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More about Sherpa

"A Sherpa, to a foreigner, is someone who carries loads at elevated heights. Sherpas are actually all Tibetans. They are known as "People from the East." 

Mount Everest towers above a territory inhabited by a varied population of indigenous cultures. For millennia, people in this region have lived in peace with their surroundings. Discover what it's like to live in a severe environment beneath the world's tallest mountain, as well as the importance of ceremonies and prayer flags. Investigate this sacred mountain and other sacred mountains in your area.

Sacred sites have existed in communities all throughout the world since prehistoric times. Mountains, rivers, forests, and temples are examples of such locations. Sacred sites may be found anywhere on the planet, even your own backyard. Such sites, whether sacred to one or many, have been set aside and are worthy of great respect by all. Mount Everest is one of the numerous sites that some people regard as sacred. Mount Everest, also known as the 'Goddess of the Sky' or Sagarmatha by the Nepalese and the 'Goddess Mother of the Earth' or Chomolungma by the Tibetans, is most venerated by those who dwell in her shadow, the Sherpas.

 

MAJOR FESTIVALS

The Sherpas' primary festivals include Losar, Dumje, and Mani Rimdu. Losar, which occurs around the end of February, marks the start of the Tibetan calendar's New Year. It is marked by considerable feasting and drinking, as well as dancing and singing.

 

Dumje is a celebration celebrated for the Sherpa community's wealth, good health, and overall well-being. It occurs in July when agricultural labor is over, trading trips to Tibet have returned, and Sherpas are prepared to transport their herds into the high pastures. Sherpas visit their local monasteries and pray to their gods throughout a seven-day period. There is a lot of eating and drinking, and the younger generation is singing and dancing.

Mani Rimdu is celebrated four times a year, twice in Khumbu (at the Tami and Tengboche monasteries) and twice in Solu-Khumbu (at the Chiwong and Thaksindhu monasteries). Monks dressed in bright clothes and ornate masks imitate gods and demons and conduct religious dances to frighten away evil spirits.

Except for Nyungne, all Sherpa holidays and festivities include feasting and drinking. This is restitution for sins done in the preceding year. Laypeople abstain from drinking and dancing for three days and may even fast completely. They come to the gompa to read sacred scriptures with the lamas or to say the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. It is the primary mantra of Buddhists and may also be seen engraved on prayer wheels. One of the numerous interpretations is "Om, the Jewel of the Doctrine is in the Lotus of the World." For two weeks, monks and nuns adhere to Nyungne's rules.

 

FOOD

Dairy products, particularly butter and curds, play a vital role in the Sherpa diet. Sherpas consume meat, yet because they are Buddhists, they will not murder animals..Starchy foods dominate the Sherpa diet, which is complemented with vegetables, spices, and occasionally meat. Sherpas also consume Tibetan tea (tea with salt and butter) at all meals and during the day. A traditional breakfast consists of Tibetan tea and many bowls of gruel made by combining water, tea, or milk with tsampa, a toasted grain. Lunch is served in the late morning and may consist of cooked potatoes coated in ground spices. A firm dough formed of a grain mixture (sen) is sometimes served with a thin sauce comprised of spices and vegetables, or meat if available. A traditional supper is a stew (shakpa) made of dough balls, potatoes, and veggies.

Chang, a beer prepared from maize, millet, or other grains, is a popular drink among Sherpas. This is drunk not just during meals but also at the majority of social and festive occasions. It holds significant symbolic and ceremonial value in Sherpa culture.

 

RITES OF PASSAGE

A Sherpa child's naming ceremony is a significant occasion. The birth and the time it happened are communicated to the local lama (Buddhist spiritual authority). The lama decides on the child's name and the date of the naming ceremony based on this information. Children are frequently named after the day of the week they were born. As a result, a newborn delivered on Friday would be known as "Pasang" (the Sherpa word for "Friday"). The lama, relatives, and neighbors are all invited to a feast to commemorate the name-giving.

Children are typically raised by their mothers because men are frequently absent from the home for long periods of the year. Young girls are exposed to housework at a young age, whilst males have more opportunities for leisure and play. Boys between the ages of seven and nine are subjected to an initiation rite presided over by the lama and accompanied by food and drinking.

The boy's family dresses up for the wedding ceremony (z endi) and walks in procession to the girl's residence. They are fed and entertained, and they are expected to dance and sing in exchange. They go to relatives' residences and continue the process. The group feasts for a day and a night before returning home with the bride. The real marriage is marked with a butter mark on the bride and groom's forehead. Family and friends present the bride with a dowry, which often includes rugs, woolen carpets, yak-wool mats, and even livestock.

The body is cleaned and wrapped in a white shroud at the time of death. The lama removes a lock of hair from the corpse to allow the departed's life breath (pran) to exit the body and reads from sacred texts. The lama determines whether the corpse should be buried, burned, or buried in water. The lama also chooses when the corpse will be removed, which may take many days. The body is placed on a frame before being cremated or buried. Flags and novice lamas blowing conch shells and playing drums and cymbals accompany the burial procession. Following death, the family performs ceremonies for the benefit of the dead as well as a ritual cleansing of the dwelling. Sherpas believe that the soul lingers around the house for 49 days, and on the 49th day, a huge feast is given to complete the remainder of the funeral ceremonies.

