The Name Game

Long before the first sightings of the Central Himalaya by intrepid colonial adventurers, the Newars of Kathmandu woke up everyday to the sight of the formidable Ganesh, Langtang, Jugal and Rolwaling himals to the north of their Valley. Surprisingly, the Newars never found it necessary to name these ranges, let alone the individual peaks. They generically called the whole panorama Chwaphu Ghu (snow-hill). Similarly, except for isolated Kirat peak-names in eastern Nepal, and other than a few that carry the names of deities, the mountain people elsewhere in Nepal do not seem to have christened the mountains that form the backdrop to their country.

It is thus clear that, for all that is made of the Himalaya in the ancient Sanskrit scriptures (see, for example, Himal's masthead sloka). the Newars and other mid-hill-people were spiritually and culturally detached from the snow mountains. The same, of course, is not true of the Tibetan-speaking communities such as the Sherpas, perhaps because they live amidst the mountains rather than astride them. These groups do have individualised names for peaks.

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Himal Southasian