Sherpa History
Sherpa History

Introduction

Sherpa is an easterner indigenous people, live in the eastern part of Nepal. The word Sherpa is combination of two words - "Shyar" (East) and "Pa" (people) "People of the East" and the words are coined from the Tibetan language. They are indeed easterners both in origin and present location of settlement, as they migrated from Eastern Tibet and now live in Eastern Nepal (Nawang, 1995). The ancestral land of the Sherpas lies in the northern side of the Solukhumbu district along the Dudh Koshi River and its tributary at Solu Khola. However, they are found spread out all along the eastern hill districts; Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, Bhojpur, Sankhuwasabha, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Udayapur, and Okhaldhunga. Even they have been living in Kathmandu Valley and eastern part of Mechi River in Darjeling, and Sikkim of India too. But Solukhumbu is their original homeland. SoluKhumbu Sherpas are among the best known Himalayan people. Therefore, Khumbu region is well known as " Sherpa Land". It is also called 'Shyarkhumbu', and the word 'Shyar' means East in Sherpa (or Tibetan) language.

According to the different literatures, the Sherpas migrated from Kham area of Eastern Tibet to the present area after crossing the Nang-pa-la (pass). The Sherpa, the inhabitants of the Himalayan region, are Mongoloid in origin and in physical feature.. The population of the Sherpas, according to the census of 2001 is 1,54,622(,0.68% of the national total) out of them 77,511 male and 77,111 are female population.

The Sherpa speak 'Sino Tibetan language ' a dialect of Tibetan and literature history and philosophy came from old Tibetan religious books (Nawang, 1995)
 

Origin and Migration history of Sherpas

The word 'Sherpa' means easterner as it is addressed to the present day Sherpa. It is not clear how this term came to be associated with this particular group. When did they come to their present habitat? From where? Why? In what number? Who came first? These are the main questions. About this matter previous researchers have revealed contradictory ideas. It is not clear in the literatures. Haimendorf (1964, 1984) writes all Sherpas or their ancestors immigrated from Kham region of eastern Tibet. They migrated to their present habitat in Nepal.

According to Oppitz (1974) the first migrants into Khumbu belonged two proto-clans, known as Minyagpa and Thimi, which later split into the clans which constitute the present Sherpa Society based on the historical documents he also describes that the Sherpas original homeland was Kham region of the eastern Tibet which is almost 1300 miles from the present homeland Solukhumbu. They migrated due to Politico-religious and internal religious conflicts. They were bound to leave their ancestor homeland. Their first migration started in 1530A.D. and that continued till 1850 A.D. There are other reason incorporated by different scholars as Sange Tenzi Lama (1971) and Downs (1980) have opined that Sherpas migration occurred due to harassment given by Mongol. On the ground of the Sherpa beliefs Haimendorf stated that "their ancestors migrated south along the Rongshyar Chu- west of the Rolwaling Himal and then turning to east settled first in Solu and gradually they moved northwards into Khumbu (Haimendorf 1964,Jerstad 1966) In this point there lies the major contradiction because the traditional belief is that their ancestors came to Khumbu straight from Tibet across the Nangpa la as the main trade route passes along this area between Khumbu and Dingri region of Tibet(Sherpa1882, Kunwar 1989)

It is also stated that first ancestor of the present Sherpa did not migrate from eastern Tibet to Nepal as a whole tribe. They came in very small numbers. But he didn't speak about the numbers of migrants. He also mentioned in his book the first Sherpa migration into Solu-Khumbu region in 1532 A.D. (see: Poffenberger 1980, Gurung, and Shalter 1996)

Ortner(1978) reported that the Sherpas migrated into their present location in Nepal from the Kham region of eastern Tibet about 450 years ago. It is not clear why they left, harassment by marauding Mongol tribes or religious repression by the reformed Tibetan Buddhist sect. Although it seems equally plausible that there was some local upheaval in the feudal social structure.

Gautam (1994) concluded that Sherpa migrated from Tibet approximately 600 years ago, through the Nangpala pass. They have a legend which states that during the reign of Mongol King Tsokpo Ddzangubrae, The king attempted to spread the teaching of the Gelugpa sect and in the process tried to convert forceively the existing Nyingmapa followers into the gelukpa sect many people were put to death for their unwillingness to part with their Nyingmapa beliefs. It is probable that a group of nyingmapa followers migrated to the land south of their homeland and had taken shelter in the Khumbu region in the initial stage and from where they re-migrated to other outlying areas afterwards.

