WHO ARE NEPAL’S SHERPAS ?

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Mountains…….it’s a piece of cake, can only come from a Sherpa”

HISTORY/ORIGIN 

Sherpa also called as Sharwa literally means ‘easterner’ believed to have originated in Khams, the eastern part of Tibet. Initially, they started migrating in the 15th century in the search of livelihood necessities as traders, herders of yaks and cows and as farmers as well. Nearly, a group of 150,000 mountain-dwelling Sherpas live in Nepal, Sikkim and Tibet (China). Sherpas obtain/acquire Tibetan culture and bear the ancestral Tibetan origin and usually speak language called Sherpa – which is little closer to the form of Tibetan spoken in Tibet. The maximum number of Sherpas living in Nepal speaks Nepali along with their own language. However, those who receive education in Tibet in Buddhist monasteries can speak Tibetan.

CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE

Sherpas mainly live in Solu-Khumbu district in the womb of Himalayas in which Khumbu and Solu are connected by Sunkoshi River (one of the major tributary of the Kosi River). Geographically, Khumbu region is situated at an elevation of 12,000 to 14,000 ft (3700-4300m) whereas; Solu is at the elevation of 8000-10,000 ft (2400-3100m). The Khumbu region is covered from the China border (Tibet) in the east towards Bhotekosi River in the west. 

When talking about culturally enriched Sherpas, they belong from the ancient Nyigma or Red Hat; a distinct practice of Tibetan Buddism with a blend of Buddism and animism. Basically, Sherpa culture is all about the clan system-descent from the common ancestors. It is believed that a true Sherpa is determined through the paternal line and belongs to 1 to 18 clans and individually carry a clan name. Despite, born and living in the most outraged ranges of Himalayas their ancestors were traders of salt, wool and rice, herders and also as farmers. It was until the 20th century they accepted themselves as the mountaineering heroes of the high altitudes. May be it the ethnic genetic capability or the habituate of exhilarating the mountainous lifestyles, makes them the ultimate mountaineers and trekkers compared to the normal human being. 

Since, the major territories of the Sherpa district are rich as pasture lands due to which the Sherpa community was obligated in the trade for food and clothing and also, as herders and farmers cultivating potato, barley and buckwheat. On the contrary note, they considered mountains as sacred and way of life and respected the mountains and prevented the westerners to climb them with the fear that it will anger the gods and pollute the surroundings and animal killing might occur.

FESTIVAL

According, to the Tibetan Lunar Calendar there are few of the festivities celebrated by the Sherpa community. The Buddhist living in Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet the New Year begins only in the late February as Losar; the 15 days of celebration in which first three days is the main Celtic part of the festival. Some of the activities in the celebration are cleaning the houses, praying for the good fortune of the community in the upcoming years carried on with the arrangements of feasts, singing and dancing. However, Losar doesn’t have any spectators due to the off seasonal time in mountaineering and trekking. 

Next, is the ‘Harvest Festival’ which occurs in the month of July commonly known as ‘Dumje’ – the ritual of thanking and celebrating the success of their hard work. Various ceremonial functions are performed in their homes and in the nearby monasteries to pay respect and to attend the ritual dances. 

Last but not the least is the Mani Rimdu, enjoyed and participated by the trekkers visiting the Everest region in the late October or the early November which is performed in Thyangboche Monastry. Some of the attractions of this celebration are the colorful masked dancers in the vibrant atmosphere as the Sherpas travel to witness the authentic the twirling! Black Hat; in which the dancers tries to drift away the demons and the monks plays the giant Tibetan horns. 

OCCUPATION 

As mentioned earlier, Sherpas evolved themselves as traders, herders and as farmers in the beginning and prohibited the climbing occupation. Eventually, it was only in the 1900’s popularized as climbers and accepted as their profession due to prevail in conquering the Himalayas. This was later realized and felt by the westerners about this unique capacity which helped them in many expeditions. The first ever justifiable achievement in the entire world was in 1953, when Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand. Hence, making the god gifted yet genetically genuine climbers of the Himalayas as Sherpas. 

(Image Source:- We Are Sherpa; Facebook)

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