Shishu Sansaar | Interesting to Know
|Interesting to Know|
|10-Bhutan and Yeti|
10-Bhutan and Yeti
Suddenly, Bhutan has reached an uncomfortable crossroads. In the 1990s, though, things accelerated: Television arrived in 1999, the road network grew, the electricity grid blossomed. While tourism remains highly restricted - visitors must pay $220 per day, in advance, to get a visa - there were still 20,000 tourists last year, nearly ten times as many as in 1991. In a nation where kings held absolute power, March democratic elections brought in a generation of ambitious politicians.
Bhutan is a place where almost everyone was born in a village but where few people see a future in farming — and where a minuscule modern economy means there are precious few other jobs.
Thimphu, Bhutan's increasingly crowded capital, has everything from majestic royal palaces to microscopic traffic jams of a few dozen cars. On weekend nights, bored, unemployed young people brawl outside dance bars.
And About Yeti
Although many people still believe that "Everyone knew it was there, it was like the bears or the leopards. Why would one question it? The creature has always been out there, and it's out there still, if you travel the ancient trails, even today, there's a good chance you'll meet him." But most people have started believing that this is just a story. Many traditional beliefs remain deeply ingrained in Bhutan, from astrology to the worship of Buddhist priests. But the monster is now increasingly forgotten, and the link to an ancient past is more often seen as a sign of ignorance. In the West, yeti-like creatures long ago were reduced to myth.
No one is sure how far back the stories go. In A.D. 79, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described immensely strong Himalayan animals with "human-like bodies." Chinese manuscripts from the 7th century mention hairy creatures similar to the Yeti. The tales change from region to region across Asia — yetis were man-eaters in some places, grass-eaters in others. In many places, the beast was seen as a harbinger of death, a combination of man, animal and demon.
Some things, though, were certain. It was tall, hairy and very strong. It lived mostly in the high mountains and avoided people. Only a handful of yak herders might report sightings with any regularity, but everyone knew it was out there, and feared it.
In Bhutan, most people call it the "migoi" — strong man — but it goes by any number of names across the Himaalayas: glacier man, snow goblin, wild man. To Westerners, though, it is known as the yeti — a name believed to come from a Tibetan word for bear — and it has gripped outsiders' imaginations since reports of a strange Himalayan creature began filtering out in the mid-20th century. Mountaineers brought back many of the stories, telling of strange footprints in the snow, of mysterious animals spotted walking on two legs, of tales their porters told around campfires.
Just maybe, some thought, there could be truth in those tales, because similar tales had proven accurate before. In 1902, a German soldier proved that central African legends of an enormous, hairy mountain beast were based in reality. But Capt Robert von Beringe came home with proof: The body of a mountain gorilla that he had shot.
So the yeti hunt was on. In 1954, Britain's Daily Mail newspaper sent out a search party. In 1957, a Texas oilman took up the chase. Three years later, Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary searched along the Nepal-Tibet border. In their wake came Soviet expeditions, TV crews, scientists and hucksters. Plenty of tantalizing clues have been found, from footprints to hair. But science can explain most — they often turn out to be from bears — and five decades of searching has turned up no body, no high quality photograph. Eventually, even many fervent yeti hunters see the truth in more prosaic explanations. The great Italian climber Reinhold Messner spent years tracking Yeti stories across the Himalayas and even caught a glimpse of it a couple times. But in the end, the truth was obvious to him. "All evidence," he wrote at the end of his travels, "points to a nocturnal species of brown bear."
Or Maybe Not
Still, the value of the yeti is not the same what it once was. Their stories
grew around things that we could not explain. But like the tigers that roamed
these forests a century ago, the yeti once people knew is gone. Children don't
know about it, and they don't miss it.
Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 05/01/13