Swiss Family Treks Blog Posting
Overview of Mani Rimdu Festival
An annual festival lasting 19 days, Buddhists in the Everest (Khumbu) region celebrate Mani Rimdu with great enthusiasm to mark Buddhism's founding by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. At the monastery in Tengboche village (3,870m), the monks perform masked dances and Tantric rituals. Tengboche monastery is a prime site for this festival. Besides, local Sherpas also celebrate the Mani Rimdu festival in Thame and Chiwong monasteries. In particular, hundreds of people from the entire Solukhumbu district gather around the Tengboche monastery to observe the beautiful masked dances that remain the major attraction of the festival.
With a chance to view the astonishing sight of Mt. Everest (8,848m), Nuptse (7,861m), Lhotse (8,516m), Thamserku (6,420m), Ama Dablam (6,812m), Kongde Himal (6,200m), and many more, the journey unfolds to be a fascinating cultural and religious exposure. For those wanting to experience hands-on practices of Buddhists in the Everest region, participating in the Mani Rimdu festival will be a great opportunity.
The journey to witness the Mani Rimdu festival is a "once in a lifetime" experience. Following the full-moon day in autumn (October/November), the Mani Rimdu festival's celebration begins with full force. The date of the festival is fixed according to the Tibetan Lunar calendar.
Some days before the main ceremony in the Tengboche monastery, the monks begin constructing sand mandalas. As they make figures of Buddha and Garwang Thoze Chenpo (God of dance), they chant different mantras and imagine kindness releasing out from the mandala to bless everyone who attends the festival. The opening day of the festival is called "Wong." This public ceremony sees hundreds of locals as well as national and international tourists. All of the attendees receive the sacred Mani Rilwu (blessed pills) and Tshereel (pills for long life) on an opening day.
Following the grand opening ceremony, different events such as Chham (dance conveying Buddhist teachings), Ser-Kyem (tea offering to Dharma guards), Jinsak (fire puja), and Chhingpa (masked dance) take place in the Tengboche monastery. The annual festival culminates in a three-day public holiday. During these three days, one can witness the sacred masked dances and dramas that depict ancient stories. Reaching near to the end of the 19-day festival, the mandala is dismantled, having bestowed the locals and other attendees with blessings of long life, prosperity, and happiness.
Tengboche monastery, the leading Buddhist center in the Khumbu region, is situated in the most serene of places with the stunning backdrop of Mt. Ama Dablam in Tengboche village. Tengboche monastery is also known as the Thyangboche monastery and Dawa Choling Gompa. The largest monastery in the Khumbu region is its construction linked to its mother monastery called Rongbuk monastery in Tibet.
Situated amidst the Sagarmatha National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in eastern Nepal, the monastery dates back to 1916. The monastery falls on the way to the most popular Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek route. One can make a quick visit to the Tengboche monastery and get blessings from the residing Rinpoche. Reaching the monastery, one can see colorful trees of pines, azaleas, and rhododendron decorating the surrounding. The monastery's large courtyard is where the monks perform the masked dances, dramas, and conduct the Mani Rimdu festival.
Leaving the famous Namche Bazaar (3,440m), Tengboche is usually the place of rest for the day. The village is located atop a hill across Imja Khola. Thousands of trekkers from all over the world choose to do the EBC Trek. Because of this, the Tengboche monastery also sees a lot of visitors during peak trekking seasons.
Planning the trek itinerary overlapping the festival dates that fall during the autumn season can be a great way to intimately experience the Khumbu region's cultural and social aspects. Reaching Tengboche, visitors can choose to stay in one of the many teahouses. One can find accommodation facilities with hot showers and charging facilities in the area.
Festival dates for 2020: 31st Oct/1st Nov/2nd Nov and its details
The annual 19-day festival of Mani Rimdu culminates in a three-day public holiday. According to the Tibetan lunar calendar, the three-day events for the year 2020 are set to be held on 31st Oct, 1st Nov, and 2nd Nov. The residing Rinpoche at Tengboche monastery officially announces the festival dates.
