Nepal Sherpas pray for 'godfather' Hillary | world | Hindustan Times
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Nepal Sherpas pray for 'godfather' Hillary

Generations of Sherpas gather at a Buddhist ceremony in Kathmandu to pray for the soul of Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary, who was buried in New Zealand on Tuesday.

world Updated: Jan 22, 2008 16:29 IST

Generations of Sherpas gathered at a Buddhist ceremony in Nepal's capital to pray for the soul of Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary, who was buried in a state funeral in New Zealand on Tuesday.

Dozens of Sherpas gathered in a monastery to offer prayers for the Kiwi, considered a legendary figure and warmly revered by the hardy mountain people from the foothills of Everest.

"He was something like a godfather for all Sherpa people," said Nawang Thile Sherpa, who was born 28 years after Sir Edmund and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the top of the 8,848-metre (29,028-foot) peak on May 29, 1953.

Hillary set up a foundation after climbing Everest that has built or supported 63 schools, two hospitals, a dozen medical clinics, bridges and miles of trails, and provided safe drinking water in the Solokhumbu region at the base of Everest.

"He came back as often as he could and he made huge improvements in our remote community," said Nawang, who works as a trekking guide.

The ceremony in the Sherpa monastery in Kathmandu involved some 15 burgundy-robed monks chanting prayers and banging drums for Hillary's soul for several hours. In all, the ceremony will last seven days.

Sir Edmund first got to know the Sherpas while climbing Everest in 1953, but for many at Tuesday's ceremony, his work with the mountain community will be his lasting legacy.

"For me, him summitting Everest was not the biggest of his achievements," said 49-year-old tour operator Tashi Jangbu Sherpa, as Sherpa women in colourful aprons handed out hot butter tea to the congregation.

"His work for the Sherpas changed our community forever, especially in the fields of of health and education."