Yar Tsa Gumba

Between May and June 2001, about 2,500 people thronged the alpine meadows of district Pithoragarh in Uttaranchal. About 100 tents sprung up, often occupied by entire families. Then in July, local newspapers splashed the stories of two murders that had occurred in and around the Chipla Kot region.

What were so many people doing at 4000-meter-plus altitude, braving an adverse climate? What sinister reason could there be for murder in alpine pastures revered by locals as the abode of the almighty Chipla Kedar?

Answer: Collecting bagfuls of Yar Tsa Gumba, in 2 cases murdering for it. Yar Tsa Gumba Yar Tsa Gumba is the Tibetan name for Cordyceps sinensis, a famous and costly Chinese traditional medicine. It fetches Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 per kilogram in Pithoragarh, passes through Nepal and finally reaches markets in China to be sold at Rs 1,00,000 per kg. (In 2001, it is believed 4-5 quintals of Yar Tsa Gumba found its way into Nepal from the border township of Dharchula alone. Taklakot in Tibet happens to be its largest market.)

A type of entomophilic fungus grows parasitically upon the larvae of the Chongcao bat moth and forms a fungus/larva composite body. The larva forms a cocoon in the winter and hibernates in the ground. Because the fruiting body of the fungus emerges from the head of the larva in summer and resembles a grass sprout, this medicine's Chinese name means roughly "winter insect, summer grass.'

Hence it is also known as caterpillar mushroom. The biological relationship between the fungus and the caterpillar is yet to be established. At a certain point in its life cycle the mycelium finds the buried caterpillar