People, Culture, and Food in Langtang

The Langtang Valley is mainly inhabited by the Tamang people, one of the major ethnic groups of Nepal. They mainly follow Tibetan Buddhism, but their religious beliefs are heavily influenced by Animism and, to a lesser extent Hinduism. Their name is derived from the Tibetan word "Ta," which means horse, and "Mang," which means traders.

The Tamang was originally from Tibet. It is claimed that their ancestors were a cavalry division under the Tibetan King Srong-sen Gampo. Some groups settled along the route when he invaded Kathmandu in the 7th century. King Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered their ancestral lands in 1762.

Tamang people are deeply religious. They have great respect for their shamans or 'Lama.' Rituals are conducted in their presence from birth to death. The Damphu is a musical instrument unique to the Tamang. It is similar to a tambourine and is used in every major ritual.

Rice is a staple food of the Tamang. However, historically rice was scarce due to the location of Tamang settlements. So, rice is not featured in most Tamang cuisine. Furuala is a popular Tamang dish. It is deep-fried buckwheat flour. Gundruk (fermented leafy green vegetables, mostly spinach) is very popular. It can be consumed as a pickle or soup.

What is the main festival of the Langtang region?

Both inhabitants and pilgrims celebrate many amazing festivals in the Langtang region. Some unique ones are Tarna Festival and Janai Purnima.

Tarna Festival

Tarna is a unique festival celebrated in the Langtang region. It is celebrated on Bhadra Purnima, which means the full moon day of the month of Bhadra. Bhadra is a month in the traditional Nepali calendar between August and September. The festival celebrates the end of a long meditation by Guru Rinpoche in a cave in the Upper Langtang Valley more than 600 years ago. The festival is held inside and around a cave at 4,200m/ 13,860ft on the west side of the Lirung Glacier.

Guru Rinpoche was an Indian monk who is claimed to be an instrumental figure in spreading Buddhism in Tibet. Guru Rinpoche means "precious teacher ."He was also known as Padmasambhava, "Born from a Lotus." He is said to be the founder of the Nyingma school of Buddhism. He is also claimed to have helped construct Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Janai Purnima 

Janai Purnima is an important festival in the Hindu religion. It also falls on Bhadra Purnima, which falls between August and September. Janai is a holy thread expected to be worn by all Brahmin and Chhetri caste males. It is made of three cords that symbolize the mind, body, and speech. By wearing a Janai, the wearer is supposed to control them.
The Janai is only worn by males who have performed Bratabandhan. It is a ritual that indicates the ascent of a boy into a man who is ready to follow his religion with dedication. On Janai Purnima, the Janai is changed or worn first. Devotees also bathe to cleanse themselves and make offerings to their ancestors.

On Janai Purnima, Gosainkunda receives thousands of pilgrims. It is believed that all the Hindu deities descend to the lake on that day. So, taking a dip in the lake is a chance to get closer to divinity.