 

RELIGION

The Sherpas are Buddhists of the Nyingmapa sect. It is Tibet's oldest Buddhist sect, emphasizing mysticism and incorporating shamanistic rites and local deities from the pre-Buddhist Bon religion. As a result, in addition to Buddha and the main Buddhist divinities, the Sherpa believe in a plethora of gods and devils who are said to inhabit every mountain, cave, and forest. These must be revered or appeased using ancient traditions woven into the fabric of Buddhist ceremonial life. Indeed, distinguishing between Bon activities and Buddhism is very impossible.

Many of the big Himalayan peaks are revered as gods. Mount Everest is known as Chomolungma by the Sherpas, who revere it as the "Mother of the World." Mount Makalu is revered as the Shankar god (Shiva). Mountain gods associated with specific peaks are recognized as guardian deities by each tribe.

Lamas (Buddhist spiritual leaders) and other religious practitioners residing in the villages handle the Sherpas' daily religious matters. The village lam a, who can marry and is frequently a homeowner, preside over ceremonies and rites. Shamans (lhawa) and soothsayers (mindung) also work with the supernatural and the spirit realm. They detect witches (pem), function as gods and spirits' mouthpieces, and diagnose ailments.

The monastery, or gompa, is a fundamental part of the Sherpa religion. There are about a dozen of these institutes spread over the Solu-Khumbu area. They are communities of lamas or monks (sometimes nuns) who accept chastity vows and live in seclusion in quest of truth and religious enlightenment. The community as a whole respects and supports them. Their only interaction with the outside world is through annual festivals that are open to the public and the reading of spiritual texts at funerals.



RELATIONSHIPS

The most fundamental guideline of hospitality for Sherpas is that visitors must not leave the residence hungry or thirsty. Tibetan tea or beer are served to guests as entertainment. Visitors with high status will be provided a snack or a full supper. Unlike in certain South Asian societies, guests in Sherpa houses enjoy full access to both the kitchen and the worship space.

 

FAMILY LIFE

Sherpa civilization is split into clans known as RI. A person must marry outside of his or her clan. Although individual clans are not ranked, they are divided into two groups: khadeu and khamendeu. The former has a superior status, and anyone who marries the lower group loses that position.

Sherpas select their own life mates. Marriage is a time-consuming process that might last several years. Following a betrothal, the boy has the right to live at the home of his fiancée's parents. This arrangement may last for several years until the connection is severed. When both families believe that the marriage will be successful, a ceremony is held to formally ratify the marriage talks. Several months, if not years, may pass before the wedding date is set.

By South Asian standards, Sherpa families are tiny. In Sherpa society, the nuclear family is the norm, with homes comprising of parents and their unmarried children. On completion of the marriage, a newly married son is intended to get a house. Surprisingly, a guy does not return home until he has a child; instead, he resides with his in-laws until his wife gives birth. Most marriages are monogamous, however fraternal polyandry (having more than one spouse) is legal and often seen as respectable. Two brothers married the same lady according to this custom. Divorce is fairly common among Sherpas.

 

CLOTHING

Sherpa clothing is comparable to Tibetan clothing. Both men and women wear a long inner shirt over a pant-like wool garment. They wear a thick, coarse wraparound robe (bakhu) that extends below the knees and fastens at the side over this. The waist is cinched with a sash. High woolen boots with hiding soles are worn by both men and women. The boots have maroon, scarlet, and green (or blue) uppers that are laced with colorful garters. The rainbow-striped aprons used to cover the front and rear of the body below the waist are a unique aspect of women's attire.The rear apron is worn by both married and unmarried women, but the front apron is solely worn by married women. The Sherpa woman's outfit is completed with various jewels and a peculiar headgear called a shyamahu.

Traditional Sherpa attire is quickly fading among Sherpa males. Many younger guys who have worked on climbing excursions wear high-altitude clothes designed in the West.



LIVING CONDITIONS

Sherpa communities cling to precipitous mountain slopes or perch atop high escarpments. Sherpa settlements range from small villages with a few buildings to cities with hundreds of dwellings, such as Khumjung or Namche Bazaar. A home is frequently erected in the center of its owner's fields at higher elevations. However, if there is more flat ground available, dwellings are crowded together in a group towards the heart of the village's agricultural area. In larger communities, there may be a community temple, a community mill, and religious structures known as stupas and chortens. There are few main highways, and communities are linked by paths and trails. Goods are transported on the backs of pack animals or on the backs of people.

Sherpa dwellings are two floors tall and made of stone. The roofs are flat and frequently built of wood, with hefty stones supporting them. The bottom storey houses cattle, fodder, food, and firewood, while the upper story houses the residential quarters. This room has a hardwood floor that is covered with carpets and rugs. There is no furniture; platforms and benches serve as seating and sleeping areas. A tiny part of the home has been designated for an altar. Before the shrine, incense and butter lamps are kept blazing.