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sherpas raising prayer flags Through the Icefall
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The Puja
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. prayer flags 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.

lama performing puja 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).

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Photos: (3) courtesy Robert Schauer.

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