Mani Rimdu Festival Trekking in Everest Region
Mani Rimdu Festival is a 19-day sequence of sacred ceremonies and empowerment culminating in a public festival lasting for three days. It is an opportunity for Sherpa and Tibetans to gather and celebrate together with the monastic community. Mani Rimdu is a re-creation of legendary events; the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by the great saint Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). Through the dances, symbolic demons are conquered, dispelled, or converted to Dharma Protectors, as positive forces clash with those of chaos. The dances convey Buddhist teaching on many levels from the simplest to the most profound. The monks, who perform the dances, first take vows at an empowerment ceremony with Trulshig Rinpoche. During the dances they become deities, rather than ordinary people. Because the dances are regarded as sacred, they can only be performed in the context of Mani Rimdu, and not for ordinary entertainment. Trulshig Rinpoche explains, “Seeing Mani Rimdu is like receiving a blessing”. The festival falls in autumn, the best season to trek in the pristine mountains and Himalayas of Nepal. So, one can enjoy and experience Mani Rimdu along with the trek package in Nepal. Mani Rimdu is an opportunity for Sherpas and Tibetans to assemble and celebrate together with the Lamas. Mani Rimdu is the most important festival of the Sherpa people that is held during the tenth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to October–November of the Gregorian calendar in Tengboche, Chiwong and Thame monasteries. It is also the autumnal trekking season in the region when large groups of international tourists visit the Monastery to witness the festivities that last for nine 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 during the festival 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 colored 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. Chenrezig, the god of compassion is worshipped during Mani Rimdu and prayers that are believed to benefit everyone are chanted. The Chenrezig’s blessings are believed to bring peace and good fortune to all people. After the sanctification of monastery, the monks perform the special mask dance at the place. This elaborate and meaningful dance played for three full days is the main show of the festival. It attracts a huge crowd. The dance symbolizes the restoration of the set up of Buddhism in Tibet and depicts the victory of Buddhism over the ancient Bon religion. The dance starts with a monk, playing master of ceremonies, dramatically pushing the audience back to clear an area around the courtyard of the monastery for the dancers. Heralds and incense bearers appear in the monastery entrance and slowly walk down the steps in single file, followed by musicians, some blowing bugles and clarions, while others beating drums and clash cymbals. Clapping and cheering by spectators are considered unnecessary and inappropriate, so the audience watches in silence.
Mani Rimdu takes place from the first day of the tenth month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, falling between mid-October and mid-November. It lasts until the nineteenth day of the month. From the beginning until the end of the festival, 24 hours Puja (rituals) will be performed by the monks to consecrate the Mandala, the Mani Rilwu (sacred pills), the Tshereel (pills for long life) and the Torma.
The Sand Mandala
The sand mandala is carefully constructed, grain by grain, from colored sand. It is an intricate and symbolic design that takes many days to complete. Protective dagger deities are placed around the mandala, and the bowl of Mani Rilwu pills (spiritual medicine) is placed above the center. The mandala becomes the palace of Garwang Thoze Chenpo, the Lord of the Dance; an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion, and the central deity of Mani Rimdu. The mantra “OM AH HUNG RHI, OM MANI PADME HUMG”, is repeated thousands of times by the monks, during weeks of ceremony preceding the public festival. During their meditation, they visualize compassion flowing in the form of the mantra, into the Mandala and the Mani Rilwu Pills. Compassion then radiates out from the Mandala, blessing all those who attend the Mani Rimdu festival. During their meditation, the monks visualize all their compassion flowing in the form of the mantra into the mandala and the rilwu pills. From the mandala, compassion radiates out, blessing all those who come to Chiwong.
The Rilwu Pills, Rinpoche calls this “liberation by eating”. The Rilwu are distributed to everyone, after he gives a long life empowerment to the people who come.
The Torma, The torma is made from barley flour and decorated with colored butter. It begins by symbolising the body of the deity, and by the end of the ceremony, symbolizes enlightenment itself. It stands in the front of the mandala on its own shrine, at the very heart of the temple.
The Empowerment (Wong)
The Wong is the opening public ceremony. It’s performed on the full moon day, of the tenth month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. His Holiness Trulshig Rinpoche, gives the empowerment on this auspicious occasion; for long life, happiness and prosperity. The sacred Mani Rilwu (sacred pills) and Tshereel (pills for long life), are given to everyone attending.
The Dances (Chham)
The dances take place on the 2nd day of Mani Rimdu.
