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Yartung Festival

Mustang’s Yartung festival kicks off after two years

The festival, which was observed just as a formality for the past two years due to the pandemic, will be held till August 12.

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KATHMANDU: In a sign of attempts to live with COVID-19, the Yartung festival – held annually at Ranipauwa of Mustang district – kicked off today. The festival, which was observed just as a formality for the past two years due to the pandemic, will be held till August 12.

Along with visitors from neighboring villages, the festival is also a major draw for domestic and international tourists, creating a bustling environment for trade and business in the region. Yartung festival, which holds a strong cultural significance for the Mustang locals, is observed every year on the day of Janai Purnima with several programs.

The resumption of the annual festival has also made the local business owners optimistic for the upcoming tourist season, which has been on the mend since the start of the year.

According to Kesang Thokya Thakuri, hotel owner of Royal Mustang, the region used to be packed with domestic and international tourists during major seasons prior to the pandemic. However, with the enforcement of lockdowns and travel restrictions, the number had dropped to zero for over a year.

“This year, with the celebration of Yartung after a gap of a few years, elders are hopeful for a good year. Many domestic and international tourists used to come to Mustang to witness the Yartung celebration before the pandemic,” he said. “Mustang is a place of high religious and cultural value. I hope that the resumption of the Yartung can help promote cultural tourism in the region.

“Raju Gurung, a driver who regularly commutes from Pokhara to Mustang with passengers, is also optimistic about a better tourist season.”I am getting calls from local villagers after two years, requesting delivery of goods and items needed for the Yartung festival. With the resumption of the festival, I am happy to get some work even during the off-season.

About eight to 10 foreigners visit Mustang on a daily basis even now. With the start of the festival and a good number of tourists starting to visit the region, I am very hopeful for a good year ahead,” he said.

Nearly 300,000 foreign visitors have entered the country in the past seven months. The Annapurna Circuit is one of the most popular trekking destinations in the world, whereas Mustang was ranked eighth among the top 10 destinations to travel in 2022 by Lonely Planet last October.

Mustang is also a top destination among Indian tourists who visit Muktinath, a popular Hindu religious site.

“The tourist season in March and April saw over 10,000 tourists visit Mustang, a significant implication for a sooner than anticipated recovery.”The local community is looking to promote local culture to attract both foreign and domestic tourists after facing heavy losses due to the pandemic,” Thakuri said.

Pemba Tsering Gurung, a ward member of Varagaun Muktichhetra Rural Municipality-1, said Yartung has been observed in the Mustang region since ancient times.

According to him, it is a tradition for the residents of the region to migrate to settlements below the mountain during the winter. The festival is also a time for locals to rejoice for three days before the start of winter. Yartung is a combination of the local tongue – Yar and Tung, meaning ‘monsoon’ and ‘farewell’, respectively.

“Many people know Mustang for its scenic beauty, but few have indulged in the local culture,” he said, adding, “Yartung is all about the local culture.”Prior to the pandemic, hundreds of domestic and international tourists visited Mustang to witness the nail-biting horse race and other games that wrap up the festival, supporting the local economy directly or indirectly.

With the resumption of the festival after a hiatus of two years, the locals have their fingers crossed for a prosperous year ahead.

-Himalayan Times

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