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About Nepal

The Sherpas

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 areas.

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 standards.

Traditions and Culture
There are 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 penitence.

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 mountain.


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