It takes some time before the sun rises above the mountains in many places on the Tibetan plateau. Even before the sky starts to brighten, most Tibetan women are awake and bustling around. There are many things that need to be done, fetching straw and/or dried dung to start the fire, sweeping the courtyard, and preparing the incense offering. All this should be completed before breakfast is made.
Women in Tibetan villages are hard workers. They are responsible for taking care of the home, and there is seldom a lack of things to do. If there does happen to be a lull in the day’s activities, women will look for things to do so that they can keep themselves busy. To be seen sitting down and resting would cause the neighbors to talk. Reputation is important, and nobody wants someone in their family to be considered lazy.
Aside from making all the tea and meals for the family, a Tibetan village woman should take care of the children in the household, take care of any animals, gather dried dung for fuel, gather wild fruits and vegetables for eating (in summer), entertain guests with food and drink, keep a tidy home, do farm or herding work, and keep on top of their religious rituals.
Buddhist religious rituals are considered to be just as important as household responsibilities. Women will make time everyday to do prostrations in their home shrine rooms. They’ll also make daily trips to religious buildings such as stupas, temples and monasteries that are located nearby. If they are the caretakers of children, they’ll carry them along on their backs. If they find themselves sitting, it won’t be idly, they’ll be chanting and using their prayer beads, or spinning their hand-held prayer wheels. Tibetan women are always in motion.
This kind of lifestyle for village women has been going on for hundreds of years, but with the introduction of modern formalized education, it is uncertain how long it will last. Most women who currently make their lives in Tibetan villages are uneducated and illiterate, and are only vaguely aware of the outside world. For better or worse, contemporary Tibetan girls will likely grow up to lead very different lifestyles than their parents and grandparents.