The word ‘Hyolmo’ is found mentioned in many religious manuscripts of Tibetan Buddhism and is considered as a holy region where many high level Buddhist masters achieved their miraculous power and is famous for innumerable holy and sacred sites, which are in hidden form. Although, there are several holy caves and sites revealed by many great Tantric Masters and left many such sites still to be revealed. However, ‘Hyolmo’ is not only related with the particular religious and sacred region, but is also related with the identity of a unique and distinct indigenous Hyolmo nationality residing in that particular region. Actually the word ‘Hyolmo” is combined of two words “Hyol” which means high area surrounded by Mountains and “ MO” means Goddess. Majority of Hyolmo region encompasses North-west of Sindhupalchok district, east of Nuwakot district and south-east border of rasuwa. People living in Hyolmo region itself are Known to be Hyolmo.
Indeed, Hyolmo is famous for its excellent views and unique traditional interior decoration as well as tidiness. Many visitors have appreciated the unique style of hosting the guest and friendly treatment. But, due to the lack of education, Hyolmo people decline to keep their own distinct identity and adopted that of other community, which has now created some confusion and constraint for the proper identity and development of entire aspects of Hyolmo community.
The region encompasses the northwest part of Sindhupalchowk and upper northeast part of Nuwakot districts having approximately 40 to 45 thousand Hyolmo populations, which could not be found mentioned in the demographic census carried out in B.S. 2047 by the government. In spite of close proximity with the capital city, Hyolmo people remained backward due to the lack of education. The education became inaccessible for Hyolmo community by the adaptation of discriminatory policies of the government in the past. There were almost no schools in Hyolmo area and at the same time they were not encouraged and allowed to study in schools even after the establishment of democracy overthrowing the autocratic Rana regime in Nepal. Ipso-facto, Hyolmo were confined within their traditional farming in high land where only single crop is possible within a year. Due to this reality, Hyolmo people especially men were forced to go to foreign country and try to do something and earn to keep their family alive. The above mention situation had created a condition that there were no options rather then going to neighboring countries for seeking jobs. However, Hyolmo people being hardworking and honest enable them to earn and return to their villages, which inspired other Hyolmos as well to follow the same track and this situation distracted them to educate their children in order to make competent and enable them to hold the high level posts within the country.
Prior to 2030 there were only few Hyolmo’s residing in Kathmandu and they strive with their best to accommodate in the capital city. During that period there were no such industries to earn foreign currency except handicrafts and carpet was one of the main product. But the production of carpet was in low quantity and markets were limited. Although, Hyolmo people being prudent to learn the technique of weaving Tibetan carpet, supported them to settle down in Kathmandu and received an opportunity to earn their livelihood. The settlement of few Hyolmo in Kathmandu created some short of confidence in other Hyolmo and started to migrate from their villages to Kathmandu City. These days there are more then 1000 families residing in Kathmandu engaging in different occupation. Most of the Hyolmo people are still engaging in carpet industries and doing well. Although, due to the lack of education and good connection with importers of carpet, they are not getting the maximum benefit that they are entitled to receive. Another important job for the Hyolmo people is Thanka painting. There are many well-known Hyolmo Thanka artists and are showing their talent in Europe, America, Japan, Taiwan as well as other parts of the world.
Hyolmo people remained backward due to the lack of education. The education became inaccessible for Hyolmo community by the adaptation of discriminatory policies of the government in the past. There were almost no schools in Hyolmo area and at the same time they were not encouraged and allowed to study in schools even after the establishment of democracy overthrowing the autocratic Rana regime in Nepal. Ipso-facto, Hyolmo were confined within their traditional farming in high land where only single crop is possible within a year. Due to this reality, Hyolmo people especially men were forced to go to foreign country and try to do something and earn to keep their family alive. The above mention situation had created a condition that there were no options rather then going to neighboring countries for seeking jobs. However, Hyolmo people being hardworking and honest enable them to earn and return to their villages, which inspired other Hyolmos as well to follow the same track and this situation distracted them to educate their children in order to make competent and enable them to hold the high level posts within the country.
