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Mani Rimdu

Abhishek Subedi June 8, 2020

Mani Rimdu festival is the main festival of Sherpa ethnicities living at the Tengboche, Thame and Chiwong Monasteries of Solukhumbu Nepal. This is a holy festival that follows a series of sacred ceremonies and series of events of empowerment. The festival is celebrated in a sequence of 19 days which concludes with a three days public festival. It is the festival that allows a Sherpas to gather together with the monastic community. Lama and Sherpa gather at the monastery for five days for the welfare of the world. This festival is mainly celebrated to wear off the evil powers and spirits from the earth and protect the earth surface. Grand shows are put up on three different occasions at the monasteries of Tengboche, Thame and Chiwong. Masked dances and Tantric rituals are put up by Buddhist monks at these monasteries, where huge crowds from nearby gather to celebrate.

Mani Rimdu

During this festival, demons are queued and virtuous are rewarded. The monks wear elaborate masks, costumes and ornaments. They perform a series of ritualistic Lama dances in which they dramatize the triumph of Buddhism over Bon. The main first days of the festival involve prayers, the second day for colourful lama dancing where they wear brocade gowns and wonderfully painted papier- mache masks. And the last of the festival is for some humorous dances and chanting prayers. Hundreds of local people and foreign tourists attend this beautiful and stunning performance. Many domestic as well as international visitors trek during this period to enjoy this beautiful yet traditional festival. Your visit this time will reward you to see the real and ideal culture of Sherpa people and great Himalayan picturesque views.

When is Mani Rimdu celebrated

The Mani Rimdu festival is celebrated according to the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The date of the festival is fixed according to the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. In Tengboche the Mani Rimdu is performed in the 9th Tibetan month which usually falls in October or November full moon. The Mani Rimdu festival date for the year 2020 is celebrated on 31st October, 1st and 2nd November. So, the visitors can come during this period and can enjoy this great festival of the Himalayas. It is celebrated in order to mark the founding of Buddhism by Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava.

Mani Rimdu

Preparation of Mani Ramdu

The preparation of this festival is divided into six preparations. Each preparation is done step by step into the sequence of the series.

1. Construction of the Sand Mandala

Sand mandala is constructed step by step. Colored sand is used to build complicated and symbolic design. Sand mandala takes many days to complete. Defensive blade symbolizing deities are placed around the Mandala. The bowl of Mani Rilbu pills (spiritual medicine) is placed above the center. The Mandala symbolizes the palace of Garwang Thoze Chenpo (Lord of the Dance). Creation of the Buddha of Kindness, the main idol of Mani Rimdu. The mantra “OM AH HUNG RHI, OM MANI PADME HUNG” is repeated thousands of times by the monks during the weeks of ceremony before the public festival. During meditation, they imagine kindness flowing in the form of the mantra, into the Mandala and the Mani Rilbu pills. Kindness then releases out from the Mandala, blessing all those who attend the Mani Rimdu festival.

2. Wong (the Empowerment)

The Wong is the opening day of the public ceremony. This event is performed on the full moon day, of the tenth month in the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. The sacred Mani Rilwu (sacred or blessed pills ) and Tshereel  (pills for long life ) are given to everyone who is attending the festival. This is done as the belief to protect themselves from the evil and bad powers around the earth surface.

3. Chham ( The dances )

Chham are the traditional and cultural Lama and Sherpa dances performed during the 2nd day of Mani Rimdu. The dances feature a series of the steps where symbolic demons are conquered, chased away or transformed to Protectors of Dharma. The main theme of the dance contains the message of positive forces fighting with those of disorder through the whole dance. The dances convey Buddhist teaching on many levels from the simplest to the most philosophical. During the dance the monks are believed to become divine beings. The dances are only performed during Mani Rimdu because they are considered to be very Sacred, and not for ordinary entertainment. 

4. Ser – Kyem

Ser- Kyem is the event in which the tea offerings are made to the Dharma guards such as Mahakala.  It has two pieces: a larger raised dish-shaped bowl and a smaller raised offering bowl. The smaller is placed in an upright position in the larger dish when the offering is being made. When not in use, the smaller offering bowl is placed upside down in the larger bowl. The food offerings can also be placed in the larger dish when in use.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 vessels, and small tormas, to the Lama, Yidam, Khandro, and Shi-Dak (the Earth deities). A Buddhist consultant 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 which lead to Buddhahood.

5. The Fire Puja ( Jinsak)

The Fire Puja is performed in the yard the day after the dances. 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 pulled to pieces, and the sand is given as an offering to the serpent gods (Nagas).

6. Chhingpa

This is the another main event of this festival in which the dancers portrays the four protecting Things, defending Buddhist faith against attack by demons. The dancers hide their face with the shiny paper mask each of the different colour and each displaying a constant smile. They dance to the sequence of the hops which are rhythmically accompanied by the beating of cymbals. To make the dance interesting and fun, the dancers charge at the children in the audience and scare them as for fun. There is also another form of dance performed during this festival known as Dakini dance.

Dakini dance includes the slow motion dance steps, keeping perfectly synchronized with the soft tinkle and slow beat of bells and drums which is performed by five young priests especially selected for this event. This time the dancers dance without any mask and portray female spiritual figures; the partners of Padmasambhava. It is believed that they come from the pure land of Zangdok Palri where they live within his mandala.

The herald the imminent arrival of Guru Rinpochhe at the Mani Rimdu.Two of the Thing are male, and carry cymbals, while the two females carry drums. The males represent skillful means and the females represent wisdom; these two aspects of the path The torma is made from barley flour and decorated with colored butter. It begins by symbolizing 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.

Mani Rimdu is one of the fascinating and amazing Himalayan festivals with many forms of stunning dances and the preparations. We can visit the Himalayan region to experience this different festival and relax our tired soul and body with the amazing religious and traditional dance performances.

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