Today is Puja Day: a ceremony to ask for permission to climb Sagarmatha (Everest) and blessing all climbers and Sherpas for safe passage. No Sherpa will climb Everest without going through the Puja Ceremony.
The ceremony is focused around a Stupa (Alter) built by the Sherpas in front of which everyone gathers around and follows through for nearly two hours. Juniper fire is lit by the side of the Stupa and kept going throughout the ceremony.
Climbers bring their gear and items to be blessed such as climbing boots, ice axes, crampons, helmets, summit packs,etc… and place them around the Stupa.
Everyone takes their place on the blankets and the Lama begins with a chant of Tibetan prayers dating back nearly 300 years. The Sherpas participate in the prayers. In front of the Stupa are offerings such as bread, snacks, milk tea, beer and Chiang (Tibetan alcoholic drink). Later during the ceremony, a couple of Sherpas will walk around and start offering the items for everyone’s consumption.
Shortly after a pole is raised from the Stupa and prayer flags are strung throughout our Camp, the chants come to a halt and as if on queue, a small black bird lands on the top of the flag pole. The bird is a Himalan Chuff and landing on the Stupa pole is considered good luck.
A bowl contaiting blessed rice and flour is passed around for everyone to take a handful. We throw the rice in the air three times and exchange friendly throws of flour at each other.
Shortly after the flour battle, Climbers and Sherpas gather around arms in arms laughing and dancing the rest of the way while consuming beer, Chiang and other bottled drinks.
Everyone had a great time and we are now ready and allowed to climb the mighty Sagarmatha.
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