Mani Rimdu Festival
Mani Rimdu is the most important festival of the Sherpa people. It is held during the tenth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to October–November of the Gregorian calendar. It falls on the autumn season when large groups of tourists visit the Khumbu region to trek to Everest Base Camp and to witness the festival which lasts for nineteen days. The religious festivities involve ceremonies and meditation (Drupchen). The meaning attributed to “Mani Rimdu” is that ‘Mani’ means “part of the chant of Chenrezig” and ‘Rilbu’ or ‘Rimdu’ means small red pills that are blessed during the festival. The red pills are blessed repeatedly and then distributed to all those who attend.
The festival is a tradition passed on from its mother monastery, the Rongbuk. It begins with an elaborate depiction of the mandala diagram made with coloured sand. This sand is extracted from a specified location in the hills. The mandala takes four days to draw; it is then covered and is central to the religious festival that lasts for the next 10 days. The program includes 16 dance numbers with interludes for comical effect. Finally, after all the devotees have left, the monks perform a fire rite to dispel all harm to the world. The sand mandala specially created for the festival is then formally removed with prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings. At the end of the festivities the resident Tengboche Rinpoche of the monastery blesses the general public after which the ‘Mask Dances’ are performed by the monks. The monks perform the masked dance to usher some of the protective deities as manifestation of the legendary saint Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism; the dance numbers also display the defeat of demons and the initiation of Buddhism to Tibet.
Thus, Tengboche Monastery and Mani Rimdu are major attractions for tourists in Nepal. The number of tourists visiting the monastery is said to be about 15,000 per year and during peak tourist season the number is said to be 600 per week.