Tengboche Monastery: The largest and the most sacred site of Khumbu

Buddhism is next most followed religion of Nepal after Hinduism. Being the birthplace of Lord Buddha himself, there are many sacred sites for Buddhists. Tengboche Monastery is also one of the important religious site for the followers of Buddhism.

Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche Monastery, which is also pronounced as Thyanboche Monastery is also called DawaCholing Gompa. It is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery which belongs to the Sherpa community of that region and is situated at an elevation of 3,867 meters in the Tengboche village in Khumjung in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal.

Tengboche Monastery lies within the region of Sagarmatha National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of “outstanding universal value”. So with that fact, Tengboche Monastery also falls within the trekking trail to Everest Base Camp.  While trekking to the Tengboche Monastery, you will enjoy the beautiful view of mountains including Mount Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, AmaDablam, Tawache and Thamserku. Tengboche Monastery is also in the site of “Sacred Sites Trail Project” of the Sagarmatha National Park that attracts a large number of tourist for trekking and mountaineering. It is a circular trail, which covers ten monasteries in the clockwise direction terminating in the Tengboche Monastery.

Tengboche Monastery is one of the most impressive and beautiful places in the world with its location in the height of over 12,000 feet. The buildings stand upon a knoll at the end of a big spur, which is flung out across the direct axis of Imja River.

History of Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche Monastery lies in the Khumbu region, and it is the largest monastery of Khumbu. Khumbu came under the influence of Buddhism about 350 years ago, and it is referred as a sacred site along with Rowlang and Khanbalung valleys. Lama Sangwa Dorje is said to be the founder of the oldest monastery in Khumbu at Pangboche along with other small hermitages. It is believed that his divine psychic knowledge and clairvoyant vision prophesized on establishing a monastery at Tengboche based on the footprint on a rock left by him while meditating.

But, the monastery wasn’t established until the time of Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, who is considered as Lama SangwaDorje’s fifth incarnation. Norbu established the monastery at Rongbuk in Tibet on the northern face of Mount Everest. He also blessed ChatangChotar (Lama Guku) to establish the monastery in Tengboche village. Then, the Tengboche Monastery was finally established at its present location in 1916. Tengboche Monastery is the first celibate monastery under the Nyingmapalineage of the Vajrayana Buddhism. 

Tengboche Monastery during the Earthquake of April 2015

Nepal suffered the devastating earthquake in April 2015 which resulted in the loss of thousands of life and destruction of many historic monuments. But, Tengboche Monastery suffered only minor loss. However, looking at the history of catastrophic events, Tengboche Monastery has witnessed and suffered few of such in past years.

During the earthquake of 1934, the monastery was destroyed. The monastery was rebuilt by the successor of Lama Gulu, UmzeGelden with the strong support from Ngawang Tenzin Norbu. For the rebuilding of the monastery, the monks and local community contributed a great aid.

Then again on January 19, 1989, the monastery caught fire by an electrical short circuit destroying all the precious and valued old scripture, statues, murals and wood carvings. Only some of the books and painting was saved by the trekkers. After that fire, the monastery has been rebuilt completely with the money donated from around the world.

As in the present the monastery is constructed with stone masonry. The stone and storerooms are made large to facilitate the monks to perform the religious rites and rituals. In the main building, there is the mandatory Dokhang, a prayer hall where a large statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is located. The statue is so large that it extends to two floors of the monastery and encompasses the Ser sang LhaKhang, the first floor of the shrine. The rebuilt of the monastery is very large and impressive with the camping area in its front location, so you can explore more through camping and aid to promote ecotourism by small effort.

Festival celebrated in Tengboche Monastery

Being one of the most sacred sites for Buddhism, Tengboche Monastery also celebrates the festivals very impressively. Many festivals can be witnessed throughout the year in the monastery. But amongst all, Mani Rimdu festival is the most important to the Sherpa people,and in Tengboche Monastery, it becomes way more than other places.

The meaning of “Mani Rimdu” is ‘Mani’ means ‘part of the chant of Chenrezig’ and ‘Rimdu’ or ‘Rilbu’ means small red pills that are blessed during the festivals which are distributed to all those to who attend the festival. Mani Rimbu is a 19-day religious festival which involves ceremonies and meditation.

Mani Rimdu festival is held during the tenth lunar month as per the Tibetan calendar (October-November). The festival falls during the autumn season, the season when the Khumbu region witnesses a large number of tourist coming for the Everest Base Camp and to experience the festival as well.

The festival begins with an elaborate depiction of the mandala diagram made with coloured sand, which is extracted from only the specified location in the hills. The mandala is the centre of this festival which takes four days to draw. During the festival, there are 16 dance numbers which break for comical effect and when all the devotee’s lefts, the monks perform a fire rite to dispel all the harm to the world. Then the sand mandala is formally removed with prayers for the benefit of all the sentient beings.

Other Information about Tengboche Monastery

In the initial years of Tengboche Monastery, the nuns also came and practised Buddhism. But, over the years, nuns wanted their elusive place to live and pray. Respecting this demand of nuns, Lama Gulu granted them land in a small valley called Devoche, which is locatedwithin walking distance of Tengboche. The nunnery is at the elevation of 3,800 meters and is administrated by Tengboche Monastery itself. At present, only a few nuns are staying in this place,and most of them moved to pursue studies in Kathmandu and India.

Apart from the nunnery, there are many other chortens, small monasteries and hermitages as well. Pangboche, Thame, Lawdo, Khumjung and Khunde are some of the other sacred sites.

As the monastery has gone through a few of the accidents in the past and has been rebuilt as well, there are many facilities which haven’t been addressed. Safe drinking water, electricity are some of the problems. However, a “Master Plan” was developed, and it has resulted in supply of clean drinking water, also to establish a sacred land for high altitude medical herb plantation close to the monastery, an eco-centre to promote sustainable tourism, income generating schemes to sustain the local population, establish schools, toilets and accommodation for porters.

Trekking to Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche Monastery is located in the north east of Kathmandu. It is on a hill at the confluence of the Dudh Koshi and Imja Rivers. Tengboche Monastery falls en route from a mountain trail from Namche Bazaar.

Starting your trekking from Kathmandu, you will take a domestic flight to the Lukla. Lukla is popular place mainly known for its airport and the beautiful landscape views. From Lukla you will, you will trek towards Phadking in about 4-5 hours. Then after Phadking comes Namche Bazaar, a small charming town. Namche Bazaar is a popular place for acclimatisation for most of the trekkers before moving towards the higher altitude region. So, you can set a camp with your trekking group and stay for few days. You will get to involve with the people of this beautiful and charming town of mountain.

Then you will walk to the descending trail of Phungi Tenga and then comes Tengboche Monastery. You pass will through the suspension bridges, see the beautiful landscape views all around you and pass the delightful and colourful forest of rhododendron, pine and birch before arriving at Tengboche. A little downhill trek will take you to the Devouche, the nunnery as well.

If you are heading to the Everest Base Camp, then, moving forward you will reach Dingboche. From Dingboche come a small village called Labuje. Moving further you will reach Gorakshep and then comes to your destination, the base camp of Everest. Most of the trekkers chose to take a hike towards Kala Patthar, from where you will get a closer view of Mount Everest. Now, you will make your return journey to Namche Bazaar and the Lukla, from where you will take a domestic flight to Kathmandu and return home.

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