Mola a tradional oral story narrated during the occasion of wedding in Bigu in Dolakha relates about their original homeland in Kham, Tibet. One inhabitants of Kham fled-away and arrived in Thasa and from there they came to Dhingri. Some of them crossed the Nangpala pass and settled in Khumbu valley of present day Solukhumbu District. Even from Khumbu some people got down to Solu and settled in gomba dzyung (present Junibesi) later on as the population increased, some people reached chortung la (the ridge of Jiri) from where they look to the north- western side. It shows that the Sherpas first settled in Khumbu, and then gradually they emigrated to the north-western part of the present homeland. But it doesn't give any idea to calculate the date of migration (Kunwar, 1989). Zangbu(1995) writes in his book. The first person came to Khumbu by way of Rolwaling valley and Tashi lapcha.(pass) from Kham in eastern Tibet 600 years ago.

Previously they were not addressed by the word 'Sherpa'. But it is not clear in what circumstances this term came to be associated with this particular group from the Tibetan point of view, Sherpas dwelling in the highlands of Nepal are southerners rather than are easterners, though there is the tradition that before their migration to their present habitat they had settled in eastern Tibet(Haimendorf 1964,1984) In this context, some Sherpas came to the conclusion that they address 'nubripa', western, for the same type of culture group whose habitat is western part of Nepal. Similarly, the term Sherpa is used for the "eastern inhabitants of Nepal". Another group opined that the term indicates" man from rising sun area". Therefore, they were addressed Sherpa. But it is so why the other ethnic groups of Eastern Nepal is not addressed by the term "Sherpa". According to reincarnated Lama of Tengboche monastry, the first man came to Khumbu from Kham Salmo-Gang (east of Tibet) whose clan was called Timi (Thimi), incarnated from the god Wosal and his name was pajzin. After he returned back to Tibet the people asked him where he came from he replied "the east part of Kham" That is how the name Sherpa, easterner came into being (Kunuwar,1989) But some Sherpas of Solu are not in favor of this opinion. According to them, the word Sherpa is of very late origin.

It has come to know on the basis of different literatures cited above that Sherpas were migrated to Nepal from the Kham region of Tibet 5 to6 hundred years back. But one study carried out from Ethnographic Museum (2001) which has revealed the fact that Sherpas were not migrated crossing the boarder of Tibet to Nepal because the present days political entity of the kingdom of Nepal was not in existence there. Only after the unification by P.N. Shah, the Himalayan region of present day Nepal became an integral part of the kingdom of Nepal. As in those days there was no definite identity of Nepal and Tibet like all those indigenous people of present day Nepal. Sherpas would move from one place to another place of the Himalayan region as Alpine pastoralists and traders. The Himalayan region was the common land of all Tibetan speaking people of various nationalities.. So, Sherpas are not the migrants of Tibet or immigrants of Nepal Himalayan region whether it can be present day Nepal or Tibet.
It is presumed that the group of people migrated out from Kham region, east of Tibet, was called as " Shyar Khamba" (People who came from eastern Kham) and the place where the migrant people started to settle was called " Syar Khumbu". As the time passed the " Shyar Khamba", inhabitants of shyar Khumbu, were called as Sherpa.

Similarly, Shyar Khumbu (present day Solukhumbu) and especially the villages and mountains of Khumbu region are found to be named in Sherpa language.
 

CLANS Of Sherpas (RU)

The Sherpa community like other ethnic groups is divided into many clan groups (Ru). There are mainly four main clans such as Timi, Thakdopa, Chawa and Lama. Each clan gave rise to several brother clans.The Paldorje clan gave rise to the Salaka, Dhag Shinto, Khampache and goparma.The Thakdopa clan gave rise to the Gole, Garja, Pinasa, Pangkarma.Sharpa Penagpa and Shari-topa are brother clans.From the Lama clan are the Serwa and Gombawa. The Chawa remained a single clan that originated from Lama and his family. Othe more recent clans are Chu serwa, Murmin,Lhukpa, Nawa, Shangku, Zongnagpa and Mendewa.Each clan has its own deity and ways of doing Pujas.Sherpa custom does not allow marriage between members of the same clan or brother clan.
 