Hyolmo is a minority as well as one of the backward community among many other communities residing in Nepal. The hardworking and religious nature of the community enable them not to live in absolute poverty. In retrospect, after the establishment of Democracy in 1950, Hyolmo people were kept completely out of the regime and not provided ample opportunity to take part in the process of national building. Those who were little enthusiast to do something for their village and country were kept under the threat of different rules and regulations as well as jurisdiction by the cunning and so called superior people. Only so called high level caste and privileged people were provided ample opportunity to participate in political and administrative jobs. In some places the so called high caste people behaved HYolmo people as lower cast and treated badly not allowing to participate in social and political activities. In the past they were identified as ‘Bhote’ and discriminated not providing them equitable opportunity in the process of developmental activities of their community and region. In retrospect, into the history, the Hyolmo people had no tradition to identify with any distinct identity except their own family title. Later on, due to the various reasons the identification of the community became essential and the indigenous Hyolmo people being unaware of their own distinct Hyolmo identification, started to identify with the identification of other communities. Afterwards, Hyolmo people started to identify themselves as Sherpa and some assimilated themselves into Tamang too. The main objective of identifying themselves by the identification of other communities was to emancipate from the nick identification as ‘Bhote’. And now this miss identity in Hyolmo community has created difficult situation to re-identify them as ‘HYolmo in their certificate and other. However, at present the Hyolmo people have realized that the social discrimination against them was the main constraint on the route of enhancement of all the aspects of their community. Now, the Hyolmo people are realizing the imperative need to identify themselves as Hyolmo and showing an inspiring concern with their community engaging in various activities lunch by their own organizations.
Despite all these identification and misidentification Hyolmo community has their own unique and distinct identification. Sometime it is difficult to identity different communities at a glance. Therefore to identify them it’s essential to go into their culture and tradition, which explicitly reveal the facts of their differences. In this juncture I would like to take an opportunity to elucidate the cultural and traditional realities of Hyolmo community which clearly distinct itself with other communities.
There are few communities who claim that Hyolmo community lies under their sub-branch. We have had enough discussion and deliberation over this claim. Although, we were in the firm belief that Hyolmo community does not lies within any communities but has their own distinct and unique identity. There are few fundamental facts, which overtly reveals that HYolmo are not a sub-branch of any community but is a distinct indigenous community residing in Hyolmo region.
Hyolmo people have their own distinct language called (Hyolmo Tam) HYolmo language, which lies within Tibeto-Burman language family. Actually, Hyolmo community follow Tibetan Buddhism and therefore use the Tibetan letters in their script and nearly 90 percent of Hyolmo literature may coincide with the Tibetan literature, but the dialect that the Hyolmo community use are quite different with that of Tibetan. At the same time, even the structure of the speaking language is quite different that of the Tibetan. The language that Hyolmo people speak is not understandable by the Sherpa community and vice versa. Similarly, there is even no common works between Tamang and Hyolmo except few very common words within Tibeto-Burman language family. These linguistic differences clearly shows that Hyolmo community does not fall within any other community rather then their own Hyolmo identity.
As we all know that the tradition is a social system evolved as a rule and custom in a long period of time and readily followed by the members of the communities to give an identity of their custom, which governs the entire social aspect of all human beings. Among different components of tradition the most important component is kinship and marital system. Different caste and communities has their own belief and tradition. The tradition as such is not an outcome of just 40 or 50 years, it could have followed by the community since long time or time immemorial. So, realizing something bad by someone as the product of consciousness and if changed wouldn’t be considered as tradition. To be a tradition it should be established and followed by our forefather or ancestor. The reason behind of explaining all these subjects is to counter to those, who sometime try to correct the tradition followed by the community with their own so called legitimate version.
