Sherpa : The Himalayan Indigenous Inhabitant of Nepal


Of the 59 indigenous tribes of Nepal, the Sherpas, who have been living in Nepal’s high mountainous terrain since time immemorial, are known around the world for their honesty, diligence, non-violent image and skillful mountaineering. Sherpas have been born in the foothills of the Himalayas for centuries. Experts differ on the origin of the word  The word is a combination of Sher and Pa in the Sherpa language. In their language, ‘shar’ means ‘east’ and ‘pa’ means inhabitant. They have been living in the eastern part of Nepal for centuries and are believed to be called Sherpas.

Sherpa Dance
Sherpa Dance

The anthropologist Heimendorf, who studied the Sherpas for the first time, noted that the Sherpas migrated from the Kham region of eastern Tibet to Nepal in 1964. According to him, the ancestors of the Sherpas moved from the western side of the Rolling Mountain to the south through Rongshyar Chayu and then to the eastern region of Solu and gradually moved to the northern Khumbu region. Similarly, according to Nepali writer Jamyang Wangmo, the Sherpa ancestors migrated from Salmogang (now Sichuan Province, China) in the Kham region of Tibet.

Most scholars researching Sherpas have argued that Sherpas entered Nepal from the Kham region of Tibet about 500 years ago. According to a 2001 study by the Ethnic Museum, the Sherpas did not migrate from the Kham region of Tibet 500 years ago, as some scholars say, but have long been involved in animal husbandry in eastern Nepal, especially in the Khumbu region of Solukhumbu. And, over time, Sherpas have moved to different places. However, there is no strong basis for confirming the views put forward by various local and foreign scholars on the origin, naming and migration of the Sherpa people. Whatever the opinion of the scholars, Sherpas are one of the 59 tribals listed by the Government of Nepal.

Sherpas have their own distinct ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural identities. They have been adopting a lifestyle based on Buddhism and related cultural traditions. Most of the culture, traditions and practices of the Sherpas, who have been followers of Ningampa, the oldest sect under the Mahayana of Buddhism, are based on Buddhist philosophy. They speak Servi Tamnge, or Sherpa, part of the Tibetan-Burmese language family. Sambota uses script in writing.

Nepali Culture

The ancestral home of the Sherpas is the northern region of Solukhumbu district, especially the Khumbu region and the valleys of Dudhkoshi and Sunkoshindi and the surrounding areas. The names of the mountains, hills, streams, forests and places in those areas are also in Sherpa language. Because the Sherpas have been living in the Himalayas, they have an interdependent relationship with the Himalayas. Mountains and hills are depicted in their folk songs and folktales. Sherpas believe that gods and goddesses live in the mountains and hills.

So from ancient times they have been worshiping mountains and hills. They wear loincloths and scarves on mountains, hills and streams to please their gods. Sherpas even worship some trees and forests. Therefore, they do not even cut down forests indiscriminately. The Sherpas believe that peace and prosperity will prevail in themselves, their families and communities only if they can please nature. The majority of Sherpas have made tourism and trade their main occupation. The Nepal Sherpa Association has been established and is actively working to ensure the rights of Sherpas.

Religious, festivals and rituals

According to the Sherpa identity published by the Adivasi Janajati Utthan Rashtriya Pratisthan, Sherpas are followers of the Ningmapa sect under Buddhism. The Ningmapa sect is considered to be the oldest sect under the Mahayana of Buddhism. Rich in religion, culture, festivals and rites, Sherpas celebrate various festivals, fairs, religious festivals and worship at different times. Sherpas’ values, customs, and traditions are based on Buddhist philosophy. Sherpas celebrate two types of festivals, religious and cultural.


Manirimdu, Nyungne, Dumji, Chirim, Osho etc. are their religious festivals while Lhosar, Fakangyi and Yarchang are social festivals. Sherpas celebrate their religious festivals in Gonpa in the presence of lamas and anis. However, social festivals are celebrated collectively with the involvement of local communities.

