Mad honey is derived from the slope of gorgeous mountains of Himalayas by our honey hunters who belong to Gurung tribes. In the villages of Lamjung, resides number of societies who have been practicing honey hunting since time immemorial. They perform this life-threatening work by climbing on dangling braided bamboo ropes to reach 300 meters above the ground to get natural mad honey. They move forward surpassing wave and mass of angry bees with tiring arms and pain of bee sting. Besides honey hunting, they are indulged in subsistence farming practicing Argo pastoralism. They grow wheat, barley and rice in small part of land which they acquire and keep livestock in high altitude area. They collect forest products for food such as wild bananas, mushrooms, raspberries etc. However, honey hunting has been part of their lifestyle as it a tradition which has been passed on from generation to generation. Its not just a mere profession for the sake of earning but it is a value and customs, which they want to preserve and pass on to the further generation.
Mad honey is harvested twice a year. Each community, individuals and families own a particular cliff from which they can derive the mad honey. If they want to get mad honey from other cliff then they have to get permission from the owner of that particular cliff.
Preparations done before commencing mad honey hunting:
Advance planning is done by gathering all the members who are supposed to commence the journey and villagers where each task is allocated. The cliff is properly inspected before honey hunting, all the equipment’s required for it are thoroughly checked and repaired and the ropes are soaked in water. From ages, they have been using same honey hunting tools, following their ancestral footsteps and making equipment from locally available plant-based material particularly bamboo. Instead of investing in expensive equipment’s they themselves cast tools required for hunting with whatever is locally available like rope, knife, stick and bamboo baskets. They light up smoke to drift away the wild aggressive bees and make them docile. After sometime, the become back to normal. The ideal time is said to be mornings or evenings for honey hunting. Women are not allowed to see the honey hunting process as it is said that the bees get more aggressive after finding the presence of women so they stay away from the cliff.
Rituals performed before starting the journey:
An auspicious day for performing the honey hunting activity is decided by the pujari(priest). Generally, Tuesday is tended to be the most auspicious day and Wednesday as inauspicious one for the hunting. We can clearly see that their belief has been passed on to them along with the honey hunting tradition and still they take these beliefs seriously to avoid any kind of bad happenings. They worship the local God and cliff God. They perform elaborated prayer ceremonies where they light up incense stick, use tika, raw rice and do puja. They offer fruits, flowers and even sacrifice sheep, hens and goats to ensure the smooth flow of honey hunting process and for the safety of the honey hunters. All these rituals are performed to drift away bad energy and omen for successful honey hunting and to get best mad honey from the harvest.
Lifestyle of Mad Honey Hunters in Nepal:
Our Gurung tribes live a minimalistic life. They are far from modern influences and fast paced life of today’s world. There major source of earning is through mad honey. The elders who have been doing honey hunting activity teach their younger ones and similarly they adopt this profession and earn living out of it. They choose to dwell in the traditions and nature rather than in tall building. They lead simple and happy life even with such little facilities and accept whatever they have. T hey are so grounded humans that even in the difficult time they will welcome people with a smile in their face and love in their heart.
Unity of the Gurung tribes:
Gurung tribes have been living and working united. They believe in the ideology of progressing together rather than moving fast and alone. They share the happiness and sorrow with each other. They have been grounded by their values and culture which inculcate the feeling of belongingness and togetherness in them. Government has , the cliffs have been taken over by them in few places but however the unity of the tribes have stop them from gaining their power over it.