Occupation

Agriculture, animal husbandry and trade were the traditional Sherpa occupations. Animal husbandry has been an old age occupation among the Sherpas in Khumbu region. Cattle herding is considered as one of the most profitable occupations among the Sherpas. They graze their cattle through transhumance system in which the seasonal migration of domesticated livestock and their herders for the purpose of grazing at different pastures at different time of the year between high lands (yar sa means summer land (settlement or summer grazing land) and low land (gun sa means winter settlements or winter grazing land) has been practised. The Sherpas keep the animals; Yak, Nak, Zhum and Zopkio. Yak and Zopkio are used as porters to carry the necessary goods from one place to another. However, nak and zhum are kept for milk. Before 1954, the business with Tibet was usually for salt and wool. But now-a-days, the Sherpa youths are mostly engaged in trekking, mountaineering profession, and trade and few of them are in administration and politics too. The Sherpa villages mainly on the trekking routes have been converted into small shanty towns and more and more Sherpa women have become shopkeepers and have left their original profession of potato digging and carpet weaving.
 

Religion

Sherpas are Himalayan people belongs to Mongolian stock. By religion Sherpas are Buddhists. Their beliefs came through the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the Nyingmapa, which started when Guru Rimpoche established Buddhism in Tibet about 1240 years ago. (Nawang, 1995)

Sherpas are religious minded people and every house has a corner set aside for their gods placed in decorated chambers. They believe in- �assume� is probably more accurate- the basic Buddhist principles of sin and merit, and of reincarnation to various states of being, exalted or miserable, depending on the amounts of sin and merit accumulated in the course of a lifetime. (Ortner,1978)

Sherpas burns incense every morning inside and outside the house for purity. They also burns butter lamps inside the home for merit making. They offer holy water in each and every morning in the name of Gods.
 

Education

Census defines a literate is who can read and write by understanding and in addition can do general additions and subtraction. According to the national census 2001, the national average literacy rate is 53.7 percent. This Census presents the data of only 43 indigenous nationalities. According to that census, the literacy rate is 46.6 Percent, which is less than the national average literacy rate (53.7.) Only 16 groups have average literacy percentage higher than national average. (See table...)

The literacy rate of Sherpas is 50.4 percent which is lower than the national average. Looking at the educated indigenous nationalities, ie those who have studied from primary to bachelor or above level. Except few ethnic groups like Newar and Thakali others are in an extremely backward state. According to the census 2001, adult literacy rate (aged 15 years and above) of Sherpas is 37.4 percent and educational attainment of SLC and above (16 years and above) is only 5 percent which is very low comparison with other ethnic and caste groups of Nepal. (eg. Kayastha (50.2%), Newar (24.7%), Thakali (16.1%)

शेर्पा जातिको चिनारी

शेर्पा जाति नेपालको उच्च हिमाली क्षेत्रमा बसोबास गर्ने अदिवासीहरु हुन। शेर्पा भन्ने शब्दको उच्चारण "शर पा" (ཤར་པ། पुर्बेली, easterner) भन्ने तिब्बती भाषाबाट अधुनिकरण भएको अनुमान गरिन्छ र शेर्पा जतिहरुको भाषा, भेषभुषा, पाठपुजा र जीवन शैली तिब्बतिहरु सँग मिल्दा जुल्दा हुने र तिब्बती भाषामा "शर" shar ཤར་ले पूर्व east र " पा" pa པ། ले ब्यक्ती person बोध गराउने भएकोले र तिब्बतीहरुले शेर्पा लाई "शर पा मि रिग्स" भन्ने गरेकोले पनि यस अनुमानलाई विश्वाश गर्नुपर्ने आधार दिन्छ।
 
शेर्पाहरू पूर्वी तिब्बतको खामबाट बसाईँ सरेर आएका अनुमान गरिन्छ। पङ्बोचे सबै भन्दा पुरानो शेर्पा गाँउ भएको मानिन्छ र पृथ्वी नारायण शाहको नेपाल एकिकरण भन्दा पनि लगभग ४०० बर्ष अगाडीबाट नै सोलुखुम्बुमा शेर्पाहरुले बसोबास गर्दै आएका थिए भन्ने शेर्पा भाषामा नामकरण गरिएका त्यस क्षेत्रका गाँउ, खोला नाला, पाखा पहाडहरूका नाम साथै १७ औं देखी १९ औं शताब्दी बीच त्यस क्षेत्रमा निर्मीत गुम्बाहरु पङबुचे, थामे, नाउजे, तेङपोचे, रिमीज्युङ, गोम्बाज्युङ र चिवङ गोम्बा तथा दिउजेको आनी गोम्बा ज्वलन्त प्रमाणको रुपमा लिन सकिन्छ।
 
