Bhotiya

The People of Himalaya

ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པ་དྨེ་ཧཱུྃ

Aum Mani Padme Hum — "The Jewel is in the Lotus"

Carved by hand onto countless rocks on chörtens at the entrance of villages, battered by winds on prayer flags, whispered indefinitely by the inhabitants of these remote lands, the mantra of the great compassion is ubiquitous in the Himalaya. It is for them a guideline and a source of strength and courage. Acting like a magic formula helping them go through the cycle of life in the best possible way, it permeates so much that I found myself reciting it in my thoughts during the long walks that brought me here.

From the 7th century onwards, Tibetan Buddhism spread from Tibet to the valleys of Himalaya and built here its refuge, its fortress, though probably not only by chance. Capped by eternal snows, the mountainous landscape where Wilderness still exists encourages introspection. The harshness of the living conditions, on the other side, advocates the concept of impermanence as a matter of course, which seems even more true today as roads scarify mountains as fast as glaciers melt, impacting on a way of life that seemed frozen in time.

Nestled in forests or arid valleys, living in stone or wooden houses, fed by the giants of eternal snow thanks to water and silt, they are Sherpa, Tibetans, Dolpopa, Ladakhi, Zanskari… Their belief in the transmission of the soul after death incites them to respect all forms of life, although the need for food sometimes pushes them to slaughter a yak or a goat. Faithful to the religious festivals where they gather around colourful dances performed by young monks, they also love to listen to Hindi or Nepalese songs blasting through their smartphones’ speakers. Tossed between tradition and modernity, they willingly embrace the latter without denying the former. They are the inhabitants of the highest mountains of our planet, they are Bhotiya.

Visited Areas in alphabetical order: Annapurna, Dolpo (Upper), Kanchenjunga, Ladakh, Makalu, Manaslu, Mugu, Mustang (Lower), Tsum, Zanskar

To be continued...