During early civilization, groups of families and tribes constantly migrated from one place to another to settle in a better location with proper resources and environment. Similarly, a long time ago, tribes of Gurung and Ghale people left Tibet and commenced on a journey searching for the same. Purposefully, they happen to reside in the mid-hills of Nepal, namely Lamjung, Manang, Syanja, Gorkha, etc. Over time, these indigenous natives from different parts of Nepal collectively started living together.
To survive and sustain life, they used to rely on food from jungles and water from rivers. One day, while searching for food amidst the lush jungles, they encountered the mad honey hive on the top of the cliffs of the Himalayas. Little did they know that this sweet treat would become an integral part of their livelihood and bring new waves of joy, togetherness, and elevation to their lifestyle.
With the discovery of mad honey, honey hunting became a tradition where a group of tribes performs the activity every year. In contrast, other villagers witness the most awaited event of the year. It was an opportunity for men to showcase their audacity by climbing the ladders for cliff honey and harvesting mad honey.
Along the narrow paths with slippery streets and steepest bluffs, they move ahead to complete a long and complex journey to the destination where the honey bees home. However, the hunters are specialists in getting around the obstacles and deterrents like a master with big smiles and joy, imparting all the past experiences to the newbies en route. The cliff honey has helped the villagers economically and emotionally in terms of the bond they formed within themselves. In the ancient days, a honey hunting event was a hotspot for young men and women to be together and get to know each other and develop a relationship.
Even today, communities are involved in social gatherings, interactions, religious ceremonies, and rituals. This affair allows locals to meet and chat with villagers, share laughter and sorrows, settle disputes and misunderstandings. The honey hunters of Nepal value this sport as an event for spiritual and social occasions. Mad honey harvesting is a pre-planned event that starts three months before hunting. The villagers gather to make plans and decisions regarding task allocation and the best hunting date and time. It’s not just a mere process of getting honey but a whole lot of celebration.
The cliffs are correctly inspected, and the pieces of handmade equipment are checked and repaired. Due to little access to modern equipment, they have been using tools made from locally available resources like bamboo, sticks, knives, ropes, etc. They find comfort in availing themselves of ancient tools as they are well-versed with them. For hunters, these tools are God who served as a medium of survival for them.
An auspicious day is selected by the pujari (priest) for honey hunting. On that particular day, the pujari recites prayers and offers flowers and fruits and sacrifices of sheep, goats, and chickens to avoid any mishap during harvesting. The perfect time for hunting is mornings or evenings, whereas Tuesday is the most auspicious day. As per the spiritual belief of tribes, women aren’t allowed to be anywhere near the cliff while honey hunting. However, they can see honey hunting from some distance. Also, if the wife or any other female member of the honey hunters family is on their periods or pregnant, he doesn’t qualify to participate in hunting activity.
Although mad honey is an enlisting source of income for the Gurung tribes, they are also involved in other activities for their earnings and livelihood. Agriculture and animal husbandry is the predominant activity. Livestock and poultry farming is also an everyday household activity for self-sufficiency and economic security.
Besides this, the open access to the world, and growing popularity of the beauty of the district, and the bravery of the tribes have made it one of the significant sources of attraction for foreigners. Tourists who visit the Himalayas to dwell in the beauty of nature tend to live in a homestay with villagers experiencing rural life, enjoying organic food, and of course, the welcoming view provides a market for local products. The longing desire to witness this sport and achieving a fresh environment has contributed to uplifting the economic status of the tribes residing there.
Nevertheless, the honey hunters still possess a dream and have a future vision of what they want to achieve in the future for better prospects for honey hunting. They hope for an increment in colonies shortly and desire to have improved forest management. They aspire to have a strong unity and cooperation in the community as that of bees.