Ser-Kyem, This offering of spiritual nectar is made in many ceremonies. The six dancers represent Ngag-pa (Tantric magicians). They make offerings of alcohol from silver chalices, and small tormas, to the Lama, Yidam, Khandro, and Shi-Dak (Earth deities). A Buddhist practitioner takes ‘refuge’ in the Lama (spiritual guide), Yidam (personal deity) and Khandro (wisdom dakini). A central theme in Tibetan Buddhist practice is to make offerings to these beings, so that they will help with the virtuous actions that lead to Buddhahood.
Ghing-Pa, The four dancers, Ghing, are servants of Guru Rinpoche, connected with his emanation as Dorje Trollo. They have come from his Pure Land of Sangdok Palri, where they live within his mandala. They herald the imminent arrival of Guru Rinpoche at the Mani Rimdu. Two of the Ghing are male, and carry cymbals, while the two females carry drums. The male represents skilful means and the females represent wisdom; these two aspects of the path to enlightenment are at the heart of Vajrayana (Tantric) practice. The union of skilful means or compassion, and wisdom is often depicted, and frequently misunderstood, in Tantric iconography.
Guru Rinpoche, Preceded by a reverent monk holding burning incense, Guru Rinpoche makes his dramatic appearance in the form of Dorje Trollo (the Adamantine Sagging-Belly). Guru Rinpoche has seven other emanations, six of which are peaceful. Dorje Trollo, is one of the wrathful forms he assumes, to defeat the demons in Tibet. He comes from his home on the Copper Mountain riding a flying tiger, together with the Ghing. Having paced out his symbolic mandala, Guru Rinpoche is invited to a throne and offerings are made to him, as benefits the ‘Second Buddha’. In his right hand he carries a dorje, a symbolic diamond or thunderbolt, representing indestructibility, while in his left hand he brandishes a phurba, a symbolic dagger for slaying demons. Having overcome the demons, Guru Rinpoche converts them to Buddhism, and makes them take solemn vows to protect the teachings and all practitioners. The symbolism can be interpreted on many levels; the inner demons of hatred, greed, and ignorance can be overcome by meditation on compassion and wisdom, and transformed into Enlightenment.
Nga-Chhyama, The Drum Dance is performed by six Ngag-Pa to celebrate the attainment of Samadhi (meditative concentration).
Mi-Tsering, A one-actor comic interlude, Mi-Tsering, (Long Life Man) is the children’s favorite. He is a kind, bumbling, gentle old man. He means well and does his best, but inevitably gets everything wrong. He is, however, convinced that he’s an expert and tries to instruct others in some of the temple rituals, such as offering khataks (silk scarves), or doing prostrations. His, is a light-hearted comic act, yet it brings a poignant message of encouragement to ordinary people – that sincerity and good intentions count for as much as expertise. It is Mi-Tsering who heads the procession of monks welcoming Trulshig Rinpoche’s arrival at Chiwong, and who heralds him into the courtyard to preside over the dances. He is an acknowledgement of everyman’s good intentions, however humble.
Rol-Cham, Entrance of the monks and Mi-Tsering with banners and ceremonial instruments, heralding Trulshig Rinpoche’s arrival.
Thur-Dhag, Thur-Dhag, the Dance of Liberation, is the central act of the sacred dance. The two skeleton figures are the Lords of the Universal Cemetery – reminders of the transient nature of human existence. Two Ngag-pas enter and perform a mystical invocation, luring all demons and negative energies, then trap them into a small dough figure. At the same time, Trulshig Rinpoche performs a wrathful fire puja – calling the demons in, with long strokes of a nine-pronged dorje with black pennant. The demons are trapped, and ceremonially burned on a small pyre, as an offering to the gods, who are then asked to liberate the world. With symbolic strokes of his phurba, Rinpoche, out of compassion even for demons, sends them to the realm of wisdom. The demons of hatred, greed, and ignorance are dead. The Lords of the Cemetery carry the corpse to the Gods of the Mandala. The ashes from the pyre are buried under a flagstone in the courtyard.
Kang-Wa, Rinpoche invokes the Great Protectors asking them to perform the activities of a Buddha. Mahakala is blue, Ekajati has one eye, Mahadeva (Shiva) is red, and Trudo Lhamao (the Cemetery Deity) is brown. During this dance, Ang Babu and his family make offerings to Rinpoche and to the Sangha.
