Tom Vendetti the Emmy award winning filmmaker and I were planning on an expedition to Tengboche Buddhist Monastery to film in stereoscopic 3-D the Mani Rimdu Festival. Mani Rimdu is one of the most important healing festivals for the Sherpa community. But due to the devastating Nepal earthquakes we decided to place the Nepal expedition on hold.
First There was a devastating earthquake 7.8 that was centered near Kathmandu and affected far off villages. Last Year was the worst Everest disaster in the history of mountaineering. On 18 April 2014, an avalanche on Mount Everest near Everest Base Camp killed sixteen Nepalese guides. As of 20 April, thirteen bodies had been recovered. The search for the three remaining bodies was called off due to the difficulty and risk of retrieving them. Some Sherpa guides were angered by what they saw as the Nepalese government’s meager offer of compensation to victims’ families and threatened a “strong protest” or strike. On 22 April, the Sherpas announced they would not work on Everest for the remainder of 2014 as a mark of respect for the victims.
The Everest Avalanche caused by the April 7.8 Nepal earthquake eclipsed the 2014 event. During the afternoon of 25 April 2015, a MW 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal and surrounding nations. Shaking from the quake triggered numerous avalanches on Mount Everest. At least nineteen people were killed, surpassing an avalanche that occurred the previous year as the deadliest disaster on the mountain.
Although the ladders at the Khumbu Icefall were damaged by the avalanches, a handful of mountaineers, undeterred by the disaster, immediately sought Nepalese government permission to continue with their attempt on the mountain and were granted permission to do so on 29 April 2015. “The ladders will be repaired in the next two to three days and climbing will continue, there is no reason for anyone to quit their expedition,” said Tulsi Gautam, chief of the Nepal Department of Tourism. “There is no scientific reason to expect another quake… and we feel the ground is stable enough for climbing despite aftershocks.” “After six days of high emotion and harsh words at Everest Base Camp, climbing firm Himalayan Experience finally decided on Friday to abandon its ascent of the world’s highest peak, becoming the last big team to do so. Russell Brice changed his mind after being stung by suggestions that he was putting the interests of his business, some of his climbers and the vanity of summiteering above all else.”
“SPCC announced the closure of treacherous route for this season on the advice of icefall doctors this morning,” the SPCC Chairman shared the decision from Everest Base Camp over phone. With the SPCC’s decision, Everest climbing that had been hampered by deadly avalanche last year, has now closed for the second consecutive year.” After the second earthquake (12 of May) Dambar Parajuli, president of the Expedition Operators’ Association of Nepal, said there no climbers or Nepali sherpa guides rest at Everest Base Camp.
Mani Rimdu is the most important festival of the Sherpa people. It is held during the tenth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, corresponding to October–November of the Gregorian calendar. It falls on the autumn season when large groups of tourists visit the Khumbu region to trek to Everest Base Camp and to witness the festival which lasts for nineteen days. The religious festivities involve ceremonies and meditation (Drupchen). The meaning attributed to “Mani Rimdu” is that ‘Mani’ means “part of the chant of Chenrezig” and ‘Rilbu’ or ‘Rimdu’ means small red pills that are blessed during the festival. The red pills are blessed repeatedly and then distributed to all those who attend.
The festival is a tradition passed on from its mother monastery, the Rongbuk. It begins with an elaborate depiction of the mandala diagram made with coloured sand. This sand is extracted from a specified location in the hills. The mandala takes four days to draw; it is then covered and is central to the religious festival that lasts for the next 10 days. The program includes 16 dance numbers with interludes for comical effect. Finally, after all the devotees have left, the monks perform a fire rite to dispel all harm to the world. The sand mandala specially created for the festival is then formally removed with prayers for the benefit of all sentient beings. At the end of the festivities the resident Tengboche Rinpoche of the monastery blesses the general public after which the ‘Mask Dances’ are performed by the monks. The monks perform the masked dance to usher some of the protective deities as manifestation of the legendary saint Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism; the dance numbers also display the defeat of demons and the initiation of Buddhism to Tibet.
Thus, Tengboche Monastery and Mani Rimdu are major attractions for tourists in Nepal. The number of tourists visiting the monastery is said to be about 15,000 per year and during peak tourist season the number is said to be 600 per week.
The nearby Debuche Buddhist Nunnery as destroyed