Robert Powell

Kharsun Dzong
62 x 70 cm

A partial reconstruction plan view of the Rani Dzong, the Queen's castle, the lower of two hilltop sites north of Lo Manthang. The regular row of rocks in the corner of the painting provides a one metre scale.

In the fifteenth century, Amepal established a large castle on the higher of two conical hills that dominate the Lo Manthang valley. The lower hill is crowned by the strange spiral structure of the Queen's castle and controls the western valley that leads to the plateau of Tibet.

The spiral is a very unusual form in Tibetan architecture and the mandala-like plan of the central building gives the whole structure an iconic, ritual undertone.

The importance of the Kali Gandaki valley as a trade route between central Asia, Tibet and the Indian plains is evident from prehistoric times. Since the ninth century six different powers have controlled Mustang. Over the centuries a great many forts and castles have been built and abandoned. They have functioned as refuges, as observation towers and as fortresses proper, controlling the access to local territories and trade routes, as well as the collection of customs and taxes from passing caravans.

This hill is now a sky-burial site and visiting the castle attracts vultures. The painting is a vulture's eye view of the ruined fort.