For anyone who has been or will be going on a expedition in this part of the world, will come across a ‘puja’, an important ceremony to Sherpas, asking the gods for a permission to climb the mountain and to stay safe. And definitely a ceremony that we also wanted to take part in.
An auspicious day was selected from the calendar by a Lama and our lucky day was yesterday (Sunday). It is a day that everyone waits for and our base camp (BC) team prepared for it already days ago by building a big stone cairn in the middle of our camp. On the day itself they prepared edible offerings; brought out some beers and rum (for gods, of course); various decorations and incense. We completed it by bringing some of our climbing gear to be blessed during the ceremony.
In the afternoon, as the gloomy looking clouds arrived, so did the busy Lama who had already held another puja in our neighbouring camp. Other Sherpas from that camp joined our little crew and soon the Lama was reciting away as the snow fall intensified.
But that didn’t matter one bit: instruments were covered in plastic bags or wiped clear of snow; even the Lama’s sacred texts got hurriedly stuffed inside a ziplock bag to keep them dry and the ceremony continued. All you heard was the recitations, and occasionally the cymbals and type of a drum would add to the sounds.
Anything like this in Europe (or other Western countries) would be a quiet and a serious affair, but here it is a little more chilled out: people chatted and wondered about taking videos or photos; you might have a cup of tea while listening to the ceremony and occasionally the Lama will tell others to stoke the fire or offer some beer to the gods. It is still a very serious matter, but in a nice way so.
Crème de la crème was the finale when the long pole was raised in the middle of the cairn to which rolls and rolls of colorful prayer flags were attached.They got attached to different parts of the BC, and with this and some more offerings of tsampa, rice and alcohol to the gods, the ceremony was about complete. We also got a blessing from the Lama, which is always good.
Incidentally enough (or perhaps not), just as the prayer flag pole was being assembled in the middle of the cairn, the snow storm stopped, and the last part of the ceremony we not only had the colorful prayer flags flapping in the wind to look at, but incredible views of the snowy mountains as well. The air was rich with the sweet incense scent and I could not help thinking that it was all a good omen, a very, very special moment. You didn’t need to be religious or even spiritual to feel the magic in the air, but it was filled with it.
Afterwards we all gathered in the kitchen tent to share a little of the Nepal’s finest (says on the bottle), Khukuri rum, which was left over from the offerings to the gods. All of us were now blessed, permission had been asked, and from now on, we all could approach the mountain with an easier mind. Obviously it is still up to her to decide who gets to the summit and who doesn’t.
Now that puja has been done, we planned to head up for another rotation, but weather is playing a little different game so we are adjusting the schedule slightly. The aim is to go up again on Tuesday, even if for a short rotation.
We also would like to say a Big Thank You to all those people who have taken their time to think of us and send positive/supportive/encouraging/fun messages via FB, Insta and sat phone. We haven’t had the chance to respond to many of you, but please know that your well wishes and news have reached us and we’ve loved them. Keep them coming!!