Sherpa language

The identity of any ethnic community and their existence is determined by the language they use. Sherpas have their own mother tongue and script. The language spoken by Sherpas is called Shirvi Tamnge. The Sherpa language belongs to the Chinese Bhote-Burmese language family. According to linguists, even within that family, the language falls under the Bodhisattva branch. The main phonological feature of Sherpas in the Bodhisattva branch is the umbilical cord.

Since Sherpas speak their own language at home, their language has not diminished. However, with the increasing migration, there is a strong possibility that the number of speakers of this language will decrease. Although there is no language in the Sherpa language, there is a general difference in the words and pronunciation of the Sherpas who live in different geographically different places.

Must Read

Sherpa language script, written tradition and standardization

Sherpas use the Sambota script. It is said that the Sambota script developed in Nepal in the 7th century and entered Tibet from Nepal. The Sambota script used by the Sherpas consists of 30 saljets (consonants), four yangs (vowels) and navyaks (consonants). Similarly, there are five Njonjuk (prefixes), 10 Jejyuk (alphabets), two Yangjyuk (re-alphabets) and 20 Mingmi (initials).

Study of Sherpa language in Nepal It seems to have started in the 1970s when the Summer Institute of Linguistics was affiliated with Tribhuvan University. In addition to studying the sounds of the Sherpa language, the organization has also compiled Sherpa language vocabulary. However, it has not been published so far. Studies in the Sherpa language have largely focused on individual word collections. Similarly, there have been some studies and researches on various aspects of the language, but the Sherpa language has not yet been documented by the government.

Nepali Janajati
Nepali Janajati

Some experts in the Sherpa community have published books and dictionaries on the Sherpa language. E. Kent Gordon made a significant contribution to the study of Sherpa language in Nepal in the 1970s. He has studied the pronunciation and sounds of the Sherpa language as well as sentences, phrases and speaking styles. Similarly, e. In the 1980’s, Varkhuda also did research on sentences, styles, verbs, and vowels in the Sherpa language. Austini e. In 1969, he studied the differences in pronunciation of the Sherpa language.

Thus, various foreign linguists and researchers have contributed to the linguistic development and scripting of the language by conducting research on the Sherpa language at different times. Lately, foreign linguists and researchers have done more work. They have compiled Sherpa vocabulary and prepared a dictionary and published it.

 language linguistic population and its geographical distribution

The language of Sherpas living in different districts of Nepal including Solukhumbu, Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap, Bhojpur, Sindhupalchok, Dolakha, Ilam, Khotang etc. It is one of the 54 languages ​​mentioned in the 2009/11 national census.

Of the 92 languages ​​mentioned in the 2048 National Census, 1,29,771 (1.58 percent) are Sherpa speakers. According to the 2048 census, 99.1 percent of the total population of Sherpas speak the Sherpa language, but in the 2058 national census, that number dropped to 83 percent. According to the 2068 census, the population of Sherpas is 1,12,946. The number of Sherpa speakers is 1,14,830. There are more Sherpa speakers than Sherpas.


Of the Sherpa speakers, 15,094 live in urban areas and 99,739 live in rural areas. Geographically, there are 64,715 Sherpa speakers in the Himalayas, 45,804 in the hills and 4,306 in the hills.

Use of Sherpa language

Since the restoration of democracy in 2046 BS, there has been some improvement in the linguistic development of Sherpas. Since 2051 BS, Radio Nepal has started broadcasting daily Sherpa language news at 9.45 am. Since 2054 BS, The language program has been running every Monday from 10 am to 11 am for one hour a week. At present, half a dozen Sherpa language programs are being aired on various FM stations.

Similarly, news and articles in Sherpa language have been published on the New Nepal page of Gorkhapatra daily since 2065 BS, while news and articles in Sherpa language have also been published in the monthly magazine ‘Nasam’ published by Sherpa Media Group. Although the Sherpa language is rich, no effort has been made by the state so far in its development, enhancement, protection and promotion. However, some work has been done to preserve and promote the Sherpa language through individual and non-governmental organizations.

Thakali : The Indigenous Inhabitant of Himalayan Nepal