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Written By:  KSAA    |   Published Date:  14-Feb-2012

About Sherpa Clan Name

 Sherpa is a group of people sharing a common language, culture, and place of origin. Within this greater group, there are more than a dozen clans known as Ru.  Membership of a Ru is passed down through the male line. People of the same clan are considered blood relations and intra-clan marriage is prohibited.

Historically, Sherpas wrote their names in Sambota (Tibetan) script. Clan names were used essentially as family names, and commonly placed before the given names. This seems to be a common practice among other Asian cultures including Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese. In Sherpa community, this practice got disrupted over the last 3 to 4 decades. It is now beginning to gain popularity again. But, nowadays Devnagari or Roman scripts are used and clan names are placed at the end in parentheses. The clan names are written Roman and Devnagari scripts with different spellings.

A friend recently asked me if the Roman spellings of Sherpa clan names couldn't be standardized. He was worried that inconsistent spelling might create confusion in future. Although, he was mainly concerned about the དྲགས་མཐོ།་ clan, the standardization is necessary for all Sherpa clans. This should be done carefully by analyzing the original writings in Sambota script and studying their etymology.  Experts tend to transliterate དྲགས་མཐོ།་ as drags mtho. Although, this method preserves the original Sambota spellings, for most people this is not easy to pronounce. For the དྲགས་མཐོ། the most satisfactory way seems to be Dragtho. This spelling has been used by a number of different scholars. In terms of its meanings, དྲགས་ (drag) means "better" or "superior" and མཐོ་ (tho) means "high". According to a clan elder, this clan name originated from Mi Chen Dragpa (the great man of superior quality) who was among the first people to settle in Khumbu over five centuries ago. Mi Chen Dragpa inherited the title དྲགས་པ།་Dragpa from his ancestor who once served as a senior official of an ancient state who received the title from the ruler for his superior performances. Members of Dragtho clan are Dragthoba or Dragthowa. Dragthoba are modest in number but found throughout the Sherpa areas of Nepal.   

-Drag. Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa  དྲགས་ལྷག་པ་ནོར་བུ་ཤར་པ།