Mani Rimdu – Buddhist Festival at Tengboche Monastery

The festival of Mani Rimdu begins with the installation of a ‘mandala’ using colored sand by the monks of Tengboche monastery.

Mani Rimdu – Buddhist Festival at Tengboche Monastery

The mountains of Nepal hide many such ‘beyuls’ which are the sacred places blessed by Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava. Amongst these, the Khumbu Valley in the Sagarmatha National Park is one such sacred place.

The Sherpas residing in the Khumbu Valley are famous worldwide for their warm hospitality. However, their strong cultural and spiritual profoundness is also what sets them apart.

The Sherpas are devout Buddhist and Tibetan Buddhism is highly predominant in the region, after the limited followers of the ancient Bon Po religion. Buddhism has become their way of life.

Buddhists residing in the Himalayas have their own way of celebrating the advent of Buddhism and the different unique festivals are a part and parcel of the same celebration. Among these various festivals, Mani Rimdu is one of the most significant ones.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The inhabitants observe the Mani Rimdu festival to celebrate the introduction of Buddhism in the mountains by Guru Rinpoche and to seek blessings and protection from the Buddha of Compassion, Chenrezig.

Having its roots in the Tibetan Buddhism, the Mani Rimdu festival has several origin stories. However, the most frequent mention remains of Lama Gyalwa Lhakpa who followed the teachings of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava).

The festival was highly prominent in Tibet, and as the Sherpas moved from Tibet to the Himalayas of Nepal, Mani Rimdu was introduced in the Khumbu region by Lama Sangwa Dorje who is the founder of the Pangboche Monastery, another big and ancient Gompa in the region.

Tales have it that the Buddhist teachings were hindered in the Himalayas as they were plagued by eight manifestations of evil which were then subdued by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) as he had a strong spiritual power.

Khumjung Monastery
Khumjung Monastery

The Mahasidhha Guru emerged victorious, not by destroying these so-called demons but by transforming them into the protectors of the Dharma instead, and the same stories can be seen till date in the masked dances during the Mani Rimdu festival.

These, earlier malevolent forces, protectors pledged to uphold the Buddhist teachings in the Himalayas and the flourishment of the religion in the Himalayas is often credited to them.

The celebrations of Manu Rimdu are the reenactment of the same triumph of good over evil and holds a significant value all historically, culturally, and in terms of moral teachings too.

The rituals of Mani Rimdu are structured in a way where every ritual like the masked dances, the fire puja, and more, holds a significant meaning. The main highlight of this festival is the masked dance that depicts several characters from this narrative.

Different deities are portrayed with the use of masks and costumes and the movement of each deity represented is different and conveys their nature. However, their presence within the festival signifies their conversion and role as guardians of the Dharma.

Some other stories also link the Mani Rimdu festival to the concept of a wrathful Tibetan deity from the legends of Tibetan Buddhism known as ‘Tshogpa’. Tshogpa too is a powerful guardian of the religion and its followers.

All in all, the festival more or less depicts the story of the guardians of Tibetan Buddhism and celebrates them while also expressing gratitude towards them for protection from harm and maintenance of cosmic balance.

The festival is marked by a series of rituals including 16 dances, each depicting a sequence of triumph of Buddhism and its central teachings, creating a mandala from colored sand representing impermanence and pure universe, Tshogpa Puja, and many more.

Beyond the historical significance, this festival also strengthens the Sherpa community, strengthens their family and community bonds, and reaffirms their identity amidst the Himalayas.

Imagine it as Thanksgiving in simple terms as family who is away return back to home for vibrant celebrations while strengthening the ties amongst the family and the community.

The elders of the families are considered guardians amongst the Sherpas and during this festival they pass on their cultures and traditions to the younger generation, making sure that their unique and rich heritage continues.

It also includes preparing together, exchanging blessings and gifts, and feasts which further enhances their bond and love.