Mi-Nak, The two black men are servants of, Shalung Genyen Chenpo, the protector deity of Dza-Rong-Phu monastery, who appears next. Shalung Genyen Chenpo, was originally fierce and a murderer, but is later reformed and becomes a protector of the Dharma.
Khandro, Five Wisdom Dakinis enter and make offerings of tsog, song, and dance to Trulshig Rinpoche. This Wisdom Dakini’s are the active part of the Lama, Yidam, and Khandro. There is further ceremony and procession by the monks, as Trulshig Rinpoche leaves the courtyard.
Tok-Den, This second comic interlude, is a kind of spiritual soap opera. A Tantric yogi and his two hopeless disciples attempt to cope with life, death, love, lust, alcohol, and an assortment of other samsaric problems. At the end of the scene, Tok-Den, demonstrates his spiritual prowess by bending a metal sword against his unprotected skin.
Ngag-Pa, A monk takes out a Torma as a compassionate offering to the beings, who like leftovers.
Ti-Cham, The Knife Dance cut up and destroys any remaining demons.
Lok-Cham, This is the Finishing Dance, and concludes Mani Rimdu.
The Fire Puja (Jinsak)
The Fire Puja is performed in the courtyard the day after the dances. Most of the village people have gone home, and Chiwong has a quiet, almost family atmosphere. The Fire Puja is an offering to Agni (the god of fire), and to the Gods of the mandala – to allay all harm in the world. The harm is visualized as dissolving into the grain and butter is burned. Afterwards, the sand mandala in the temple is dismantled, and the sand is given as an offering to the serpent gods (Nagas), at the spring below the monastery.
The next dance depicts the Four Protecting Ghings, defending the Buddhist faith against attack by demons. Shining paper masks hide the faces of the dancers, each a different color and each displaying a constant smile. The dancers’ skips are rhythmically accompanied by the beating of cymbals.
Without breaking step, the dancers charge haltingly at children in the audience. The youngsters recoil in horror, much to the amusement of everyone else in the crowd. The next dance depicts the Four Protecting Ghings, defending the Buddhist faith against attack by demons. Shining paper masks hide the faces of the dancers, each a different color and each displaying a constant smile. The dancers skips, are rhythmically accompanied by the beating of cymbals. Without breaking step, the dancers charge haltingly at children in the audience. The youngsters recoil in horror, much to the amusement of everyone else in the crowd. The gentle Dance of the Dakini contrasts sharply with what has gone before. Five young priests execute slow motion dance steps, keeping perfect time with the soft tinkle and slow beat of bells and drums held in their hands. The dancers are without masks, and portray female spiritual figures, the partners of Padmasambhava. They have come from his pure land of Shangdok Palri where they live within his mandala. They herald the imminent arrival of Guru Rinpochhe at the Mani Rimdu. Two of the Ghing are male, and carry cymbals, while the two females carry drums. The males represent skillful means and the female represent wisdom; these two aspects of the path to enlightenment are at the heart of Vajrayana (Tantric) practice. The union and harmony of Skillful Means (Compassion) and Wisdom, is often depicted (and often misunderstood) in Tantric iconography.
Day 1 - Arrival in Kathmandu International Airport 1340m,
Day 2 - Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla 2800m/45 minutes and trek to Phakding 2600m/3 hours
Day 3 - Trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar 3440m/5 hours
Day 4 - Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar and hike to Everest View Hotel, Khumjung and Khunde village
Day 5 - Trek from Namche to Tengboche 3860m/5 hours
Day 6 - 25th October 2018: Mani Rimdu Festival
Day 7 - 26th October 2018: Mani Rimdu Festival
Day 8 - 27th October 2018: Mani Rimdu Festival
Day 9 - Trek from Tengboche to Namche 3440m/5 hours
Day 10 - Trek from Namche to Lukla 2800m/6 hours
Day 11 - Fly from Lukla to Kathmandu 45 minutes flight and transfer to Hotel.
Day 12 - Final Departure from Kathmandu
You’ll be met at the Kathmandu International airport by our representative from the company, so look out for a office sign/logo with your name when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Hotel. Welcome drinks will provide by Hotel and short briefing about your treks and refreshment. Stay overnight in Hotel.
