There were no events in the morning other than the continuing pujas in the monastery, so we took a walk around the walls of the town.
After lunch we staked out our place at the festival. The crowd was smaller than for the previous two days, which seemed odd since this day's activities were at least as interesting.
The afternoon began with a solemn puja of the monks now chanting and blowing their horns in the middle of the town plaza. The tsowo, among the chanting red-hat monks, performed ritual offerings and then another exorcism of an effigy of the demon. This time, however, he stuck his ritual daggers and knives into a piece of goat meat that had been sprinkled with red powder. Three masked dancers assisted him. By the end of the ceremony he had cut the meat into small slices, neutralizing the evil it embodied.
For the conclusion of the ceremony and the festival, we all moved outside the city walls. Throughout the pujas, the monks had been preparing five tormas, small ritual piles of tsampa (barley cakes) covered with sacred red power. The tsowa now needed to throw them ceremonially on the ground in an auspicious direction that would ensure rain for crops and the other goals of the festival.
By tradition, the king chooses the direction by firing a gun. This time, the 77-year-old king delegated the task to his nephew, the crown prince. Helping him were bodyguards and other members of the royal family, all of whom wanted to take a few shots with the medieval muzzle-loaders. All fired their muskets to the north.
Once all the royals had fired their shots, the tsowa slowly threw each of the tormas upside down on the ground in the same direction. To complete the ceremony, he covered them with an old snow leopard skin and gave a final whack. The festival was now successfully finished and everyone filed back into the town.
We then did something no other visitors could do. We joined the royal party at the king's palace. Our guide Kinna had been to Mustang over 50 times in the 20 years it has been open, and with his fluent Tibetan he had struck up friendships with most of the royal family and their bodyguards. He was therefore able to talk his way through the barriers and get us an audience with the king. (Some other groups also visited the king, but they had to wait for a non-festival day.)
The king was in his living quarters on the fourth floor of the palace (the first three seemed to be mostly storage). Since he didn't need to go out into the festival this year, he was dressed in faded Western sportswear and could have been mistaken for any local on the street. We each offered him a kata (ceremonial scarf), which he insisted on putting around our necks to bless us. At his request, we sat for ten minutes sipping an orange drink and making small talk about innocuous subjects like the weather in San Francisco (also arid but not as cold as Mustang) and then said our farewells. We also gave katas to the elderly queen and crown prince, who was in another room whooping it up with his friends. On the way out, Kinna was happy when one of his royal friends gave him a cigarette – Marlboro rather then the cheap Nepali brand.