Who is Sherpa?

Sherpa also called Sharwa, who are one of the 59 indigenous peoples in Nepal. According to linguists, the term Sherpa means easterner; comes from the Tibetan language. Sherpa are famous mountaineers, from northern belt of Solukhumbu district. The ancestral territory of Sherpas lies in the valley between the Dudh Koshi and Sun Koshi Rivers, the original habitants of hilly regions of Solukhumbu district, situated in the lap of the Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Sherpa densely inhabit in Solukhumbu, Dolakha, Sindhupalchok, Rasuwa and eastern Taplejung districts including in Kathmandu valley. In addition to Nepal, Sherpa are also found in Bhutan, India and Tibet. However, the largest concentration of Sherpas is found in Nepal, especially in Solukhumbu district.

Sherpa are famous in the world as they have been able to set the world record of different kinds relating to the mountaineering such as world’s fastest climber, the youngest climber, first person to climb, without oxygen climber, many times climber to the world’s highest peak—Mt. Everest 8,848 meter and so forth. They have been able to do so, as because they are the indigenous people who were born and raised in the high altitude on the lap of the Himalayas. There is different opinion in regards to the origin of term Sherpa and the community. Sherpa, as per the Tibetan language, Sherpa is derived mainly from two terms Shyar, which means east and ‘Ba’ means the habitat. Therefore, Sherpa, or Sharwa means the people from the east. The Sherpa is a modified version of Shyarba.

They have a distinct language, language, religion and culture. They follow Buddhism and their culture, rituals, festivals, festivities and customs all are based on the Buddhist religion. They are devout Buddhists and have Gompas in their villages. Lhosar, the New Year festival, is the major festival celebrated with much fanfare. They cremate their dead. They greet their guests with khada scarfs. Chhewa is performed for the dead. Tourism, trade and farming are the major occupations of the Sherpa.

With a few difference, the culture, lifestyles, customs and rituals of Sherpa resemble Tibetan. Sherpa from birth, marriage, to the death, the Lama Tibetan priest play significant role. After the death of a person, the lama recites the sacred text and designates the auspicious occasion for cremation. Sherpa cremate or bury the dead as per the instructions of the lama. The ceremonies related to death are over within forty-nine days.

The houses of Sherpa are two storied with roofs of wood or stone. The Sherpa live on the second floor of the house. Their dress is similar to Tibetans. They are animists and worship the mountains, lakes and forests as the abode of gods, goddesses or souls and spirits. The major traditional occupation of Sherpa is animal husbandry. They also grow crops like potato. However, the thriving profession of today is tourism, trekking and mountaineering. Trade and business are also the traditional activities of Sherpa. Tourism has brought about a radical change in the life of Sherpa. According to the latest national Census 2011, the population of Sherpa is 112,946.


The Sherpa language and script are derived from Tibetan language, belonging to the Tibeto-Burman language family. They use Sambhoti script, which is a Tibetan script. According to the latest national Census 2011, as many as 114,830 speak of their mother tongue, which is more than their own population. At present, more than a dozen FM radio have their program in Sherpa language and dozens of magazine including daily, weekly and monthly are being published in Sherpa language, so as almost two dozen books, pamphlets, newsletters have been published on Sherpa language. In order to promote, Sherpa language, the government also has provisioned to have education in mother tongue up to primary level in Sherpa inhabitants, and prepared curriculum towards this end.

Countries speaking Sherpa language:

In addition to Nepal, Sherpa language is spoken widely in Bhutan, India and Tibet.