Nepal | May 28, 2020

Sacred Tsum Valley gears up for centennial celebrations

Himalayan News Service
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GORKHA: With a slogan ‘A campaign of non-violence: The identity of Tsum inhabitants’, the remote valley in Gorkha district is gearing up for the centennial celebrations in April, marking 100 years since the declaration of the Upper Tsum Valley as an area of non-violence by the Tsumba people and their Lamas.

“The Indigenous Tsumba people of the sacred Tsum Valley in the foothills of northwest Nepal’s Himalaya reaffirm their collective commitment to the conservation of nature and culture during the Shyagya festival (Tsum Centennial Celebrations) to be held from April 17 to 20,” Nima Lama, coordinator of the event, said.

“The Tsumba people would like to invite visitors from all over the world to join them and witness this historic event,” Lama said, adding the festival also aims at supporting the government’s ambitious campaign Visit Nepal 2020.

As the organiser plans to inaugurate the festival in the presence of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the event will witness a renewal of the community’s commitment to non-violence and its resolve to continue following the key principles of non-violence.

Lama, a community leader, shared that the Upper Tsum, with 11 settlements, was declared a non-violent area in 1920, and the Lower Tsum Valley, with 22 settlements, declared its commitment to non-violence during the Shyagya festival in 2012.

According to Lama, the seven key principles adopted by Tsumba people include: Hunting is forbidden; setting traps is forbidden; harvesting honey is forbidden; the sale of livestock is forbidden; violence against calves of Himalayan cows, and other aquatic and terrestrial species is forbidden; restrictions in the import and export of animals for meat will be respected; and burning in forests and mountains is banned.

Visitors consider the valley as an open natural museum, where wildlife is intact and allowed to move freely, according to Lama. “Through the Shyagya festival, we want to re-demonstrate our commitment to the conservation of biodiversity and culture for many generations to come,” he said.

The four-day festival will include a nature worship pooja known as Rilung Thrisole for the good of human beings, wildlife and other species, and the sun and the rain; Chewang pooja for good health; cultural activities; the installation of sacred flags and poles; a march for world peace; and the Tsumba’s collective signature on the commitments and rules of non- violence.

According to Jailab Rai, Assistant Professor at the Central Department of Anthropology, Tribhuvan University, the Tsum Valley is a Beyul (sacred refuge) created by Guru Ringpoche, who introduced Buddhism in Nepal in the 8th century. “This Valley, a sacred place of spiritual significance, is sustained by Buddhist cultural values and practices, institutions of the Tsumba people, and the support of dedicated leaders and revered Lamas from the monasteries,” Rai stated in his research, adding that this territory of life in the Tsum Valley predated official Protected Areas in Nepal.
“Tsum valley can be recognised as a sacred natural site and should be recognised as such as part of national conservation planning processes,” Rai stated, adding, there is a need to raise awareness among local communities on the roles and contributions of their culture to biodiversity conservation.

According to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, approximately 2,000 species of plants, 11 types of forests and over 50 species of medicinal plants have been recorded in this valley. A total of 33 species of mammal, over 110 species of birds, 11 species of butterflies and three species of reptiles have been noted in the valley.


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