The festival has also started attracting several tourists which has introduced a new dynamic of economic benefit and cultural recognition to it.

The Setting: Tengboche Monastery

The Mani Rimdu festival is celebrated with complete devotion and joy in the Tengboche Monastery located in the Khumbu region which is a part of many trekking routes of the Everest region.

Located at an altitude of 3,867 meters, the Tengboche Monastery was established more than three centuries ago and is an important spiritual site for Sherpas living in the Khumbu Himal.

It is regarded as the spiritual hub of the Everest region, and it offers a majestic panorama of the Himalayan giants including Mt. Everest itself. It exudes positivity and tranquility, giving you a space for reflection and meditation amidst the Himalayas.

Tengboche Monastery, holiest place in Everest Region
Tengboche Monastery, holiest place in Everest Region

It serves as the perfect setting for the festivities of Mani Rimdu including the most Colourful masked dances known as ‘Cham’ and religious tableaus by monks mark the festival.

Sacred tantric rituals by lamas are also performed at the monastery during the festival. Apart from Tengboche, Mani Rimdu is also celebrated in the monasteries of Chiwang and Thame as it is a festival of the Tibetan Buddhism still dominant in the Himalayas of Nepal.

Experiencing the Rituals

The celebrations of Mani Rimdu are vibrant and celebrated with grandeur, and the rhythmic chants of monks, masked dances, and fluttering of colorful prayer flags against the backdrop of snow-clad peaks is a scene straight out of a mystical movie.

The festival of Mani Rimdu begins with the installation of a ‘mandala’ using colored sand by the monks. Lamas (monks) meditate and worship in front of this mandala for ten days.

Mani Rimdu festival at Tengboche Monastery
Mani Rimdu festival at Tengboche Monastery

Sherpa villagers from Tengboche and neighboring villages gather at the monastery’s courtyard to enjoy the elaborate dances and rituals performed by the monks.

A kaleidoscope of rituals is performed, each beating the other one in terms of beauty. Amidst these, some of the rituals truly stand out while adding to the grace and energetic spirit of the three days of the festival that are open to the public.


The first day of the public ceremony, Wong, is the initiation of the Mani Rimdu festival where the blessings of Rinpoche are bestowed upon everyone attending and it is also called ‘empowerment’ or ‘the blessing’.

This ceremony sets off by chanting of several mantras and prayers to invoke the divine energies and special water to bless the congregation is prepared by the Head Lama. The puja is very powerful.

Upon the completion of the ritual, Mani Rilwu and Tshereel are distributed amongst everyone attending. These are pills made from blessed dough and they are believed to ensure long life, well-being, and protection from evil spirits.


The second day of the festival brings one of the major highlights, i.e. the several kinds of dances which are known as ‘Cham’. It is the mask dance which are performed by the monks to convey different levels of Buddhist teachings.

These dances symbolize the triumph of good over evil as the demons are conquered and chased away. The Cham has different dance sequences, each symbolizing the conquering of Padmasambhava over ‘demons’ or anti-Buddhist forces.

Different kinds of masks are worn, and each one signifies a unique deity from Mahayana Buddhism and depicts a different story. There are three main masks: Mahakala Masks, Wrathful Deities, and Dakini.

The Mahakala Mask embodies the protector who helps overcome obstacles, the wrathful deities depict the destruction of ignorance and delusion, and the Dakinis are the feminine spirits protecting the Dharma by bearing the wisdom. Altogether sixteen dances with some comic interludes are performed.

In this way, the Cham dances convey the teachings about all the central themes upon which the Mahayana Buddhism is based. These dances are considered to be sacred and cannot be performed on other occasions for merely entertainment purposes.


The day after the dances is reserved for the fire puja, known as Jinsak. It is conducted in the yard outside the monastery where a sacred fire is created and the mandala along with the God of Fire is worshipped.

