A perfect picturesque view of agriculture fields just below the Manaslu mountains range,and a monkey sitting on the stoned walls.
02 Jun, 2023 - North Nepal Travels and Treks

Tsum Valley: Where the concept of Vegan started with Non-violence Tradition(2023 )

Tsum Valley in the northern part of Gorkha is famous for its tradition of non-killing, i.e. no animals are killed here. This practice is called ‘Shyagya’ (non-violence) in the Tsumpa language spoken by the local Tsum caste. Buddhist Margi Tsum caste has followed the rule of non-violence, that no animals should be killed in the Tsum Valley since 1977 B.S. and has continued until now. According to Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, the Tsum Valley is called Kimolung Beyul, which means ‘Happy Valley’ or ‘Valley of Peace’.

HISTORY OF TSUM VALLEY:

It is believed that during the 8th century, Buddhist religious leader Padma Sambar established 108 Beyuls in the Himalayas. In Buddhism, Beyuls are the secret shelters established for the Renaissance, and protection of the religions, which means hidden valleys.
These lands are considered sacred according to Buddhism, and so far, Beyul has been identified in Tibet, Nepal, India, and Bhutan. However, It is also assumed that there are Beyuls in Pakistan, but they have yet to be identified.

As the holy place for Buddhism, Buddhist pilgrims journey to Beyul for spiritual fulfillment, religious devotion, seeking blessings, and many more. In the Himalayas of Nepal, there are Beyul in five places: Kimolung, Khumbu, Khempalung, Yolmo, and Nagmo. Kimolung Beyul in Gorkha, Khumbu Beyul in Solukhumbu, Khempalung Beyul in Sankhuwasabha and Yomlo and Nagmo Beyul in Rasuwa. 

Tsum Valley is considered a magnificent and wonderful spiritual land. The footprint of Chipchun Milarepa, the great tantric master of Tibet, is set on the stone of the Piren Phu Cave here. He visited this cave during the eleventh century and sat there for meditation and prayers. The Rachen Monastery and the Mu Monastery are considered to be the most important among the twenty-three monasteries here. The picturesque view of the Himalayas and hundreds of monasteries, manes, kani, mandams, chortens(prayer flags), and Lungdars(flags raised in the houses) offers heavenly bliss.

Before, Tsum Valley belonged to Chhekampar VDC, and now it belongs to Tsumanubri Rural Municipality. This rural municipality has three Himalayan valleys: Tsum, Kutang, and Numbri. The legend about why the killing of animals was banned in Tsum Valley goes way back.
That is - earlier, the inhabitants used to hunt wild animals. One day, the hunter was chasing the deer with his dog, and the deer arrived in the Tsum Valley. Scared, the deer goes to the shelter of meditating Lama, and the dog and hunter who were chasing the deer also arrive there. After receiving the religious insights from the Lama, the hunter atoned before the Lama and promised never to hurt the animals again. According to locals, the ‘Shagya’ tradition started in Tsum Valley after this incident.

The residents of Tsum Valley are self-sufficient in food, as wheat cultivation here is pretty good. This valley spreads over an area of about 20 square kilometers and is at an altitude of 3000 meters. Surrounded by the Ganesh Himal from the east and the Sringi snow range from the west, north, and south, the cold air cannot enter this valley, and with Syarkhola flowing through the middle of this valley wheat cultivation has become possible. 
The main food crops grown here are wheat, yam, potato, mustard, and buckwheat. Similarly, the Himalayan brown bear, considered extremely rare in the world, is found here. The Himalayan mythical creature known as yeti, “meaning snowman”, is now considered to be this species of bear, as no traces of Snowmen are recorded in Nepal.

SHAYAGYA TRADITION OF TSUM VALLEY:

Shayagya tradition follows the six rules of non-violence. Those rules are, respectively, not to set fire to the forest, not to hunt, not to set traps, not to collect honey, not to kill any animals or living beings, and not to sell domesticated cattle for eating purposes. The Shayagya tradition was started in the Tsum Valley by Mahaguru Dukpa Lama Serap Dorje on the occasion of the Buddha Jayanti in 1977 B.S, also known as Saka Dawa. 

On that day, he gathered all the Tsum residents and made a collective commitment not to do violence to any animals or insects from now on, and recorded the commitment in the Tibetan Sambhota script. This commitment was repeated in 1996 B.S. and 2027 B.S. and was written down in Devanagari script in the year 2029 B.S. and signed collectively, and the residents were re-sworn. A cultural festival was organized in 2055 B.S. to continue the non-violence zone and the declaration of the four forts of the non-violence zone in 2065. Furthermore, the first Tsum Shyagya festival was organized in 2066, and in the Tsum Shyagya festival held in 2069, the then Tsumchet Village was also declared a non-violence zone.

The Shayagya tradition is a customary rule that has been applied in the Tsum Valley for the past 102 years. This tradition was initially recorded in the Tibetan Sambhota script and then later in the Devanagari script; however, this “community protocol” could not get legal status, which caused various legal obstacles to continuing this tradition in the past. With this tradition in mind, using the right given to the local level by Articles 221 and 226 of the Constitution of Nepal, 2072, the village assembly of Tsumanubri rural municipality recently passed the Tsum Shayagya Act, 2079, and implemented it. 

