by Rajeeb Man Tamrakar, Chen Qiaoyan
KATHMANDU, May 6 (Xinhua) -- A team of scholars and
mountaineers recently discovered caves with magnificent ancient mural depicting
Buddhist teachings and religion in the remote Himalayan district of Mustang in
northern Nepal, situated some 200km north of Kathmandu.
The Mustang region, which opened to foreigners in
1992 is a visually stunning but often dry and harsh alpine terrain adjoining
China¡¯s Tibet which is considered as the trans-Himalayan desert area.
The team comprising American, Italian and Nepali
archaeologists and explorers, following the lead of local shepherds who took
shelter in one of those caves joined the expedition to uncover those cave
complexes said to contain fascinating Buddhist mural. The archaeologists of the
team believed that the exiting finding they uncovered dates between 13th and
Talking to Xinhua here on Sunday, Prakash Darnal, the
Chief Archeology Officer of the Culture Preservation and Promotion Division at
the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and one of the team member
responsible in uncovering the caves said this is the first time that such
archeological expedition was carried out in the Upper Mustang region after being
allowed to foreigners.
The expedition was participated by two Nepali
archaeologists including Darnal and Sukra Sagar Shrestha who also worked as
liaison officer on behalf of the government of Nepal.
Chief Archeology Officer Darnal expressed the view
that the caves they have found at Choser area in Upper Mustang still remained
intact till the date due to its location which is virtually inaccessible to
He, however, declined to reveal the exact location of
the caves as treasure hunters might ransack those cave as it had happened in the
Among the findings they uncovered inside the caves
comprised decorative wall motifs seen nowhere else in Asia, different types of
China's Tibetan scripts executed in ink, silver and gold along with
pre-Christian era pottery shred, according to Nepali archaeologists.
Archeologist Darnal said that the locals recalled of
such historic monuments, which were never been documented by anybody but were
being told as folklore by generation to generation in the villages. The elders
of the area could relate large number of such monuments in the area, which were
forgotten by the present generation.
"But the elders of the region confirmed that every
settlement in the region had similar caves which were apparently reserved as an
assembly room for Buddhist teachings," he said.
He said that the findings could just be a window as
they found several holes in single caves. "We found clusters of at least 40-50
smaller chambers inside a single cave and there is possibility that the caves
are interrelated from within," he added.
Although the exact reason and people responsible in
drawing such magnificent mural can not be confirmed right now, the
archaeologists involved in the expedition expressed the view that the caves
could have been used by the pilgrims crossing Nepal-China border for meditation
as the caves are located near Mansarovar lake, a popular pilgrimage among Nepali
and Indians Buddhists as well as Hindus situated in China.
"Among 18-20 passes used by the travelers to cross
Nepal-China border, only the Mustang has the pass which could be used throughout
the year. Most of the passes remain inaccessible due to harsh climatic
condition," said Darnal.
Prior to this, during a research jointly carried out
by Cologne and Bonn Universities at lower Mustang, various objects including
stone tools and pottery shreds were found which dated back some 2,800 years.
According to archaeologist Shrestha, they conducted expedition in lower Mustang
because foreigners were not allowed to travel upper Mustang then.
Meanwhile, Broughton Coburn, an environmental and
cultural conservation expert who returned to Kathmandu from the expedition
earlier this week told reporters, "We felt that it was unusual that a wall
painting as intricate and delicately executed and intact could be found for the
first time in this millennia."
The team assisted by two world-class mountaineers
braved the rigors of Mustang with average altitude of 4,500 meters and
gale-force winds using custom made prototypical climbing tools to anchor the
team to the poor quality, crumbling rock at the cave to find the cave complexes
containing a stunning, seven-meter long mural.
"I can unequivocally say that climbing the caves was
greatly more exciting than any emotions I had on Mt. Everest (Qomolangma)," said
Pete Athens, a leading mountaineer who successfully scaled the Mt. Qomolongma
seven times. Sharing his experience about the expedition with the media, Athens
said that leading the climbs into the previously unexplored territory knocked
the experience of climbing Mt. Qomolongma into the shades.