Indeed, the fact is that in Hyolmo community there is a system of cross-cousin marriage (Marriage between the children of paternal aunty and maternal uncle) tradition, but it is not permitted in the Sharpa community, which shows that Hyolmo and Sherpa are two different communities. However, Tamang community follows the same tradition and there are many communities pursuing the same tradition.
Sometime it is not possible to differentiate among different nationalities just observing their faces and outlook, and this situation is not merely prevailing in Nepal but also around the world. And at the same time it is possible to identity any community or nationality through their attire in this modern world. Although, with the assistance of the traditional attire it possible to guess the identity of any particular community. The traditional dress of any community keeps tremendous value and pride and also shows the uniqueness and transcendence of the community. Usually, the traditional dress gets its value during especial function within the community itself. Therefore, the dress can be taken as another important component of a community to show their uniqueness separate identity. In this connection, in Nepal, Hyolmo community has their own traditional dress, which differ absolutely with the Tamang community and could be found some commonalities between Hyolmo and Sherpa, but the pattern of dressing differ in many ways. The uniqueness of the Hyolmo dress again presents the testimony that the Hyolmo communities have their own separate entity and identity. However, sometime it’s little difficult to make understand even our own community about the traditional dress. They try to grab the attire of other communities, which is in real term can be said as unawareness of their own true traditional dress history. Indeed, in retrospect into the evolution and history of the community just behind two century, you would be able to identify the actual dress of the community
Culture is another important constituent of a community. Each and every community follow their own culture, without which it would not be possible to identify oneself of the belongingness of any particular community. Sometime, the culture also helps to understand the cultural richness of a community observing their cultural performance. The cultural performance of the community also tells us more or less about the past history and the evolution of the particular community. Therefore, the culture is the last but not the least part of any community or nationality to differ and identify with other similar looking communities.
There is no doubt that HYolmo community is adequately rich in their predominant cultural heritage. Truly speaking, in this fast changing world the firm adherence of the cultural activities alone enable Hyolmo community to save their language, religion and tradition despite the lack of modern education and economic opportunities. Being the follower of Tibetan Buddhism the rituals and other religious activities goes on according to the Buddhist religion and directed by Lama. Basically, without religious activities there wouldn’t be any cultural activities in HYolmo community. The very fact, Hyolmo people have made the culture and religion as part and parcel, which kept them intact with their religion despite huge proselytizing effort of different religious group.
Economic condition of a community is another significant component, which determine the social standard and the capability of preservation of their identity, language, culture and tradition. Contemplating over this component, due to the adverse weather condition and lack of developmental activities in their homeland the Hyolmo community remain under poverty. However, as mention earlier they go to foreign countries in search of job and return with the little that they earned and try to maintain their family requirements. This situation clearly indicates that the financial situation of Hyolmo community is in vulnerable condition. Although, they became successful to preserve their language, custom and tradition apart from their distinct identity due to the lack of education and identity awareness.
Right after the restoration of democracy, the improvement of financial situation together with education brought a surge of inspiration within Hyolmo community to bond their hands together with in order to uplift their community. And many social associations have been emerged in order to mobilize the Hyolmos for the promotional activities of their own community. These associations are supported by the donation and contribution made by Hyolmo people, which also indicate the creation of awareness and improvement of financial situation in the community. In spite of encouraging participation and effort of Hyolmo community, they are not being able to move forward for the enhancement of their community due to the lack of coordination within the community and lack of governmental support in their activities. Indeed, for the preservation and promotion of the rich and unique language, culture, tradition and identity of minority community like Hyolmo should be given a top priority and should provide adequate financial and technical support. Unfortunately, on the contrary the government seems reluctant to provide state support. The government has formulated a policy, which does not include the minority community within their category. In fact, the government should focus more attention on these minority communities, whose identity is in the verge of extinction. Therefore, the government should formulate integrated package program to enable these communities to preserve their social heritage and identity.