The dumbom, or stone cairn, is an endemic feature of the Tibetan Plateau landscape. They appear on common ground, on the banks of lakes, hilltops, and mountain passes, or at nomad camps or family dwellings. A dumbom is erected to appease the local deities. It is seen as an aid to either restore the natural balance or avoid future misfortune for humans and animals: drought, disease, or disastrous weather brought on by common negative karma caused by disrespect towards the environment and the unseen beings that act as its guardian.Many dumboms are associated with a particular religious practice. Divination will reveal the condition of the place, a mountain, stream, lake or designated area for building a monastery or dwelling. In the case of foreseen obstacles, the divinator will prescribe a remedy in the form of mantra recitation or a particular ritual to be recited or performed by the family or dwellers of the area. Stones carved with the mantra, often the six-syllable Om Mani Padme Hum, will be added to the dumbom.
On a mountain pass, pilgrims and travellers will add a stone as a thanks to the deities for a safe journey. Going over the pass is seen as a victory, the culmination point of a trek often fraught with danger. In the past, offerings also included foodstuffs left on the stones for the next to come. The dumbom is the receptacle for blessings, the focal point for holding positive energy to be disseminated to overcome obstacles and bring harmony to humans and animals.