The first day of the colorful festival starts with a public event where the monks from the Tengboche monastery give blessings to the attendees. This follows special masked dances as the locals sing their traditional songs. The monks make sand mandalas symbolizing deities. In the middle of the mandalas, the bowl of Mani Rilwu is placed. At the end of the first-day ceremony, the monks distribute the pills to everyone attending the festival.
On the second day of the festival, the monks perform many exciting rituals in the monastery. They perform a traditional dance called "Cham," wearing brocade gowns and colorful masks. The Cham dance is a major attraction for locals in the Khumbu region. The dance follows a story, where demons lose, and the positive forces win. Monks also perform another type of dance called "Ser-Kyem" on this day.
On the third day, the fire puja (Jinsak) takes place in the monastery's courtyard. The puja ritual witnesses offerings to the god of fire, Agni, to remove all the world's harm. The sand mandalas are dismantled and offered to the serpent gods (Nagas) at a spring near the monastery. The Chhingspa dance performance adds charm to the final day celebration. This masked-dance illustrates the attack by demons and the four Dharma guards defending the Buddhist faith. On the evening of the last day, locals gather to sing and dance with joy marking the end of the festival.
How to get there and trek route
The journey kicks off with an exciting and thrilling flight to Lukla Airport, one of the most dangerous airports in the world from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Landing at Lukla (2,860m), the trek begins leading through Phakding (2,610m) to reach Namche Bazaar (3,440m). After spending a day for acclimatization at Namche Bazaar, the trail continues to Khumjung (3,790m), one of the largest Sherpa villages in the Everest region.
Then, the next stop is the beautiful village of Tengboche (3,870m). The colorful and vibrant environment welcomes trekkers to enjoy the three-day festival of Mani Rimdu in the Tengboche monastery.
Experiencing this grand festival first-hand will surely be a delightful memory for anyone. Following the same route, trekkers can reach Lukla airport for their flight back to Kathmandu. Checking in for the domestic flights an hour before the flight's scheduled time can be of help as domestic flights are subject to delay with a sudden change in weather conditions at high altitude.
Early reservation with agency
Swiss Family Treks and Expedition offers a beautiful opportunity to experience the authentic cultures and traditions of the Buddhists living in the Everest region. The Mani Rimdu festival Trek with us will fulfill any adventure lover's hunger to relish in the unmistakable beauty of the Himalayas.
For this trek, we provide trekkers with English speaking guides who are fully educated about the Mani Rimdu festival. We make sure that all the queries are answered throughout the journey. We provide the best accommodation and food services throughout the trek.
Like any other trip, this journey, which is essentially a trekking journey, requires one to pack some equipment that is strictly necessary and also items that might come in handy. As trekking is an adventurous outdoor activity, it is essential to carry all the equipment that can help overcome any obstacle.
Careful planning of what to pack and what to leave out can help make one's journey hassle-free, memorable, and fun. Below is an equipment checklist that can be helpful to pack for the journey properly.
- Thermal inners
- Sweat soaking t-shirts
- Fleece jacket
- Lightweight down jacket for chilly nights
- Wool or cotton socks
- Trekking boot with good ankle support
- Sleeping bag
- Sunglasses with UV protection
- Lip balm
- Water bottle
- Trekking poles
- Medium-sized towels
- Face/body wipes
- Water-purification tablets
- Diarrhea medication
Items such as sleeping bags, trekking boots, down jackets, and trekking poles can be easily bought or rented around the Thamel area in Kathmandu. So, one need not worry about forgetting to pack anything from home.
The sacred Mani Rimdu Festival at Tengboche Monastery is one of the greatest ceremonies of in the Everest region and must experience activity. Mani Rimdu festival and the trekking in the Everest region are the perfect blends of culture and nature.