Mani Rimdu Festival: Star cultural attraction in Everest Base Camp Trek
Everest Base Camp Trek is chosen by the trekkers and adventurers mainly to experience being on the top of the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest (8848m) and for the purpose of trekking in the Everest Region. However, you have another strong reason to go for the Everest Base Camp Trek and the reason is the cultural richness of the Everest region reflected through the culture, traditions, festivals and rituals, arts and architecture and lifestyle of the locals. Lhosar, Mani Rimdu and Dumji are the major festivals celebrated in the region. Let’s know about one of the oldest festivals in the Khumbu (Everest) valley, the Mani Rimdu festival.
What is Mani Rimdu Festival?
Are you going for Everest Base Camp Trek in the peak season? You shall have an added advantage in the form of one of the oldest festival of the region, Mani Rimdu festival provided your trekking schedule matches with the colorful festival in the dates announced by Tengboche Monastery.
The term ‘Mani’ stands for “part of a chant of Chenrezig” and ‘Rimdu’ stands for “small red pills”. The derivation of terms comes from the tradition of the festival wherein the monks continuously chant and bless the red pills which are later distributed to the obeservants. Mani Rimdu is a 19 day long festival celebrated, precisely at Tengboche, in the Everest region.the monks wear elaborated masks, colorful costumes, sacred dress only to be worn during the festival and costumes along with series of ritualistic Lama Dances.
When is Mani Rimdu celebrated?
You can observe the Mani Rimdu festival during the months of October or November. The dates are fixed according to the Tibetan calendar. Date of this festival is announced by the Head Lama of the Tengboche monastery. Celebrations of the festival falls in the 10 th month of the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. So, you are advised that if you want to observe this enchanting celebration in the Tengboche monastery, you consult the trekking agency and get the trekking schedule of Everest Base Camp Trek in sync with the dates of Mani Rimdu festival.
From when did the festival started?
Mani Rimdu is said to have started from the Rongbuk monastery to signify the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava). The festival, symbol of common celebration of the people in Everest region, is estimated to have been started somewhere between 1907 and 1910 and it was later transferred to Solukhumbu in about 1940. A treat during the Everest Base Camp Trek, Mani Rimdu was first celebrated in Tengboche monastery in 1938 as stated by Jerstad and Furer-Haimendorf in their journal. Tengboche monastery is said to be the first monastery in Nepal to perform the festival.
You can be a part of this long celebrated festival only during 3 days, provided the schedule of your Everest Base Camp Trek to Tengboche matches with the festival days. However, the preparation for the festival is done for longer time. Overall preparations are divided into six parts:
- Construction of The Sand Mandala
If you can observe the mandala you get to know that the mandala is constructed step by step and in a complex manner. The defensive blades symbolizing deities are placed around mandala. Torma, symbolic offerings made of colored butter and barley flour, is also made.
- The Empowerment (Wong)
You shall have the first look of the ceremony performed on the opening day of the public ceremony of the festival, on the full moon day by Trulshing Rinpoche. You, like the other attendees, are given the sacred pills (Rimdu or Mani Rilwu) and Tshereel (pills for long life).
- The Dances (Chham)
You can also have an observation of the sacred dance on the second day of Mani Rimdu. Monks convey the teaching of Buddhism through dances where monks are supposed to become divine. The theme of dance revolves around triumph of positive force over the evil.
It is a group dance consisting of sic dancers, representing Tantric magicians who offer spiritual drink to the Earth deities. A larger and other smaller raised bowl is used. These offerings are believed to help with the virtuous actions leading to Buddhahood.
- The Fire Puja (Jinsak)
This is performed in the yard in the day after the performance of dances. The Fire Puja is performed as an offering to the God of Fire and the Gods of mandala to diminish harms in the world.
This is the final day celebration which involves spiritual singing and dancing. The dane portrays Four Protecting Ghings who defends the Buddhist faith against the attack by demons.
What are the Highlights of Mani Rimdu Festival?
You can have the following activities as the highlights of this festival.
- Complex Mandala preparation with intricate designing and special offerings
- Special blessings by the Rimpoche to the public
- Famous ‘Mask Dance’ performed by the monks in a ceremony celebrated for whole day followed by singing and dancing by the Sherpa community the whole night
- Drupchen ceremonies celebrated for eight days
Thus, if you are planning for an Everest Base Camp Trek in the months of October/November and if you are an appreciator of the cultural richness and traditional values and festivals you would not want to miss the Mani Rimdu Festival in Tengboche monastery.