Myths and legends

Myths and legends >> Sherpa - people from the east

Khumbu district is inhabited mainly by sherpas. Sherpas are people who moved to the Khumbu Valley from Tibet more than 500 years ago, crossing the Nangpa La Pass (5,900 m). Literally "sherpa" means "people from the east." Once Sherpas lived only in the Khumbu Valley, but now they can be found in many highlands of Nepal, as well as in some areas of India. 

The name Khumbu literally translates as "a place where no one lives." When the Tibetan shepherds first crossed the deserted high mountain passes in the Himalayas, they discovered vast and uninhabited pastures here. They liked the place and soon they moved to Khumbu for good.

Traditionally, Sherpas engaged in trans-Himalayan trade, supplying grain, cotton, iron, paper from the south to Tibet in exchange for salt, wool, sheep and various Tibetan artifacts. Some Sherpas led a nomadic life, grazing yaks, others cultivated high-altitude fields with potatoes, barley, wheat and buckwheat.

The oldest Sherpa settlement in Nepal, Pangboche, was founded about 300 years ago.

All Sherpas have one surname - “Sherpa”. And they still have a tradition of calling children by the day of the week on which the child was born:

Sunday - Nima;

Monday - Dawa;

Tuesday - Mingma;

Wednesday - Lakpa;

Thursday - Purba;

Friday - Pasang;

Saturday - Pemba.

In addition to the days of the week, the names of “special days” are also used, for example, the days of the full moon (Cheng) and the new moon (Namgang). The name of the area where the Sherpa lives can be used as a generic name.

The name of the sherpa can change throughout life. For example, the most famous Sherpa Tenzing Norei (who first climbed the summit of Mount Everest with New Zealander Edmund Hillary) was named Namgyal Wangdi at birth. Later, his name was Khumjun and Botia, and then the lama proposed to give him the name Tenzing Norei ("happy rich believer"). Tenzing's generic name is Ganges La ("snow pass").

The Sherpas did not have their own written language; legends were passed from mouth to mouth. Therefore, the history of the sherpa has large gaps in the chronology. We can say that these are people without a full history. Now the Sherpas use the Tibetan alphabet and Nepali. They also traditionally use the Tibetan calendar.

There is a legend that in the 8th century Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) visited the valley. The found manuscripts (tertons) say that Padmasambhava meditated in a cave near the village of Khumjung, after which the Khumbu valley was completely cleansed of evil spirits and became a sacred valley (biyul) and will give shelter to Tibetans in difficult times.

Most Sherpas profess the ancient branch of Nyingma Tibetan Buddhism (Red Hat), but they rather practice a mixture of Buddhism and animism. Many mountains are considered sacred. For example, Everest is considered the habitat of the goddess Miyu Lungsungama, the patroness of people, the grantor of prosperity.


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