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SHERPA – Remember The Name

Tibetan deity

Naming a child is one of the first responsibilities of parents and one which is agreed upon by both with much deliberation and debate. And rightly so. Your name can influence whether you get promoted, accepted or turn into a criminal. In this daunting task, some parents succeed while others fail miserably. However, none have it easy. Well except the Sherpas (a ethnic group residing in Himalayan region in Nepal) that is.

Naming Sherpa kids is as easy as figuring out the day of the week, literally and figuratively, for Sherpa kids are named after the day in which they are born!! Hence in a Sherpa family, all you have are:

  1. Sunday- Nima
  2. Monday- Dawa
  3. Tuesday- Mingma
  4. Wednesday- Lhakpa
  5. Thursday- Phurba
  6. Friday- Pasang
  7. Saturday- Pemba

While Sherpas share this custom with their Tibetan brethren beyond the Himalayas, the practice is nowhere near as prevalent in Tibet as it is in Everest Region. The rationale usually given is that the day of birth determines the child’s protector deity and pronouncing the deity’s name reaffirms this association between the child and the deity. Hence, Dawa is protected by the moon while Lhakpa is protected by Mercury and each utterance of the name reinforces their connection.

Perceptive readers might have noticed that the protector deities closely resemble the planets that are used to name days in the Greco-Roman or Indian traditions. Hence,

  • Nima=Sun
  • Dawa=Moon
  • Mingma=Mars
  • Lhakpa=Mercury
  • Phurba=Jupiter
  • Pasang=Venus
  • Pemba=Saturn

This common origin of astrological knowledge shows that despite various differences between races and nationalities, there is still a lot in common among us.

However, it is not the only way in which a child gets her name. Sherpas also use various prefixes such as ‘Ang’ (beloved) or virtue names such as ‘Norbu’ (Precious stone). For your benefit here are other Sherpa names and their meanings:

  • Gyaltzen- Courage
  • Norbu- Precious Stone
  • Tshering- Long Life
  • Sonam- Merit
  • Dorje- Lightening
  • Lobsang- Discipline
  • Tashi- Good Luck
  • Tenzing- The holder of Buddha Dharma
  • Lhamu- Goddess
  • Karma- Fate+Work=Karma 🙂
  • Sherab- Wisdom
  • Wangchu- The Mighty One

Talking about this curious custom also makes us wonder if that has something to do with individual fame eluding a lot of highly accomplished Sherpas. In a society in which figuring out which Pasang is being referred to involves physical descriptions and accomplishment lists, it will be tougher than climbing the most treacherous peak to establish a personal brand!!

Apa (born Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa; 20 January 1960),nicknamed "Super Sherpa", is a Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer who, jointly with Phurba Tashi, holds the record for reaching the summit of Mount Everest more times than any other person. As part of The Eco Everest Expedition 2011, Apa made his 21st Mount Everest summit in May 2011.
One of the famous Sherpa, Apa Sherpa (born Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa) jointly holds the record for reaching the summit of Mount Everest with Phurba Tashi . (pic:wiki)

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HoneyGuide Staff

This article was written by an internal staff writer.

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