MANI RIMDU | DANCE OF THE GODS
DANCE OF THE GODS
Mani Rimdu tells a story in dance. Ostensibly the dancers reenact the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. Yet hidden within this drama of cultural history, say many Sherpas, is the story of an individual’s awakening. The dance festival is public performance.
Culminating in a public festival lasting for three days.
It is an opportunity for Sherpa and Tibetans Buddhist to gather and celebrate together with the monastic community. 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-hour pujas (rituals) are performed by the monks to consecrate the Mandala, the Mani Rilwu Pills (sacred pills), the Tshereel (pills for long life) and the Torma.
Sherpas are amongst the most devout Buddhists in Nepal, mountain people originally descended from Tibetans, who made the long and arduous trip from their country across the Himalayas.
The Mani Rimdu festival in Chiwang Solu is celebrated on in the 10th month of Sherpa / Tibetan calendar ( 3rd weeks of November) at the Chiwang Gompa which is situated atop of magnificent cliff near (1 hour’s walk) Phaplu airstrip.
Built in 1935 by legendry Sange Lama of Phaplu, the Chiwang Gompa is one of three monasteries in Solu Khumbu to play host to the Mani Rimdu festival of Nepal.
In the chill of each day’s dusk masked dancers make their first appearance on the bare courtyard of the monastery before performing, for hours on end, in an elaborate ritualistic retelling of the story of Buddhism’s triumph over Bon, Tibet’s ancient animist religion. The drama is lit by the full moon by which each Mani Rimdu is timed. Performing Lamas (monks) wear beautifully crafted papier maché masks and intricately woven brocade costumes. There are various phases to the festival as on the first day the monks act out elaborate prayer rituals before embarking on the story itself on the second day. On the final day, the throngs of Sherpas who have gathered for the ceremonies join with the local villagers and party the night away in an all night Sherpa dance.
Although often casually identified as a “Sherpa festival”, Mani Rimdu began at Rongpuk Monastery in Tibet in the early 1900’s, at the initiative of Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, who had studied in Mindroling Monastery, in Central Tibet. Like much of Rongpuk Monastery practice, most of the rituals that comprise Mani Rimdu find their source at Mindroling Monastery, the great Nyingma monastery in Central Tibet. Rongpuk Monastery, on the north face of Mount Everest, was an influencial force in the efflorescence pf Sherpa monastic culture earlier in this century In a way, Rongpuk Monastery served as a substation in the transmission of the Mindroling lineage, collecting and reassembling its traditions and then sending them over the Nangpala pass to the monasteries of Solu Khumbu just a few days journey south.
Trulshik Rimpoche (one of the chief abbot of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism from) from the Thubten Cholin monastery – presides the masked dances (wang) and the blessing (Wong) ceremonies.
Before the arriving at the Chiwang Monastery for the festival, we trek to the milky lakes of Dudhkunda Himal.