With the week-long festival drawing near, The Sherp unravels Burning Man to you!


“Once a year, tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. They depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever.”

Sounds like the prologue of a familiar sci-fi flick? Well, think again. This is the description and definition of Burning Man.

Burning Man is a festival with its origins in the year 1986 with a group of 20 people and a bonfire on a Californian beach and has made it to present day 2013 with an expected 68,000 people turning up in Black Rock Desert to celebrate this yearly cultural phenomena.

The Sherp gives you the lowdown and decodes the fest.


One of the roots of the annual event now known as Burning Man began as a bonfire ritual on a summer night in 1986 when Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco and burned a 9-foot wooden man as well as a smaller wooden dog. Harvey has described his inspiration for burning these effigies as a spontaneous act of “radical self-expression”.

By 1988, it had grown to around 40 feet. Attendees informally called it “The Man”, and the name stuck ever since.

In the early 1990’s another group of people (Kevin Evans and John Law) with similar ideas started an event on a dry lake, a 100 miles north of Reno, to be dedicated to expression through art in a government-free zone.

And finally in 1996, a formal partnership was created to own the name Burning Man – it was held with around 8000 participants.



The Burning Man takes its values very seriously and the fest is designed to uphold those very values. They include Gifting and Decommodification. Give unconditionally, with nothing expected in return. Remove yourself from commodities, sponsorships, etc.

They encourage you to find yourself through radical self-expression and radical self reliance.

And one of the most important values, Leaving No Trace. You are expected to clean up after yourself and after the span of one week, you leave Black Rock City the way you found it – untouched and unspoiled.

Watch this video to see how the city arrives and leaves, almost as a mirage in itself. 


Art & Installations

There is no main stage. There is no headlining act. But there are villages, where you can chose a theme and even start your own. There is a temple, and burning of the temple has become almost as big as the event of burning the Man.

The fest promotes and supports interactive art, performance art and even installations. In fact Burning Man is a community based on appreciation towards any and every form of art. Earlier themes include Fertility, Hope and Fear and this year is the Cargo Cult.


What To Expect

Considering it’s the Burning Man, we can’t guarantee what you’d find.

Expect lots of costumes, lots of sand and extensive art performances. Though the website clearly mentions it is NOT a rave, expect people around you to be on a cocktail of drugs, or even stark naked for that matter. There will also be those who would be sober and truly emancipated by the experience of just the festival as well.


The Burning Man is not just a festival, it’s considered a way of life. The experience is supposed to transform you and your thoughts. It is now known as a cultural phenomena and while the attendees may have multiplied tenfold since its inception, they still uphold the same principles. The rules are basic, and all you need to enjoy this festival is an open mind!

Here’s a snippet of last year’s edition of Burning Man