Yolmos are a sub-group of the Gorkha-Nepali ethnic group found in the Himalayan foothills. Yolmos are spread out over Nepal and parts of Sikkim and Darjeeling district in India. Yolmos are also known as Kagatay as their traditional occupation was paper-making (kagat = paper). Yolmos believe their clan to originate from Hey-lambu near Kathmandu in Nepal. Etymologically, hey stands for potato and lambu means radish in the Yolmo patois, giving a vivid description of their early occupation as farmers. Their dress for the female members of the community is the Dorma and the Shayama, and the Suruwal and the Khanjak for the males members. Yolmos are predominantly Buddhist and speak in a tongue closely related to Tibetan. Yolmos are listed as Scheduled Tribes in West Bengal and Sikkim, India.
The indigenous people living in the Helambu region are known as Hyolmo. The name, Hyolmo, is made up of two words, Hyol, or high area surrounded by mountains, and Mo, or goddess. The Hyolmos have close cultural and linguistic relationship with the peoples of Kerung and Rongsthar region of Tibet, China, Bhutan, etc.
Helambu area in the north-west of Sindhupalchok district, east of Nuwakot district and in the south-east border of Rasuwa are the traditional homeland of Hyolmos. At present, about 500 families of Hyolmo live in Kathmandu, and a few have also settled in the United States and other countries. According to the census of 2001, the population of Hyolmos is 579, while those speaking the Hyolmo language is 3,986 and population is 1,00,000 is assumed including Hyolmo people living in Darjeeling, Gorkha, Lamjung, Chitwan etc.
The Hyolmo language is similar to a dialect of Tibetan Buddhist language. Most of the spoken dialect are Buddhist script. In Tibetan usually writing and spoken are not similar. Holly book of Buddhist dialect had used Hyolmo dialect.
The purification ceremony undergone after the birth of a child by the mother and those relatives and neighbors who touch her is known as (Sang) Thaapsang or Depkiserkim. Purification ceremony or Puja depends upon Lamas but in general is called "Sang and serkim". There is the practice of marrying one's maternal uncle's or aunt's daughters. The boy goes to ask for the hand of the girl. When going to ask for the girl's hand, alcohol in the "Thambe" special wooden pot called "Shayalgar" traditional Hyolmo wine wooden container has to be taken.
The boy is adorned with tika of clarified butter (ghee on the head in three places. During the marriage ceremony, the Lama gives blessings, tika of clarified butter is put on his forehead, boys and girls sing and not all but some places the tail of a yak (Chamar) is waved. The marriage rituals are longer in the groom's house than in the bride's house after the bride is brought to the groom's house. The marriage altar is made in the groom's house.
After a person's death, the dead body is kept from one to five days and sacred scriptures are read over the body. When the body is taken for burial, it is adorned like a groom and is carried in a palanquin. The purification ceremony (ghewa) is undertaken on the third or seventh week after death. In the ghewa there is practicing special mani song and dance which is introduced my Guru Padmasambava (Guru rinpoche) The Hyolmos celebrates Sonam Lhosar which is earlier than Tibetan Losar on the time of the Chinese new year. We use clarified butter as tika in all our ceremonies. On the occasion of Hyolmo Sonam Losar we make special food called Derka traditional homemade Hyolmo wine (Chhyang or Aarag), Derka (a plate full of fruits and bread called Bhabar), Thunse (meat), butter tea.
Their attire appears at first glance like that of any other Himalayan communities, but is slightly different and softer. Hyolmo people drink salt and butter tea which is called Soljya or simply "Jya" and its container is called " Tibri".
Beliefs and festivals
Festivals in Hyolmo begin with religion, ending as social event. There are more than 14 major festivals in a year celebrated by Hyolmos. Although most of these festivals are religious some have historical significance, while others are seasonal celebrations.
Religious festivals include: Hyolmo Somnam Losar, Nara Dungru (one of the biggest festivals), Shartsezhu, Dumzhu, Drukpa Tsezhu, Leehudema, Dhalopangdi, Kanggyur, Mani Tsyopa (Dasai Tikka), Nyungne, Tsoya, Ama Yangri Tsezhu.
The lama has the main role in the social system of Hyolmos. Males cannot discriminate against women. The elites and elders have a special place in society. As Hyolmos are involved in trade, tourism and agriculture, they have a corresponding social structure. The Hyolmos are considered as leaders of lamaistic religion. Each village of Helambu has a monastery. The entire social life of Hyolmo is religioun-oriented. Guru Padmasambava Rinpoche, who founded the modern Buddhist religious tradition in Tibet, had inaugurated a new tradition in the Buddhism of Hyolmo. Hyolmo is blessed by Guru Padmasambava (the ultimate source of all energy), Guru is also known as VAJRA unshakable, Ama Chhomo Yangri is deity (protector of entire Hyolmo) and Jetsum Milarepa yogi from Tibet who meditated in Hyolmo and sang fondly of Hyolmo when he meditated in the Tiger Cave Lion Fortress (Ta-Puk-Senge-Dzong) in the 11th century.
According to holly book and "Pema Kathang" Hyolmo is a sacred place where people who would meditate in some other place for three years can go very deep within themselves if they meditate just three months in Helambu (Hyolmo).
- http://www.yolmo.com.np About Yolmo
- http://censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/ST%20Lists.pdf List of Notified Scheduled Tribes
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