The two ancient forbidden kingdoms of Nepal and Tibet have shared a long history together, which began (around 624 CE) with the marriage of Tibet’s Great King Songtsen Gampo and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal.
If you have travelled to both Tibet and Nepal, it would be easy to find a significant amount of similarities in their culture, traditions and architecture. It is said that when Princess Bhrikuti came to Tibet, she brought with her sacred images and expert Newari craftsmen from Nepal. The King and the Princess then built a temple together the ‘Tsulag Khang’ (House of Wisdom) to house these sacred images – more popularly known today as ‘Jokhang’ (House of the Lord).
Later during1245 CE a genius Nepali artisan by the name of Arniko travelled to Tibet leading a team of architects to build a Golden Stupa. He also contributed to the construction of a few sections of the Potala palace.
The main passage into Tibet, up until 1930, was an ancient trading route through Kyirong or Kuti. After easier routes (which still took several weeks) through Sikkim and Kalimpong (Hill Stations in India) were found Newari merchants from Kathmandu (capital of Nepal) started trading in Tibet with their bronze and silver craftworks, food staples and machinery. There was a significant amount of exchange of knowledge and skills, where Tibetan artists learned painting techniques from Nepalese artists.
My father belonged to a strict and traditional Newari priest family. In the early 1950s, my father rebelled against family traditions and joined a group of Newari merchants travelling to Lhasa through Kalimpong. He was in his early 20s then.
On his way he stayed in Kalimpong for a while to learn the skill of watch repair before leaving for Lhasa (capital of Tibet) – watches were worn mostly by the Royal family and ministers in Tibet, and considered to be a symbol of prestige.
In Lhasa he fell in love with a Tibetan girl. Belonging to completely different societies and cultures, they decided to run away and settle in a new place ‘Kalimpong’ – far away from both Lhasa and Kathmandu.
With just a horse and a pair of feet to help him make the arduous journey, he left early to make arrangements for their new life. When he (my father) first told me this story it was also the first time I was hearing about Trekking and High Mountain passes. His anecdotes about encountering bandits, trekking through snow, riding a horse over mountain passes and crossing icy cold rivers planted the seeds for adventure, the fruits of which I would later on get to have.
My parents raised me and my four siblings in Kalimpong and later in Nepal. They both had their own personal challenges, my father stayed away from his family’s community and my mother never got to see her family again. However, they left no stone unturned when it came to the upbringing of their five children, and in the end weaved their own beautiful story – a family the two of them made.
My mother passed away in 2003, and father in 2016.
My first visit to Tibet was in the early 1990s’ when I lead a group of people on a journey to Mt. Kailash in Tibet. With no experienced guides, proper roads and accommodation we bumped and bolted across the beautiful and serene Tibetan Plateau.
Little did I know at the time that this was the journey that would one day make me realise my true calling in life.
Later, a few years after my mother passed away, I decided to visit Lhasa and, for the first time, meet my mother’s family. It went splendidly well and I met all four of my mother’s sisters and their children. Though my mother wasn’t there I was finally happy to meet the people she grew up with – my extended family.
My first trip to Tibet introduced me to its beautiful natural landscape, and with more frequent visits later on, I was able to gradually understand its culture and people. Having an extended family in Tibet further deepens my bond with the land, its people and culture.
Combining my passion for exploration which I inherited from my father and love for my mother’s homeland, I started Basanta Adventure Treks and Expeditions – with the hope that others would get a chance to experience this sacred land.
Today, we have completed 20+ years and now offer a wide range of treks and expeditions in not only Tibet, but also Nepal and Bhutan.
- Basanta Bajracharya,
(Founder Basanta Adventures Treks & Expeditions)