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KAGBENI, NEPAL: Where the spiritual and mundane collide

Claire Orrell

Kagbeni (Upper Mustang, Nepal) was the farthest North I went on my trek around Annapurna and one of the most intriguing places I visited. Situated in a place of stunning natural beauty on the confluence of the Gandhaki and Kali Gandaki Rivers, the village's mud houses and dark alleyways are a joy to explore. Lingering evidence of the animist beliefs that existed pre Tibetan Buddhism can be found as well as the terrifying Buddhist creatures that decorate the Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling monastery (established 1429).

Animism is often found amongst the beliefs of the world's indigenous people. Animists believe that the spiritual and mundane worlds are one and that humans as well as animals, plants and other natural phenomena such as rivers and mountains have souls or spirits.

Check out the Nepali film Kagbeni for a creepy take on the region.

View over Kagbeni. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

View over Kagbeni. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling monastery. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

Kag Chode Thupten Samphel Ling monastery. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

Creatures in the monastery. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

Creatures in the monastery. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

A Kagbeni Street complete with prayer wheels, flags and mountains beyond. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

A Kagbeni Street complete with prayer wheels, flags and mountains beyond. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

An animist totem above a door in Kagbeni. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014

An animist totem above a door in Kagbeni. Photograph © Claire Orrell 2014