Mani Rimdu Festival is a Buddhist carnival celebrated in the Everest region of Nepal for 19 days. Mani Rimdu Festival takes place according to the Tibetan lunar calendar. The festival starts on the first day of the 10th month in the Lunar calendar. Under the English Calender, Mani Rimdu Festival falls between October and November. During this period, thousands of people, the locals and international tourists and Buddhism followers, came to Everest and participated in Mani Rimdu Festival. In addition, Mani Rimdu Festival trekking is not just about observing the festival but other exciting activities like:
- Flight to lukla airport (one of the world’s most dangerous airports),
- Trekking to namche bazaar (the gateway to mt.everest),
- Observing the captivating hilly himalayan landscape,
- Picturesque snowcapped peaks,
- Variations of animals and birds at sagarmatha national park
- Witness authentic sherpa culture, food, livelihood, and much much more.
About Mani Rimdu Festival
The 19-day-long Mani Rimdu Festival is celebrated as an honour of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava and world peace. Additionally, Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava was a Vajrayana Buddhist master who is highly admired for the transmission of Buddhism in the mountain area of Nepal and Tibet. A large crowd of Lamas (Buddhist monks) and the locals of Everest, primarily Sherpas, gather at some major Buddhist monasteries on Everest like Tengboche, Thame, and Chiong to participate in the festival. Tengboche is the oldest and biggest monastery built in the Everest region of Nepal at an elevation of 3,867 meters in 1916. After the locals and lamas gather, they conduct traditional masked dances with colourful costumes, sacred prayers, and a delightful banquet. On the final day of the ceremony, the Lamas perform a special fire ritual and 16 dance rituals to destroy all the world’s wickedness.
Unlike any other carnival, Mani Rimdu Festival takes a long period as several steps are carried out during the festival. These steps can be further divided into 6 major events. A brief description of these events is cited below:
Sand Mandala Construction
A mandala is a holy figure made of a geometric arrangement of symbols that illustrates the spiritual journey from the outside to the inner core. At Mani Rimdu Festival, a vast mandala is created step by step with sand representing the Dance god’s palace ‘Garwang Those Chenpo’. The sand mandala takes several days to build as the mandala consists of complex symbolic designs. In order to make it easier to build these intricate symbolic designs in sand, the use of coloured sand is done. The sand mandala includes beautiful blades on its outer sides, representing the protective deities. Similarly, the centre of the sand mandala consists of a bowl full of Mani Rilwu pills which are specific pills made for spiritual healing.
Chham (2nd day of Carnival celebration)
On the second day of the Mani Rimdu festival, people wear beautiful costumes and perform sacred dances (specially created only for the Mani Rimdu festival), representing victory over wickedness. During the dance, people dressed up as positive energy fight with people dressed up as negative energy. This conveys the message of conflict between good and bad. Similarly, winning over bad conveys the message of always staying true to yourself and focusing on the good. Therefore, in a way, Chham represents beautiful Buddhist teaching through dance in a simpler form.
Ser Kym(Drink offering)
Another significant event during the Mani Rimdu Festival is Ser Kym. In Ser Kym, Dharmapalas (Defenders of the Justice) are offered tea which is considered spiritual nectar, in two dishes: a small one and a big one. While the offering is made, the smaller bowl is placed upright in, the larger bowl. After the use, the smaller bowl is placed upside down. Besides, alcohol drinks are also served to the earth deity, wisdom Dakini, personal deity, and Lamas in silver bowls.
Jonak (Fire worship)
After the sacred dances are performed, the Lamas perform fire worship to the gods of fire and mandala so that the gods help the world become a better place decreasing all vileness in the world. In this worship, butter is dropped into the huge fire representing all the evilness getting destroyed. Later, the Snake Deities are offered the pieces of the sand mandala.
Chhingpa (Another dance)
China is another prominent event conducted during the Mani Rimdu Festival. The local participants perform dances wearing colourful costumes and shiny masks. In this dance, the dancers enact four different protector deities guarding the Buddhist beliefs from demons. During this dance, the dancers wearing unusual costumes target small children to scare as a part of the enjoyment. There is also another dance called Dakini dance which is performed gracefully with soft and easy steps. The dancers wear no masks, and their dance represents female spiritual energy.