The lama throws rice in the air as an offering to the mountain god. It is a day of ceremony,
called the puja, and our team joins in, eating the food and drinking the tea that was made
especially for the occasion. Before the Sherpas will go into the Khumbu Icefall, the first
leg of the climb up Everest, they must have a puja and beseech the gods of the mountains for
a safe journey to the summit.
Everest is known as "Chomolungma" in Sherpa, translated as 'Mother Goddess of the World.'
Chomo means goddess, lung means region and ma is a female god. The Sherpas believe the gods of
early man dwell in the Himalayas. With the powerful shifting of wind, rock, and ice, the forces
at play here seem both mystical and terribly real.
Juniper smoke circles up toward the summits above us as Jamling chants alongside the lama. He
explains: "The mountains are our gods and are worshipped. They are our protectors. So before you go
up in their territory you need to give them offerings, prayers, put up prayer flags, or "lung-ta,"
which means wind horse. You'll see most of the prayer flags have a horse with wings. Horses
are believed to be very sacred animals and very fast, especially with wings. So they take messages
that are written on the prayer flags everywhere." Click here to hear the puja ceremony (RealAudio).