The most famous
among the Himalayan people are the
Sherpas. Because of their impeccable
mountaineering skills , they are an
indispensable part of mountain
expeditions as leader, guide and
porter. As an individual or in
groups , they have set records many
' firsts' in the mountaineering
world. Due to their close affinity
to Tibet, in trade, tradition and
tongue, the Tibetan influence in
their living style is quite
distinct. They come, however, from Solu and Khumbu region of eastern
Nepal , in the vicinity of Mt.
Everest, along the Arun Valley, the
Dudh Koshi river and its tributary
Economy and trade
The economy of
the Sherpas, is related directly to
the mountain environment. They
primarily live on field agriculture,
animal husbandry, trade and
mountaineering. The people of Solu (
relatively in the lower and warmer
region compared to Khumbu) grow
potato, barley, wheat , maize and
others and trade them in the nearby
areas. The Khumbu Sherpas have
limited pasture of arable land and
they primarily depend upon animal
husbandry, yak and sheep breeding.
They produce different Yak
derivatives; butter, cheese etc. Yak
butter is used in making the
traditional salted Tibetan tea.
Khumbu lies in an important trade
route to Tibet through Nangpa La (
Nangpa Pass). Namche bazaar is the
main trading center in this region.
This gateway to Mt. Everest is
prosperous and it bustles with
activities in the mountaineering and
trekking seasons. Its numerous
hotels provide modern facilities
including various Satellite TV
channels, public telephone services
and different culinary delicacies;
the traditional and continental. As
the number of tourists and
expedition increases, the scope of
these highlanders for the employment
as guides, and high altitude porters
gradually increases. This has helped
quite a lot in their living
Traditions and Culture
two distinct castes in the Sherpa
society; the Khadev and Khamedu, the
former having a higher social
status. There are several clans eg
Chhusherwa, Chiawa Gardza, Gole,
Goparma, Hirgoma, Lakshindu, Lama,
Mende, Mipa, Ngawa, Paldorje,
Pankarma, Pinasa, Salaka, Shargup,
Sherwa, Shine, Thaktu and others.
Sherpa society is exogamous. i.e. a
person must marry outside his or her
clan. Fraternal polyandry is found
among the Sherpas, that is two
brothers may marry one common wife.
However, if there are three brothers
in a Sherpa family, the middle
brother has to serve the monastery
as a monk and for a family with four
brothers, the group of two may marry
two common wives. The polyandry
which is also found in the most of
the northern Himalayan ethnic
groups, could have a common
reasoning of the limited arable land
available to them. This may restrain
the family land being sub- divided
into smaller units. The attitude
towards is also relaxed in general.
Polygamy, i.e., marrying more than
one wife is rare.
Sherpas observe a number of
festivals during the year. the
important ones are losar and dumze.
Losar is the new year 's celebration
according to the Tibetan calendar.
It occurs sometimes in the end of
February. This singing, dancing,
feasting time is rejoiced by all
families. Dumze is interesting
festival observed in the village '
gomba' or the monastery for seven
days, sometimes during the month of
July. The village lama conducts the
rituals by worshipping Guru Rimpoche,
Phawa Cheresi, Tsanba and other
deities. While the villagers gather
in the evenings at the gomba and
enjoy eateries and drinks. Singing,
dancing , and merry making being
always the part of the occasion.
Khumbu- hyulla, a local deity is
always worshipped on every occasion.
There is one occasion , Nungne, when
people take solemn fasting or
partial fasting for three days by
laymen and for a fortnight by the
nuns and lamas. People gather in
gomba and recite the sacred texts.
Those who can not recite the texts,
they chant; "Om Mani padme hum".
This is marked as a kind of
These famous highlanders of Nepal
are always on the move; sometimes to
the greener and warmer pastures
southwards; sometimes to trade and
sometimes to climb the mountain as a
guide, a leader or simply a porter.
There are many of Sherpas who have
set records in the mountaineering
world. Tenzing Norgay Sherpa with
Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first to
climb the highest mountain of the
world in 1953. Ang Rita Sherpa,
nicknamed ' the snow leopard'
climbed the highest mountains for
the 10 th time in 1996, an
astonishing feat for any human being
that too without oxygen mask. Even
collectively , this ethnic group has
the most climbers atop the highest