This ritual is a combination of three different processes: purification, offering, and renewal. Offerings of grains, oils, and incense are made to the fire to eliminate the negative Karma, and the fire as a whole is an offering to the deities as an expression of gratitude towards their blessings.

The fire is considered to purify the environment and transform ignorance into wisdom while releasing the participants of their negative Karma.

And slowly as the fire transforms into ash, it is considered a renewal of the transient nature of the life of the participants. The end of the festival is marked by the dismantling of the sand mandala.

Besides these main rituals, other small traditions are also performed during Mani Rimdu like unfurling the Thangka to mark the beginning and lowering it to mark the end of the public festivities. All these rituals combined form the cohesive spiritual narrative that is the Mani Rimdu.

Trekking to the Heart of the Festival

The festival has started attracting lots of tourists from all over the world, and as an adventurer, you might want to be a part of it too. So, how do you get to the Tengboche Monastery and experience the Mani Rimdu Festival? Let’s find out.

While Mani Rimdu is a vibrant celebration in itself, the joy of experiencing it not just limited to the festival but the journey to reaching there is an adventure worth experiencing too.

There are many ways through which you can reach the Tengboche Monastery. The common ones are a solo trek or a trek combining the experience a Tengboche with any other famous treks of the Everest region.

What we recommend is to combine this experience with the likes of the iconic Everest Base Camp trek, the majestic Gokyo Lake trek, the thrilling Everest Three Passes trek, the elaborate Gokyo to Everest Base Camp trek, and many such options.

Tengboche Monastery Gate
Tengboche Monastery Gate

If you pick from the likes of the EBC trek or the Everest Three Passes trek, you can have the experience within the same route as the itinerary of these treks already incorporates Tengboche as one of its resting spots.

Imagine trekking to the foothills of the highest peak in the world and making a worthy stop at the Mani Rimdu festival in between the distance of the EBC trek. The experience will be everything magical including spirituality, adventures, panoramas, and more.

However, you can also take other treks in the Everest region and make a detour to Tengboche for the duration of the festival. The feasible option for this is the Gokyo Lakes trek.

For those with a time constraint, you can just trek from Lukla to Tengboche, immerse in the joy of the festival, and retrace your steps back to Lukla accompanied by the majestic views of the Himalayas.

Either way, the festival will give you equal joy and a newfound sense of bliss. So, secure your dates as the 2024 Mani Rimdu Festival is all set to take place at the Tengboche Monastery from 15th to 17th of November, which also happens to be the best time to trek Everest Base Camp!

Practical Tips to Follow During Mani Rimdu

While the allure of Mani Rimdu is enchanting, one must plan thoroughly to have a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable experience there. So, we at Ace the Himalaya have compiled a list of the tips that can help you with the said planning:

  • As there are many people wanting to experience the festival, you need to get in touch with a reputable local agency to ensure that the booking of accomodations are sorted in time as there is high demand and booking competition, especially at Tengboche.
  • Expect basic accommodation options like teahouses and lodges with basic facilities. At most, you might get a private bathroom if you are lucky.
  • Carry proper gear, clothing, and accessories for your journey as you will come across some harsh temperatures in the Himalayas. Include layers of clothes including comfortable inner layers, warm outer layers, fleece jackets, and waterproof layers too.
  • Carry a wide spectrum sunscreen with SPF more than 50. Carry shades too. Refer to the Everest Base Camp trek packing list for a detailed idea.
  • Make sure your documents and permits are all covered. You will need a TIMS Card and a Sagarmatha National Park Permit, which will be taken care of by the trekking agency if you partner with one.
  • As you will be a part of a religious ceremony, dress accordingly. Get cultural clothing if you can, or non-revealing clothes work just fine.
  • Take permission before photographing the rituals and monks at the monastery.
  • Maintain the decorum of the monastery. Remove your shoes before entering prayer halls and walk around the perimeter in a clockwise direction, following the flow of circumambulation practiced by devotees.
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