With this Act, the Shayagaya tradition, which has been practiced for a long time, has gained legal status. This legal Act has legitimized the Shaygya protection groups and communities formed to implement the Shaygya tradition. Now it becomes everyone’s duty to follow the Shayagaya tradition within the area defined by the law, whether you are a local inhabitant or tourist.
People from different communities worldwide are changing their eating styles and becoming vegetarians and vegans. The number of vegetarians worldwide has been increasing, which can be understood as the relevance of the Shayagya tradition is increasing. This tradition guides human life. 

Even in the ancient days, vegetarian food was given more importance, and food was divided into three parts, namely sattva, raja, and tama guna.

  • Sattvaic meals are typically made with fresh, whole foods grown organically and said to promote peace, happiness, and clarity. 
  • Rajassic meals are typically made with processed foods, meat, and dairy products and are said to promote restlessness, agitation, and anger. 
  • Tamassic meals are typically made with stale or leftover food and are said to promote laziness, dullness, and confusion.

Only after the Western world became more aware of animal rights and the environment they became attracted to vegetarian food.
In 1944 A.D., the first vegan society was formed in Britain, where vegan meant a diet free of meat and animal products such as honey and milk. 

In addition, as shown by a recent study young Britains are becoming vegan which supported the study conducted in 2018 in 28 different countries with varying cultures and lifestyles. Moreover, the study shows that the countries like the United States have 6% of people under the age of 35 and 3% of people over the age group being vegetarians. 
Where with more than 20% of people India has the largest number of vegetarians in the world, followed by 19% in Mexico, 14% in Brazil, 13% in Taiwan, and 9% in Britain. 

Western Culture has barely touched the Buddhist communities in the remote Himalayan region of Nepal. The Shayagya tradition is related to nature conservation, minimizing or stopping wildfires that cause the most damage in the Himalayan region. The rise of temperature in the Himalayan region is increasing rapidly due to the occurrence of wildfires, caused by the trend of poachers setting fires and killing wild animals in the forests. The alarming amount of forest fires in the Himalayan region is due to the forest fires caused due to intention of killing and poaching the rare wildlife found here.

If the Shayagya tradition is adopted in other Himalayan regions of Nepal, the incidence of forest fires in the Himalayan region would certainly be diminished. Keeping this aspect in mind, the ‘Tsum Shayagya Festival’ was celebrated from the 6th to 9th Baisakh 2080 B.S. with the main slogan ‘Campaign of non-violence, the identity of Tsumvasi(Tsum inhabitants)’. This festival further strengthened the social and cultural identity and unity of Tsumvasi and enhanced its commitment to preserving its natural resources and cultural traditions.

The picturesque natural scenery of the Tsum Valley, inside the Manaslu region hosts hundreds of monasteries, manes, chortens, and lungdars, offers tourists who reach there a sense of heavenly bliss, which leads tourists to the nickname of Tsum Valley as ‘Geo-Paraside’. However, due to a lack of safe footpaths and publicity, the natural and cultural heritage of the Tsum Valley couldn’t be ‘branded’(made popular worldwide). 

TOURISM POTENTIAL IN TSUM VALLEY:

In recent times, about 300 foreign tourists go there every year. As the number of tourists going there is low, the hotel owners who invested in hotel construction are disappointed. The trekking companies do not prioritize Tsum Valley as the footpaths leading to Budhi Gandaki and Syarkhola through the Gorkha’s Sirdibas are frequently blocked due to landslides. The possibility of an alternative arrangement of footpaths could increase the number of tourists in the Tsum area and can be combined with the Manaslu Circuit Trek. For that, it seems appropriate to re-open the old footpath that reaches Tsum Valley through Arughat, Kerouja, along the base camp of Ganesh Himal in Gorkha. Previously, this path was closed since there were no human settlements on this trail, and tourism couldn’t be operated due to a lack of infrastructure. Consequently, this footpath will help promote tourism in Tsum Valley and Rubiva(Lima) of Dhading, which is in the southeastern part of it.
The Shayagya tradition has yet to be institutionalized; for the continuation of this tradition, the economic and educational level of the people has the most influence; however, the educational as well as economic level of the residents of Chekampar and Tsumchet, where the Shayagya tradition is applied, is weak. The most important change to promote tourism in Tsum Valley is that the footpath leading there should be safe. Recently, the footpath leading the way was blocked due to landslides in Lokpa of Tsumchet, so many tourists didn’t get to visit the Geo-Paradise.

Due to the lack of employment, the young generation is first migrating away from the villages and then the country, further promoting brain drain. It not only hinders the local language, culture, and tradition among the young generation but also greatly impacts the Shayagya tradition. If alternative footpaths are arranged, and the border with Tibet is re-opened, all the problems, from the preservation of Shaygya tradition to booming tourism as well as the problem of brain drain in the Tsum region due to unemployment, can be easily solved. 

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