is one of the famous religious sites for Hindu pilgrims. Kagbeni is famous for Pitri-Puja which is also called Pitri- Moksastala which is done to remove the lost soul of ancestors from hell and helping them to reach heaven resulting in blessing to all the family members. So Kagbeni is an important place for Hindus to perform Pitri-sraddha. That’s why many Hindu pilgrims stop at Kagbeni usually the day before going to Muktinath, to perform the final ritual for the departed soul of their ancestors.

Kagbeni for Buddhism
In the Buddhist view, Kagbeni is an important village. Villages have years back important Buddhist monasteries and temples. The entire village is a unique Tibetan village. Their language, lifestyle and landscape are also similar to Tibet. The Buddhist culture of the town that Pelisse described fifty years ago is still evident today, with rows of large prayer wheels, a monastery that blows its horns at the break of dawn, and Tibetan-influenced architecture.   

The main religion of the villagers of Kagbeni is Tibetan Buddhism which plays a central role in the livelihoods of Kagbeni and has a large influence on habits and lifestyle. Due to their Tibetan culture and religious traditions, the inhabitants are called “Bhote” by their southern neighbor while they call themselves “Kakpa”. According to Tibetan Buddhism the middle son of the family becomes a monk (Lama). Due to the out-migration of young villagers and a higher proportion of girls, Kagbeni VDC established initiatives in which boys from outside Kagbeni get offered free religious education and life necessities.

The place to visit in Kagbeni

Beautiful Kagbeni village is with views of plateau landscape, Himalayan views, Kali Gandaki River valley and more. Buddhist Chhorten, Typical houses, oldest monastery and hiking around is the most visiting place inside this village.

Kag Chode Monastic zone
Kag Ghar Ruined Palace
Devthen Chhorten
Tharwa Chyoling Nunnery

Tiri takes about half an hour, from where you can take a steep path up to a monastery with great views of the Kali Gandaki, the bare rocky hills and the snow-capped Himalayan peaks in the distance. To get to Tiri, cross the bridge in Kagbeni and follow the only path north, towards the green terraced farmland in the distance.

Eye-catching views of the impressive huge Chhortens, traditional flat mud roofed houses with prayer flags and Mhanes on the roof, old women weaving and gossiping in their traditional costume are some of the other main attractions of Kagbeni. Kagbeni also provides spectacular views of Mount Nilgiri (7,060m), Tilicho Peak (7,139m), Yak Kawa (6,482m), Thorung Peak (6488m) and Tiri village.
Kagbeni Mud Houses
Mud houses in Kagbeni and Kali Gandaki River valley 

Staying in Kagbeni
Kagbeni is a famous touristic place and it has several accommodations as simple guest houses but now day there has built unique comfortable hotels as well. Accommodations are as per your budget. Same hotels provide hygienic foods and drinks. Room rates in Kagbeni start from NPR 600 till 3000. Muktinath, Jomsom, Upper Mustang route, Jharkot villages are nearby Kagbeni.  

The history behind the name Kagbeni
The Tibetan name of Kagbeni is “kak” which means blockage because this is the place where four routes meet and from here the lord of yesterday used to control and tax all the salt trade traffic from Dolpa, Tibet, Manang, and India. As per the Nepali meaning, Kagbeni is made of the two words ‘Kag’ and ‘venue where ‘Kag’ means crow and ‘venue means junction of two rivers which is Kali Gandaki and Jhong river. According to Puranas Kagbeni is also known as Yakshya-Tirtha, because of Nalakuyvera and Manigriva, the sons of the demigod Kuvera (Yakshya) passed through Kagbeni on their pilgrimage to Muktinath. According to Ramayan, Kagbhusundi meditated here on the suggestion of Saptarishis, after which it’s named Kagbeni.

History of Kagbeni

The Kagbeni was founded when two villages were destroyed by a demon that had the head of a lion, and a body of a serpent. The surviving villagers came together and founded a new village which was later named Kagbeni. It’s yet a secret, why and when these people abandoned this place.

Ancient Routes
The four ancient trade routes that cross Kagbeni were Lower Mustang from the north, Dolpa from the west, Manang from the east, and Nepal’s mid-hills from the south.

Which season is best for visiting Kagbeni?
March to May and September-December is the best time to see the view of high snowcapped mountains with less cold weather. Although travelers travel from January till February, it makes it harder for them to travel due to heavy snowfall. And During June-August, the roads to Kagbeni is spoiled due to rainfall.

How to reach Kagbeni?

Kagbeni is about 1 hour driving from Jomsom over bumpy roads or a trek of three-four hours. Jomsom is the only airport in this region. Flights are only operated from Pokhara airport which takes only about 15 minutes. Kagbeni is about 8/9 hours driving from Pokhara with a private jeep. This is a whole day driving over a bumpy road.  For a low budget, can take a local bus from Kathmandu or from Pokhara. Another local bus or jeep from Jomsom can reach Kagbeni village. Trekkers cross Thorong-La Himalayan pass from Manang also reach Kagbeni village to overnight and explore.        

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki is team leader of Nepal Highland Trekking and travel company. 

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