We transfer to the airport for the 45 minute flight to the airstrip at Lukla. This was the airstrip built by Sir Edmund Hillary and his friends to service the Everest Region when he began his work of building schools and hospitals for the Sherpa people. It is a memorable flight, with marvelous views of the Eastern Himalaya. At Lukla we are immediately impressed by the scale of the huge peaks that surround the village but this is only a foretaste of what is to come. Our guide and porters assembles and we head downhill towards the Dudh Kosi, a raging river that flows from the highest peaks. The broad and well-marked trail meanders around fields of potatoes and buck-wheat and passes through small villages. Stay overnight at Lodge.
We cross and re-cross the thundering glacial river, named ‘Dudh’ (milk) Kosi (river) because of its color. Sections of today’s walk are through pine forest and cleared areas reveal terraced fields and a variety of crops. We pass small groups of donkeys, yaks and dzopko carrying trading goods and trekking gear along the trail. A dzopko is a yak-cow crossbreed while a yak is a full-blood long haired male, more commonly found at higher altitudes. Spectacular mountain peaks unfold above us and seem to hover above the tree-line as they rise above the deep river valley. Shortly after leaving camp we cross the Kusum Khola, a tributary stream to the Dudh Kosi, and the peak of Kusum Kangru (6369 m) can be seen to the East, at the head of the valley. Further along the trail, across the valley to the North-West, Nupla (5885 m) and Kongde Ri (6093 m) rise above the forested ridges. At a turn of the trail, Thamserku (6808 m) rises majestically, seemingly from the river floor. We will see our first Mani walls today. These stone structures are a compilation of many stone tablets, each with the inscription ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ which translates to ‘Hail to the jewel in the lotus’, and is mantra (chant) venerated by Buddhists and Brahmans alike. Buddhists will walk to the left of these Mani Walls and chortens, but you may notice that people of the lowlands who have no knowledge of Buddhism do not follow this practice. The allure of the mountains is hard to resist, but we must be patient, as it is very important to acclimatize slowly and thereby fully appreciate our time at higher altitude. We pass through the gates of the Sagamartha National Park. The establishment of this national park is a significant attempt to stem the use of fire-wood in the area and the few local people who have a permit to cut wood must gain approval from the authorities on the basis of it being primarily for their personal use. We follow the river course to the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and the Bhote Kosi, and cross a spectacular high bridge before commencing our ascent to the village of Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa ‘capital’ of Nepal. It is a tough climb as the trail passes through forest of pine to a vantage point that provides our first view of Mt Everest. The trail continues to climb and meander to Namche, and the sight of this prosperous village spread within a horse-shoe shaped valley opposite the beautiful peak of Kongde Ri is worth every step. After lunch you may wish to peruse the Tibetan trader’s stalls or the Sherpa shops in search of a bargain. Stay overnight at Lodge.
Sagarmartha National Park Headquarters just above the village offers a very interesting display of photographs, memorabilia and information on the park, and the hill above is a wonderful vantage point for the spectacular view up the Imja Khola Valley towards Everest. The change from the narrow lowland valleys to the broad glacial ones is immediately obvious. The steep-sided glacial valley before us gradually winds towards the base of Everest, broken only by the moraines left by retreating glaciers. Its more gradual rate of climb is a blessing for those trekking higher. Towering to over 4000 meters above the valley floor, spectacular peaks seem to engulf us. Around us are Taweche (6542 m), Thamserku (6808 m), Kantega (6685 m), Ama Dablam (6856 m), Nuptse (7896 m) and Lhotse (8511 m). The greatest of all, Mt Everest (8848 m), rises at the head of the valley. Those who are fit and acclimatizing well may wish to take the optional walk to the Everest View Hotel (4-5hrs) where spectacular views of Everest and Ama Dablam may be seen. For those feeling well acclimatized there is also the option of a day walk to the pretty village of Khumjung. Khumjung is where Sir Edmund Hillary built his “School house in the Clouds” and the famed Khunde hospital is close by. World Expeditions supports both of these famous community facilities, as well as the many other projects operated by the Himalayan Trust. There will generally be the opportunity for you to visit the hospital and school. We will also be able to visit the monastery at Khumjung where we may have the opportunity to see the “scalp of a yeti”. Stay overnight at Lodge.