सोलुखुम्बु बाहेक वर्तमान नेपालको रामेछाप, दोलखा, संखुवासभा, सिन्धुपालचोक, इलाम, सुन्सरी, ओखलढुङ्गा, उदयपुर, भोजपुर, काठमाण्डौं उपत्यका र भुटान, भारतको पश्चीम बंगाल, आसाम र सिक्कीम राज्यहरुमा पनि शेर्पा जातिहरुको बसोबास पाहिन्छ ।
 
ईस्वी सम्बद २००१ मा भएको जनगनणा अनुसार शेर्पाहरुको जनसंख्या १,१०,३५८ (एक लाख दश हजार तीन सय अन्ठाउन्न) रहेको पाहिन्छ भने १९९९ मा प्रकाशित थुपतेन शेर्पाको "शेर्पा र सोलुखुम्बु" भन्ने किताबमा नेपालमा बसोबास गर्ने शेर्पाहरुको कुल जनसंख्या १,५५,००० (एक लाख पचपन्न हजार) र संसार भरी छरिएर बसेका शेर्पाहरुको जनसंख्या २,५०,००० ( दुई लाख पचास हजार) रहेको उल्लेख गरिएको छ।
 
मुलरुपमा शेर्पाहरु शेर्पालामा, च्यावा, पेनाक्पा, मिङ्याग्पा र थिम्मी गरी ५ थर र ति थरहरु अन्तर्गत:
शेर्पालामा थरको शेर्पा लामा र लामा गोन्पा (२ उपथर), च्यावा थरको च्यावा, च्यावा नक्पो र ल्हुक्पा (३ उपथर), मिङ्याग्पा थरको ठाक्तोवा, गोले, गर्जा, खापा, पिनासा, युल्खोङमा, सिरे, मिल्हसा, दोटुबा, शरपा र पाङकर्मा (११ उपथर) थिम्मी थरको सलाका, खम्बाचे, गोपर्मा, ल्हाकसिन्दु, पाल्दोर्जी, छ्युशर्पा, ठोम्पा, बिनाक्पा, श्यङ्गो, जोङनग्पा, श्हुर्पा, मेन्दवा र पेन्पुलो (१३ उपथर) गरी जम्मा ३० उपथरमा बिभाजित भएर फैलिएको देखिन्छ भने पेनाक्पा थरको कुनै उपथर नभएको पाहिन्छ।
 
यस बाहेक नेपाललाई १४ अन्चल र ७५ जिल्लाहरुमा बिभाजीत गर्ने निहुँमा सिङगो हिमाली क्षेत्रलाई अबैज्ञानिक तरिकाले १९ वटा जिल्लाहरुमा बिभाजीत गर्नका कारण बिभिन्न कारणहरुले गर्दा संपर्कमा आउन नसकेका सुदुर पुर्वी नेपालका जिल्लाहरुमा बसोबास गरिरहेका शेर्पाहरुको थर नावा, जुम्बुले, पया, गोरुङ, हलुण्डा, कुलुङ, रिक्तो, चुक्टे, याता, फेरुक्पा, छ्युकुले, राखा, ङोवा, बदम्बा, मजेन, एसांङ, ठोमा, सुर्वा, मुलि ,साके, डुक्पा खम्बा र केरुङ खम्बा जस्ता शेर्पाका थप थरहरु हालसालै तिब्बती भाषा र लिपिका विद्वान नेपाल शेर्पा संघ सुन्सरीका अध्यक्ष श्री ङवालप्टु लामा शेर्पाको लामो अनुसन्धानबाट खुलासा हुन आएको छ र यि थरहरु माथि थप अनुसन्धान जारी छ।
 
अहिंसा माथि विश्वाश राख्ने ९९ प्रतिशत शेर्पाजातिहारु न्यिङमा बौद्ध धर्ममा आस्था राख्दाछन र पहुनालाई भगवानको रुपमा मान्ने यि जातिहरु आफ्नो पूजा गृह र चुलो चौकटमा आगन्तुलालाई खुल्ला हृदयले स्वागत गर्ने गर्दाछन। याक, चौरी पालन, कृषि, ब्यापार र पर्यटन मुल ब्यवसाय गरेर बस्ने शेर्पाजातिहारु लोसार, धुम्ची र मनिरिम्डुलाई आफ्नो मुल चाडको रुपामा मनाउने गर्दाछन भने काटमारबाट टाडै रहन रुचाउने यो जातिले आफ्नो कुनै पनि साना ठुला चाडहरुमा पशु पँक्षिको बली दिने गर्दैनन।
 
