Surjyang Culture of Sherpa People: Good Wishes and Good Luck

Sherpa people who represent one of the diverse cultures in Nepal. These Sherpa people have been practicing Surjyang culture in their societies from for generations in their territories. Surjyang is a compulsory ritual to be performed on special and formal occasions of Sherpa people. It is the heart of most formal rites and the functions of the Sherpa people. Literary, Surjyang refers to the welcome ritual. They have been practicing it for both welcomings, and farewell moments of the formal rites, rituals, festivals, and special occasions.

Sherpa perform Surjyang wishing good luck in their rites. They also perform it to honor their Tulku, Rinpoche Lamas, and other special guests at the functions. It enhances the relationship between family members, guests, and the organizers along with other participants. It has been a common ritual among the Himalayan peoples of the country as well.

The article focuses on the Surjyang culture only in the Sherpa society highlighting the elements of Surjyang along with its decoration methods. It also focuses on how people perform the ritual and why they perform it. Furthermore, the research investigates when and why Sherpa perform the Surjyang ritual. In addition, it also analyzes the psychological and other effects of the ritual in society.

Introduction of Surjyang Culture:

Sherpas are one of the Himalayan peoples of Nepal. Their main settlements are expanded towards the eastern parts of the country, mainly to Solukhumbu, Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Udayapur, Khotang, Bhojpur, Taplejung etceteras (Sherpa, 2020). They are Buddhist followers (Sherpa, 2067 BS).

The Sherpa people live with unique cultural practices and traditions. Among the ocean of cultural traditions of the Sherpa, Surjyang (Welcome ritual) is one of the major parts of their culture. Surjyang is the process and or act of good wishes, good luck, and auspicious offerings in the honor of the Tulku (Re-incarnated Lama), high Lamas, bride, groom, and or the other guests (field, 2022). It is the act of welcoming guests happily from their hearts in the honor of the guests. It creates a positive vibration among the participants of the function. It supports the creation of positive thoughts and vibrations in the function.

Sherpa offer Surjyang ritual to welcome some special personalities in the home, or gonpa (Monastery) and or other functions. Surjyang carries both the tangible and or intangible attributes of the cultural heritage of the Himalayan Sherpa people. The recitation of Mantras and prayers performed in the Surjyang are the elements of intangible parts of the rituals.

Similarly, the act of sprinkling Chhyang (Home-made alcoholic drink), water, milk, and Chhimar (Sagun- mixture of baked flour, butter and sweet) on the deities, spirits, and self are also a live characteristic of the intangible cultural heritage of the people. The feelings, hopes, wishes, and beliefs developed during Surjyang are the other forms of the intangible attributes of the Surjyang, while the offered materials seem to be part of the tangible culture.

Preparation of the Surjyang Culture:

Surjyang is a ritual performed to welcome special guests. Sherpa also offer it at the farewell functions in many places of the Sherpa settlements. They, especially young girls and women prepare for the Surjyang. They put a chyokchi (Traditional wooden table) on side of the main entrance of the function venue. They cover chyokchi with decorative table cloth and colorful khadas imprinted with the eight auspicious signs. Then, people decorate the chyokchi with a wooden bowl full of chhimar, duna (Crops) topped with kraken (White butter marks).

The seed pod of Himalayan barley is a sign of prosperity and it gives decorative feelings. People offer it with Chamaka Mendo (Totala flower) also. Another attraction of the Surjyang is the pong (Traditional wooden pot decorated with golden and silver artistic metal). Sherpa use a decorative wooden pong full of Chhyang. They decorate it with Karken and put a stem of flower or juniper to be sprinkled. They offer a gang (Brass bowl) full of milk and or water. Also offer varieties of sweets, sweet chhurpi, and dry fruits in a tray to the guests.

Another attraction of the Surjyang is the khapse (Artistic bread). It is a decorative piece of bread barley, which tastes either sweet or salty (field, 2022). The sang (incense) is compulsory in the Surjyang ritual.

After decorating chyokchi, the team of two to four young unmarried girls wearing their traditional attire- Bakkhu, Syamjar, Soma (Sherpa people attire), and traditional ornaments stand up just behind the decorative chyokchi. They have to wear yoljen (A kind of stole) on one side of the shoulder which adds more formality and politeness to the guests.