The walk to Tengboche is one of the most spectacular trekking days in Nepal. The trail meanders easily around the ridges and Everest can be clearly seen on the horizon ahead before we descend through splendid rhododendron forests for lunch. After lunch we cross the Dudh Kosi and begin the ascent to the top of a long ridge which flows from the summit of Kantega. Our trail takes us through pine and rhododendron forest, and, as this is a devout Buddhist region, the wildlife is unharmed and not too shy. As a result there is a possibility that we may see Himalayan Thar, Musked Deer or pheasants in the forest and around our campsite. As we approach the ridge-line we pass through a traditional gateway and around a chorten before cresting the ridge onto a wide grassy meadow at the monastery village of Tengboche. The monastery was re-built with the assistance of Sir Edmund Hillary after it was destroyed by fire in 1989. The views of the Everest massif, as well as all the other major peaks of the area are astounding. Stay overnight at Lodge.
Participating in Mani Rimdu Festival; Wong (Blessings), Stay overnight at Lodge.
Participating in Mani Rimdu Festival; Chham (Masked Dance), Stay overnight at Lodge.
Participating in Mani Rimdu Festival; Jhinsak (Fire Offerings), Stay overnight at Lodge.
Morning participating in Mani Rimdu Festival; Lhokpar (Destruction of the Sand Mandala). If the weather is clear, the mountain views from Thyangboche monastery as we pass through are outstanding – Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse are at the head of the valley, their line of sight flanked by Taweche on one side and Ama Dablam on the other. Almost directly above us are Kantega and Thamserku. Completing a 360 degree panorama of mountains are Khumblia and Kongde Ri which encircle us from across the valley. It’s a pleasant walk down to Namche, and as we near the village we pass through terraced fields that are home to a brightly colored pheasant, the Danphe Pheasant, the national bird of Nepal. Stay overnight at Lodge.
Leaving Namche we descend through the forest towards the Dudh Kosi, and continue our return journey crossing and re-crossing the river. It will seem like a long time since we ascended through the villages on our first days of the trek, as we have witnessed many stunning views on our trek into the highest mountain range in the world. Retracing our steps along the valley, we pass through a variety of settlements and forests before a gentle climb to Lukla. We savor our final mountain sunsets of the trek as we complete this exhilarating journey. Our last evening of the trek is a good time to have a small party for all the team, especially the porters who will return to their villages from here. There is usually lots of music, dancing and singing. Stay overnight at Lodge.
This morning we take the return flight to Kathmandu, a thrilling flight over forests, fields and villages, with the Himalaya in the background. On arrival, we transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, a good time for last minute shopping or sightseeing. Stay overnight at Hotel.
Your trip will come to an end today after breakfast in Hotel. Our office Representative will be on hand to advise and assist with your onward travel arrangements and transfer to Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport by our private van around 3 hours before your flight schedule and flight back to your home/other travel destination.
Int’l/Dom Airport/Hotel/Airport picks up and transfers by private car/van on arrival and departure.
2 nights deluxe accommodations in twin bed sharing basis with breakfast at 3* Hotel in Kathmandu.
Round Trip domestic flight tickets cost from KTM-Lukla-KTM and airport tax.
Meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) with tea or coffee are included during the lodge/tea-house trek.
Lodge-lodge accommodation during the lodge trek.
1 Experienced, helpful, friendly and well trained English speaking guide, necessary porters (1 porter for 2 peoples and carry 25kg) during the trek and their food, accommodation, equipment, salary and insurance.
All ground transportation by private vehicle according to group size.
Sagarmatha National Park Permit, village local tax and other necessary permits.
First Aid Medical Kit box and necessary medicines.
Office Service Charge and all government tax.
Any meals (Lunch and Dinner) in Kathmandu other than breakfast in hotel.
International Airfare to and from Nepal.
Nepal Tourist Visa Fees.
Items and expenses of personal nature.
All kind of alcoholic drinks (beer, wine, whisky), cold drink (mineral water, coke, fanta, sprite, juice), laundry service, postage, phone calls, internet, donations, museum entry fees etc during the trip.
Personal Trekking Equipment such as sleeping bags, walking poles, down jackets, walking boots. (It can be hired/bought in Kathmandu).
Emergency Evacuation (Medical Insurance and Helicopter Rescue in case of accident and can be paid either insurance company or clients themselves).
Any cost arises due to a change of the program/itinerary, because of landslides, political disturbance, strike and some accidental problems.
Horse/Pony renting and additional porters due to natural calamities during the trek.
Any other costs whatsoever, that is not mentioned in the cost inclusive.
Tipping Tips for guide, porters, drivers and horse man. Tipping is expected but it is not mandatory and can be treated end of the trip if satisfied.