नेपालमा याक र चौरी पालन ब्यवसाय गर्ने बहुमतमा शेर्पाजातिलाई नै पाउन सकिन्छ तर सरकारको तर्फबाट ब्यवसायको उचित संरक्षण नहुनु, प्रोत्शान नदिनु साथै life line यातायातको असुबिधाको कारण उत्पादनले उचित बजार भाउ नपाई जती दु:ख गरे पनि गरिवीको रेखा मुनी बस्न वाध्य हुनु जस्ता बिबिध कारणहरुले गर्दा हालको दिनहरुमा याक र चौरी पालन ब्यवसायमा लागेका शेर्पाहरु बिरलै पाहिन्छ र अर्को १० बर्ष भित्र यसको संख्या शुन्य हुनेछन भन्ने पक्क पक्की छ भने अर्को तर्फ नेपालको पर्यटन र पर्बत आरोहन क्षेत्रमा अत्याधिक योगदान दिएका र अत्यन्त महत्पूर्ण भूमिका निभाउने जात हुन शेर्पा। स्मरण रहोस जापान लगायत धेरै देशका कतिपाय मान्छेले नेपाल भन्ने नाम सुनेको हुँदैनन तर सगरमाथा र शेर्पा भन्ने नाम अवश्य सुनेका हुन्छन भने कतिपाय अवस्थामा त हामीले आफ्नो र देशको परिचय दिनु पर्दा You know Everest? You know Sherpa भन्नु पर्ने तिता सत्यहरु त आफ्नै ठाउँमा छन तर सरकारबाट दु:खको उचित मुल्याकन नहुनु, जीवन बिमा जस्ता अती आवश्यक कुराको कुनै ब्यबस्था नहुनु, In the Line of Duty पर्बत आरोहनको क्रममा मृत्यु हुनेहारुको कुनै कद्धर र लेखाजोखा नहुनु, उनिहरुको परिवारले उचित क्षतिपुर्ती नपाउनका कारणले यो पेशामा लागेका शेर्पाहरु बाध्यताबस युरोप, अमेरिका र जापान जस्ता देशहरुमा पलायन हुँदैछन र दिन प्रतिदिन यो क्रमले तिब्रता लिदैछ।
 
अर्को तर्फ नेपाल सरकारलाई बर्षेनी करोडौ रुपैंया आम्दामी दिने ति हिमालहरुको गोठालो दिएर बसेका शेर्पा गाँउहरुको अवस्था उतिनै दयनिन छ। मेची महाकाली राजमार्गको नाममा १० औं बर्ष अगाडि धनगढी डडेलधुरामा पक्की सडक पुगे तर बर्षेनी करोडौ रुपैंया आम्दामी दिने र संसारले नै चिन्ने सगरमाथाको काखमा रहेको सोलुखुम्बुलाई अझै पनि कच्ची सडकले छुन सकेको छैन। सगरमाथा चढन र घुम्न बर्षेनी हजारौं पर्यटक र पर्बत आरोही आउछन र राजस्व स्वरुप काठमाण्डौलाई करोडौ रुपैंया बुझाउछन तर ति पर्यटक र पर्बत आरोही हिंड्ने गोरेटो, पुल मर्मत गर्न र त्यही सगरमाथाको काखमा रहेको स्कुलहरु जस्ले सगरमाथाको पथ दर्शक जन्माउछ तिनै स्कुलहरुको छाना फेर्न बर्षौ सम्म काठमाण्डौको मुख ताक्नु पर्ने यतार्थ अर्को तर्फ छ। त्यसैले पनि हुनसक्छ आज तिनै सोझो सिधा अहिंसा माथि विश्वाश राख्ने शेर्पाहरु आफ्नो अधिकारको लागि सडक तताउन बिबश छन, नचाहदा नचाहदै पनि शेर्पा स्वायत्त प्रदेश र हिमाली स्वयत्त प्रदेश जस्तो कहिले नसुनेका भाषा बोल्न वाध्य छन।
-ङावाङ सोनाम शेर्पा

 


 
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