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Who Are Sherpa People?

unique language, and different way of life predominantly living in the Eastern Himalayan region in East Asia.   The word ‘Sherpa’ is made up of two monosyllabic morphemes /shar/ ‘East’ and /-pa/ ‘Nominalizer’.  The etymological meaning of the disyllabic word ‘Sharpa or Sherpa’ could be ‘Easterner’ or ‘People of the East’, though the reference point for the direction is very general. As for many indigenous people living around the world, the Sherpa people have comparatively little written history making it more complicated to trace their origin.  However, the pre-history traces that the Sherpa people are one of the ethnic groups residing in the greater ‘Kham’ region in Asia.  Obviously, the ethnic group must have migrated to different locations within the greater region due to socio-political instability.

Many reliable references and interesting evidences prove that the Sherpa people were the first inhabitants of the Eastern Himalayan region in present Nepal before the territorial demarcation in East Asia into nations.  The carvings of religious texts on the huge rocks and stones; the long standing Mani walls and artful Stupas; old monasteries and the beautiful settlements with unique architecture; and most importantly the names of every valleys and other places (nomenclature) in Sherpa language are sufficient and living proofs of Sherpa origin land.  These Sherpa homelands such as Khumbu, Rolwaling, Khenpalung etc. mountain valleys known as Beyuls ‘Sacred lands’ were the autonomous region of Sherpa people for centuries before the unification of the greater Nepal in 1768 AD.  The history also reveals several cases of invasions on the smaller autonomous states within Nepal, and conflicts on border issues with Tibet, the autonomous region of People’s Republic of China before the demarcation.  After the territorial demarcation, the main homeland of the Sherpa people was unified to Nepal and the Sherpa people are one of the nationalities of Nepal with its own defined territory and cultural heritage.

Before the early 1960s, there were very limited economic opportunities in those mountain valleys.  Agriculture, animal husbandry, and trans-boundary trading were the main occupation of the Sherpa people.  Later in late 1960s when those beautiful mountains and valleys were opened for outsider, Sherpa people also got opportunity to involve in mountaineering and trekking.  However, now very few Sherpa people are involved in the service oriented mountaineering and trekking business.

Slowly Sherpa people started migrating and spreading to different regions within Nepal and abroad from their origin valleys in pursuit of better education and diverse economic opportunities.  Now many densely populated Sherpa settlements are found in Solukhumbu, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Sankhuwasabha, Taplejung districts; and sizable Sherpa settlements are found in Bhojpur, Kathmandu, Okhaldunga, Khotang, Ilam districts in Nepal. Similarly, considerable numbers of Sherpa people are living in many countries including India, Europe, United States, Australia, New Zealand, England and many more.  One of the good qualities of Sherpa people is, wherever they have to go and earn living, they are united and committed in preserving and promoting their cultural heritage.  They are always aware about proper transmission of their cultural heritage based endemic knowledge to the younger generation.

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