Amid all the rush and hassle of trekking in your desired destination, your delight will definitely soar-up when you witness a beautiful exhibition of culture, especially a festival while you are scaling further on.
Mani Rimdu is one of the festival which is celebrated in the most popular trekking region of Nepal - Everest. As already the popular and most visited trekking in Nepal, tourists still prefer to make their way towards Everest region during the festival season of Mani Rimdu. It is a long journey after all, when they finally get there; they want to make sure they have enjoyed every bit of the worth.
Well, this Himalayan festival has charmed many tourists throughout the year, who still sought to witness it. The unique display of culture and tradition in a most beautiful way and in the most natural setting is way more awe-inspiring and overwhelming in many ways.
What is the Mani Rimdu Festival?
Celebrated for 19 long days, Mani Rimdu is one of the fascinating Buddhist festivals in the Himalayas. Its celebration is to mark the founding of Buddhism by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. People of the surrounding region gather around for days in a monastery to celebrate the festival, especially Sherpas and Lamas.
Mani Rimdu consists two words, Mani meaning “part of the chant of Chenrezig” (A Bodhisattva who embodies all the compassion of Buddha) and Rilbu/Rimdu meaning small red pills that are blessed during the festival. That pill is repeatedly blessed and then distributed to the attendants of the festival.
Mani Rimbu mainly signifies and celebrates the theme of “for the good of the world.” The festival is rather interesting when through the dances, symbolic demons are defeated, dispelled or converted to Dharma Protectors, as positive forces clash with those of chaos. It is not only the recreation of events; the dances also convey Buddhist teachings on many levels.
Not only the exceptional dance, but Mani Rimdu festival also showcases the cultural aspect of Tengboche through different kinds of acts, plays, masked dances, prayers, and feasts.
With the touch of exclusiveness and beautiful ceremonies, Mani Rimdu festival has become a very popular combination with a trekking expedition in Everest region.
When and Where does the Mani Rimdu Festival take place?
Mani Rimdu is celebrated during the tenth lunar month according to the Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to October-November. The festival falls right in the autumn season, which is one of the most popular trekking time of the year. And as the throng of trekkers make their way to Everest Base Camp , they often make a stop to witness this festival.
To know when exactly the festival starts so that you can mark your calendar, it starts immediately after Kojagrat Purnima, the 15th and the last day of Dashain.
The festival takes place in the Tengboche Monastery of Everest region; already a popular stop and viewpoint for trekkers. It is believed that the monastery is the oldest Sherpa celibate monastery. Now, it has become the cultural center to strengthen the social and cultural value of Tengboche.
Along with Mani Rimdu festival, you can also explore the museum/library of Tengboche monastery where rare and sacred Buddhist texts and artifacts, crafts and clothing are placed.
Does the Mani Rimdu Festival take place in other places?
Although Mani Rimdu festival on Tengboche Monastery is the most popular and known one, it is not only the place where this festival is celebrated.
The festival of Mani Rimdu is actually celebrated in three places in Nepal at three different times by Sherpas of high-lands; Tengboche, Chiwong and Thame. It is the recent development and started when Zatul Ngawang Tenzing Norbu of Rongbuk came to consecrate the monastery Tengboche. So, technically the festival is a tradition passed from its mother monastery, the Rongbuk.
In Tengboche, it is celebrated during the ninth month, in Chiwong during the tenth month and in Thame during the fourth month, as per the Tibetan calendar.
Now, the festival has become an annual ritual but was moved forward by a month to avoid the cold and dull weather.
Surely, the credit to the popularly of Mani Rimdu in Tengboche goes to Everest Base Camp. However, you can explore this amazing festival at a different time in a different place too.
Mani Rimdu Festival 2019
If you are targeting Everest Base Camp or any destination in Everest region for your next adventure, then the season of Mani Rimdu festival will be best for you.
For this year, 2019, you will witness this festival on November 12th, 13th, and 14th; now don’t get confused, these are the main three days of the festival, although it is 19-long day festival.
How did the Mani Rimdu Festival start?
Mani Rimdu Festival originally started from Tibet. Although the festival stands for the better of human beings and has a spiritual significance; before animals used to be sacrificed. But, that was totally against the Buddhist moral code, and the problem was solved when dough became a substitute for an animal.
The festival of Mani Rimdu worships Phakpa Chenrezig, the god of Compassion and prayers during the festival is believed to bring welfare to all living beings.
It all started when China occupied Tibet, and Tibetans started leaving their homeland and migrate in Nepal. In the horde of those Tibetans, there was a lama named Tulshig Rinpoche, who got settled in high Himalaya of Solu Khumbu. He is considered as a reincarnated lama and was recognized at an early age.
He established his own monastery among the Sherpas and named it as Thupten Choling Gompa. He would visit Chiwong Monastery of Solukhumbu itself to officiate Mani Rimdu festival there.
The festival would get preceded by religious dances performed by monks. Rinpoche would bless the people who come to see him by touching them with the bottom of a silver cylinder, which contains prayers within.
He used to be greatly received by the public, as monks would start playing Tibetan instruments like gyaling, Zang Dung and conch for his welcome. Then Rinpoche would climb up and sit on a small porch overlooking the courtyard where the event could take place.
What happens in the Mani Rimdu Festival?
“Mandala” is the main center of this 19-day long Mani Rimdu festival. It is a greatly detailed diagram made with colored sand which is obtained from a special hill location. The mandala is so intricate that it takes four full days to complete and is covered, from when it becomes the center of the festival for the next ten days.
Then comes the interesting and intriguing part of the festival; dances. You will witness 16 dance numbers with interludes for comical effect. It marks the end of the festival when all the devotees start leaving, and monks perform a fire rite to dispel all the harm to the world.
Well, now the sand mandala, which is specially created for the festival is officially removed with special prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings.
As the festival is almost at an end, the resident Tengboche Rinpoche of the monastery blesses the people after which monks perform Mask Dances. The purpose of the Mask Dance is to usher some of the protective deities as a manifestation of the legendary saint Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. It also displays the defeat of demons and initiation of Buddhism to Tibet.
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