Medieval Town Blended with History & Modernity
Kagbeni is an exceptional well-known village of बाह्र गाँउ Baarah Gaun (lit. twelve villages) region in Mustang district. It lies in the famous Annapurna Circuit Trek route and is a doorway to Upper Mustang at an altitude of 2,800m. It is a charming old-fashioned village with thoroughly packed mud-brick houses, dark lanes and imposing Chhortens. The village positions in a little green oasis dominated by its red monastery. The “Kag” of “Kagbeni” used to be “Ghag” meaning center and hence, is a center of nearby villages of Jomsom to south and Muktinath to the east.
“Beni” in Nepali means meeting point of two rivers, and indeed Kagbeni situated on the banks of the confluence of Jhong and famous Kali Gandaki rivers. Before going to Muktinath, Hindu pilgrims offer Pinda and perform Shraddha (death ritual) to their late ancestors at this confluence trusting that it brings salvation to the departed soul.
According to the Hindu epic Adhyatma Ramayana, by the suggestion of Saptarishis; Rishi putra Kagbhusundi meditated here. Hence the place was named Kagbeni. The village upholds the characteristic appearance of a fortress town and is ethnically very rich.
History behind the place
This town played a very important role throughout “Salt Trade” era that grown between Tibet and Nepal. Though, with the establishment of Mustang in the 15th century, Kagbeni’s importance lessened. The main ethnic group in the village are Bhotias (possess last name Gurung and Thakuri) and Thakalis.
This is the ruined palace of Kag Khar dynasty that used to house 108 rooms. Historically, Kagbeni used to be an important fortified palace along the “Salt Trade Route”. Even at present, the layout of the town bears testimony of war and reflects its border position. The dark alleys give way to small interior courtyards. The streets and the tunnels appear to wind their way through the sturdy whitewashed houses of the old town, constructed as a fortress as a means of defense against wind and bandits.
From Besisahar via Thorung La (5,416m): 9 to 12 days walk
Beni or Nayapul-Birethanti: 4 to 7 days walk
Jomsom: about 2 and 1/2 hours walk