The yoljen on the one side of the shoulder of the girls’ symbols as the chiwar (Refers to attire of Gautam Buddha) of their deity Syange Chomden. The participants of the Surjyang must have both their father and mother alive. If these qualities of young girls are unavailable at the moment, the women having parents and husbands are allowed to welcome in the Surjyang.

These girls and or women should not be from a family, whose family member is passed away within one year. They should also not be the divorcee and or have done second or more marriages (field, 2022). In some cases, some other close relatives and or friends give company to the girls during Surjyang.

Performing Rituals in Surjyang Culture:

All the people and or organizers wait for the main guests of the rites and or any other formal functions desperately. The girls await guests standing up just behind the chyokchi holding khata with their both hands in respect and welcome of the guests. They bend their body a little bit to the earth slightly in the honor of the guests. The girls welcome the group of guests with their smiling faces offering Tashidele greetings to guests. The main senior Lama and or guest leads the procession and steps for the Surjyang.

First of all, Lama recites mantras and offers the Serkim to their Konchhog Sum. Then offer the Serkim (Golden liquid offerings) to the deities of the earth, surface, water, and the sky as per the guidance of the Buddha Dharma. He also offers the Serkim to other hidden spirits including 108 deities of different capacities sprinkling the Chhynag of pong with the help of the flower stem towards the sky (field, 2018).

The main purpose of offering Serkim during the Surjyang ritual is to satisfy their deities including other demonic forces offering Serkim. And then, Lama asks them to eradicate all the hindrances which may occur during their rites and functions. In addition, Lama also requests them to guard the people and the family and to fulfill the purpose of the functions smoothly.

Then, Lama takes a few drops of Chhyang himself and puts some drops on his forehead as the blessings sacred drinks from their deities. Lama takes a pinch of Chhimar offer to the sky, put another pinch on the Surjyang girl’s left- hand side shoulder, and eats another pinch of chhimar himself as the blessed sacred food.

Then, he takes a few pieces of sweets and Khabse as good luck food. And lead the procession toward the main venue. After that, other guests perform the same rituals following Lama except performing mantras and prayers. Each and every guest has to go through Surjyang. People exchange their Tashi Delek (greetings) greetings during the Surjyang ritual (field, 2018).

The Occasions of Performing Surjyang Culture:

Sherpa perform Surjyang ritual in different types of occasions and the rites. Most popular occasions for performing Surjyang are as follows:

To welcome and farewell Tulku (Re-incarnated Lamas), High-level Rinpoche (Precious high level) Lamas:

Wedding rites:

Surjyang in Dyamjyang:

Surjyang in Jendi:

Surjyang on the way to Nama’s House by Sisters:

Surjyang in the home of Nama:

Surjyang for the farewell of the Jendi in the Nama’s house:

Surjyang to welcome Nama and Makpa in the house of Makpa:


Surjyang is a ritual performed to welcome guests. Sherpa welcome their Reincarnated Lamas, other high Rinpoches, and special guests with high respect through Surjyang. They also practice Surjyang in several other rites of the wedding such as Dyamjyang, Jendi, and Par in both Nama and Makpa’s houses. In some places, the sisters or Ani (Sisters of father) of the groom also arrange Surjyang on the way to Nama’s house during Jendi. Sherpa offer Surjyang to their traditional leaders in some villages in their formal functions as well.

Similarly, they welcome their guests with Surjyang during the festival celebrations. They practice Surjyang, especially in Lhapsu, Losar, Fangngi etceteras. In addition, Sherpa offer proper types of Surjyang during the funeral of the family member as the final farewell and tribute to the deceased person hoping to liberate his or her sem from the wheel of life as per Buddhist tradition. In this way, Sherpa practice distinct types of culture to welcome and farewell to different personalities in the society. It reflects their devotion towards the guests as well as their warm hospitality.

The guests, who receive the Surjyang ritual, feel like special people, honored and thankful towards the family and or team of the functions. It helps to strengthen the relationship between the guests and the community. These are the intangible attributes of the Surjyang culture of the Sherpa people. It is also one of the major parts of the intangible cultural heritage of the Sherpa society but unfortunately, it has been disappearing from the scene of the society slowly.

Summarized version of article written by Anglami Sherpa, Lecturer and PhD Scholar, Lumbini Buddhist University, Nepal

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