SHERPA CULTURE, TRADITONS & S T R U C T U R E
Mani (Mani Thungkyur)
A Mani Thungkyur is a big Prayer wheel, which contains many religious books and has sacred invocation of prayers. Its average size is 2m high and 1.50m in diameter. Some villages have aseparate communal building for Mani-Thungkyur known as (Mani Lhang), which can be connected with the main 'Gondas' or in aprivate house.
A Lhang is a private chapel built in association with the main house. Access is gained from within the house. The walls are decorated with mural paintings and some statues and books.
A Chorten is a shrine usually built of stone with Buddha eyes on four sides guarding against evil spirits that can enter the village. These are generallyfound at the entrance to a village, along with the Mani walls or a kani. It contains relics of an important lama as well as prayer books.
At the entrance to a village settlement or to a monastery, there is always a small gateway, or Kani, with its ceiling and walls usually painted with religious figures. These entrance gates and chortens stop the bad spirits that can follow a person from entering the village.
Manis are stones engraved with the sacred invocation "Om Mani Padme Hum" which are either built in to the walls or piled around the Chorten. People pass these walls on the right side to gain sonam (Merit).
GOMPA & GONDE (Monastery )
A gompa can be a common village property or an institution. The lama in charge of managing them is usually a Reincarnate lama. A gompa is also a gathering place for the whole community especially in festivals such as Nyingne and Dumji.
Dumji is a great festival in which the whole community takes part. It has been in practice for more than 300 years during the monsoon season. The local representatives provide food and drink for the whole community for 5 days. The responsibility for this festival falls on every household once or twice in a lifetime depending on the number of houses in each village. On this occasion rich and poor join the celebration on equal terms. Monks from the local Gompa are invited to recite the ceremony. The main purpose of Dumji is two-fold: it is both a request to various gods' power to subdue demonic enemies of the village and a celebration of the anniversary of the death of the patron saint Lama Sanga Dorji.
Ningne is performed at the end of May or early June in village Gompas. The main purpose of this festival is to cleanse the worshippers of sin and to help them obtain more sonam (merit). This rite requires a lama, generally the Head Lama from of the village monastery, to oversee it. The participants recite prayers along with the lama on the first day. The second day, everyone fasts and they do not speak to one another. Finally, on the third day after obtaining a blessing from the lama, they depart back to their own houses.
Kangyur along with Tangyur is known as the bible of Tibetan Buddhism, translated from the Sanskrit edition of Tripitaka to Tibetan presumably in the 13th century by Tibetan Guru Butten Rimpoche. It records the sayings of the Buddha. The Kangyur are dialogues accredited to the historical Buddha. The Kangyur contains 108 volumes comprising ethical works ascribed to Buddha. Kangyur is recited to ward off mishaps, misfortunes, calamities, violence, plague, wars, and natural disasters and bring peace, prosperity and harmony among humans. By the virtue of Kangyur recitation, a person is believed to add years to his/her life and can forever live in peace and prosperity devoid of sins,
The first celebration of Mani Rimdu in SoluKhumbu probably took place sometime in 1930. The festival originated in Rongbuk Monastery in Tibet. Mani Rimdu is a prayer ceremony where the monks put on masks representing divine personages and perform ritual dances. The devotional spectators come from many villages to gain sonam from the Head Lama’s blessings and to make corn and grain contributions to the monk community.
A village rite known as Chirim is performed in the village’s gompa twice a year in April and October with a purpose to drive off evil spirits, which may threaten the community. It involves local lamas officiating and making Torma (figure made out of dough) resembling deities and evil spirits. Two families appointed by rotation from all the households organize the rite.
Unlike the Chirim, Osho is celebrated one time with a procession encircling the whole village to provide supernatural protection for the newly sown crop at the beginning of the agricultural season. During the procession, four tormas resembling the 4 guardians of the village are placed in the 4 corners of the village land.
SoluKhumbu is the homeland of the Sherpa people. According to researchers, Sherpas appear to have left their original homeland, the Tibetan Province of Salmo Gang, and crossed the Nangpa La (Pass 5,716m) into Nepal in the late 1400s or early 1500s. The Sherpa people follow the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which is an outgrowth of the Mahayana tradition; Gompas are the centres for practicing religious rites where various festivals are performed. Throughout the year, Sherpas carefully worship their own household, own clan and local mountain god. For devotion, they hang prayer flags on their roofs and make offerings. A good example of this religious practice can be seen during the Dumji festival held in June each year, where requests are made to the god for support against evil forces.
Myth of the Himalayas: YETI The yeti or abominable snowman is thought to live in the high Himalayas. The Sherpas distinguish three different types of yeti. Drema or Telma, the messenger of calamities; Chuti, which preys on goats, sheep and yaks; and Mite or Midre which also attacks animals and sometimes men. Nobody has ever seen a Yeti, only the findings of mysterious footprints in the snow and several incidents of yaks’ killings support the legend.
LOSAR (New Year)
This festival usually falls at the end of January or early February. At this time, the ground is frozen, and often covered in snow. The main activities include spinning, weaving, feeding livestock and repair jobs. On this occasion, every household worships its clan god, throws away a year’s dirt from the house and uses flour to decorate the house’s panels with good luck signs for the coming year. Following this, children celebrate with new clothing and feasting. Feasting may go on for weeks depending on the number of household’s participating.
Yarchang is a summer rite to secure the welfare of the herds that takes place in the summer pastures higher up in the valleys. Here every household worships their own clan and local mountain god. In the first day, all the families in the settlement area put prayer flags on their houses and gather in front of an altar. Like Osho and Chirim, the locals make torma resembling clan and local mountain gods. These tormas are distributed among the families after the recitation.
Phangngy is a social festival celebrated during the month of July. Although the origin of this festival is not definite, it is presumed that it was fêted since the 3rd century. Besides tending the livestock, the month of July is pretty free of chores and a leisure time for the fun loving and high-spirited Sherpas who then engage in a communal entertainment and amusement which is known as Phangni. Different groups organize Phangni that last up to 4 days. During these days, all the necessary items required for the festival is collected communally. People eat, drink, dance and jest around in merry the entire days. At the end of the festival, responsibility is specified on a rotational basis for the celebration of Phangni for the subsequent year.
Source by Ang Rita Sherpa (TMI)