01/12/2008, 00.00
NEPAL
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Buddhists in prayer for Sir Edmund Hillary, the "father of the Sherpas"

by Kalpit Parajuli
The mountaineer, the first to reach the summit of Everest, is remembered by the Sherpas as a father. Candles shine in the windows of homes and in the monasteries, in tribute to the memory of Nepal's only honorary citizen.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - As soon as news came of the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, the hero of the Himalayas, Nepal's Buddhists lit candles in their homes and monasteries, to remember the man who more than any other helped the population and the Buddhist religion in the northern part of the country.

Hillary, the only honorary citizen of Nepal, died yesterday at the age of 88. In 1953, together with the Sherpa Tenzin Norgay, climbed to the summit of the world for the first time. Since then, his efforts on behalf of the Nepalese, and in a particular way for the Sherpas [editor's note: the "climbers"], never ceased: he created an international fund for the construction of schools and hospitals in the country, and he always remained close to the population.

The lama Ringboche Namang Tenzing Norgay, abbot of the Longbuche Stupa monastery, has asked all the faithful of the country to honour their "father" by placing a lit candle in their windows. According to Nun Lama, Hillary "was like a godfather for us, as he helped to establish monasteries and schools for the monks, which paved the way to Buddhism for many people".

Kami Temba Sherpa, the director of the hospital of Kumbu (founded by Hillary in 1976), says "The fund that he directed opened 27 schools, 2 hospitals, 9 health clinics, and a few monasteries. For the Nepalese, and in a special way for the Sherpas, he was a godfather of rare generosity".

Thongboche Sherpa, a resident of Khumbu, adds "The minority Sherpa groups living in the Khumbu area [the area nearby Mt. Everest], were deprived of basic needs, and Hillary tried his best for the people of here in terms of education, health, transportation and even Buddhism and local culture. So, we regard him as godlike figure".

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