Saturday, May 5, 2018

Life of Tibetan Nomads

Tibetan Nomads

 Nomadic herders in Tibet are known as Drokpa in the Tibetan language. They make up 25% of the Tibetan population.  In some Tibetan counties, they make up to 90 percent of the population. There are an estimated 2 million Tibetans in Tibet who practice some form of nomadic lifestyle. For centuries these nomads have ranged across the Tibetan plateau's grassland with their grazing herds of sheep, cattle, goats, and yaks. Generally, Tibetan can be divided between farmer areas and pastoral areas. Those living in pastoral areas are called nomads or pastoralists. These people sometimes build their own home bases for folks and storage; else, they will live in a nomadic tent's traditional nomadic life. 

Nomads are described as people who graze animals within a particular place and travel from one place to another to search for a good grassland. Their primary purpose is to feed their animals with the best grass and food.  Nomads typically live in a group of 10 to 15 families in tents. 
A typical nomad family is often furnished in the following way; a stove made from mud is placed in the center of nomad tents. There is usually a small altar with Buddhist statues and scripture, incenses, butter lamps,s and a few well-known pictures of Rinpoche. The whole day you can hear the chanting of mantra from the tent, and most of the time inside the tent piles up dried yak dung for fuel. 

Tibetan herders drying yak dungs

Nomad season usually starts in April when Tibetan nomads herd hundreds of cattle up to the grazing hill. Nomads still do that barter system in which they exchange the products with a farmer with butter, dried cheese, and meat with the product they want. Though nomad travels from place to place, they are so used to staying at a place rich in the grass for days to feed their cattle, and then they shift another place near to stream or even at good pasture. Most of them might stay in one place for the month if there is good grass. Those nomads at lower altitudes would stay at a place for the whole year because of rich grass resources.

Tibetan mud stove
Nowadays, most of the nomads are semi-nomadic, which means they have a permanent settlement in winter and restart their nomadic life elsewhere as winter ends. For most of the time, each relocation normally takes 4 to 5 days. Some even take as long as 3 to 4 months. In a year, relocation time will reach up to 10 times. 

Nomads think highly of the first move. Normally they invite a Lama or elderly to tell fortune and choose an auspicious date to begin their journey. Some even offer a sacrifice to the mountain god to pray for their safety. Nomad uses its horses and yaks to carry tents and other large furniture.  After they arrived at the new campsite and a tent will be put up in a few hours, and the stove and other furniture will be put up in place. Besides, devout nomads nay splash the first homemade tea three times up in the air as an honor of gods of the mountain. It is the grazing condition and changing weather that decides where to move and when to leave for the next destination. 
Due to the high altitude and cold, harsh weather, nomads wear traditionally thick cloths called Chupa, and inside the chupa, it is designed with sheep fur to keep them warm, and some of the outer sides are made of yak and sheepskin to resist the harsh wind. The Nomad diet's staples or food are tsampa (roasted barley flour, a traditional food), yak meat and butter tea, and dried cheese. 

Yaks grazing 

Compared to the rest of the world, apart from the high altitude and cold weather, their tent has a special character. There are t two kinds of tents: black yak wool tents and white cloths tents. In Tibet, nomads lived in a four-sided or eight-sided tent made from black yak hair or wool and held up with wooden poles. There is a slit to let out the smoke. In the old days, some of them keep a bearskin front. In agricultural areas still, use Tibetan cloths tents. Whenever nomads raise the black tent, they have a tradition of hanging prayer flags to bless the grassland and their animals and other living creature with enough food and save from disaster.

Tibetan Mastiff Dog

Another inseparable thing that could not afford not to mention in Tibetan Nomad’s daily life is Tibetan Nomad Mastiff. Its special character is brave, fierce, and exceedingly loyal to the owner. It has special characteristics that it has a special memory that allows them to identify hundreds of yaks and thousands of sheep. Tibetan mastiffs can assist nomads in herding the livestock, secure nomad’s property, and even protecting them from wolves and other danger. 

Tibetan nomad's racehorse

Apart from the herding of an animal in nomad, they also have a wonderful time to enjoy their time. The most popular occasion is horse racing. Horse racing enjoys great popularity among the Tibetan nomads. Each year, horse racing competitions are held in every place which has a large area. To Tibetan and horse ricer, it is a festival and a chance for young men to display bravery and their skill of horse riding. The most celebrated horse racing festivals are the Yushu Horse Racing Festival in Qinghai province, Lithang Horse Racing Festival in Sichuan province, and Nagpu Horse Racing Festival in northern Tibet. 

Tibetan Nomadic Tent

The horse racing festival also serves as a trade fair. Sellers sell their own products like butter, meat and dried cheese, and Tibetan medical herbs. And buyers stocked daily necessities that can last for a year. A typical horse racing lasts for 2 to 3 days and involves horsemanship performance, archery competition, stone carrying competition, tug, war, etc. At night, nomads will set a campfire to roast lamb while singing and dancing. As the horse racing festival concluded, they will happily return to their herding areas with yaks loaded with ample supplies. 
Nomad also had their own hardship. Whether they had got a good rain, such as weather, will determine to have enough edible grass for the animals. Winter storms can also be damaging. Freezing temperature can kill sheep, and a thick layer of hard snow or ice can make it difficult for the animals to travel. Ideally, herders try to collect enough grass and keep it for animals to eat in the winter. 

Tibetan Nomads winter Residence

A long rainy season can cause trouble by making it difficult to dry yak dung. Deep snows and long periods of cold can kill larger numbers of animals and force nomads into poverty.  And yak dying from diseases, yaks starving to death from heavy snow, difficult to selling meat, low yak wool prices, and the constant pressure to resettle towns. 

The best places to see nomadic culture is not in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, but in Amdo and Kham regions found in Qinghai, western and northern Sichuan, and southwest Gansu province. These ethnic Tibetan areas contain most of the remaining Tibetan nomads. 

If anyone willing to experience the life of Tibetan nomads, you can visit

Recent Post

Popular Post