Tengboche Monastery (Thyangboche or Dawa Choling Gompa) is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Khumbu valley of eastern Nepal. Located at an altitude of 3,867 metres (12,687 ft), and en route to Everest Base Camp, it is one of the most prominent and the largest monastery in the entire region. It is perched on a hill, at the confluence of Dudh Koshi and Imja Khola rivers, with Mt. Ama Dablam forming a stunning backdrop to the location. The site can be reached by a mountainous trail from Namche Bazaar, via Lukla airport connecting to Kathmandu.
History and Architecture
Established by Lama Gulu in 1916, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1934, and was subsequently rebuilt. Tragedy befell on the monastery again when it was engulfed by fire in 1989. It was re-established with the help of devoted volunteers from the area with international assistance. The resulting structure is a great work of stone masonry on display, complete with extended courtyard and spacious halls to facilitate religious rites and activities. Also located within its vicinity is a nunnery as Vajrayana Buddhism does not distinguish between sexes.
A Heritage within a Heritage
A heritage in its own right, Tengboche Monastery falls within the Sagarmatha National Park—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—immersed in a Himalayan panorama and offers a magnificent views of nearby summits of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and Thamserku. Not to mention this region is home to a wide range of Himalayan floras and faunas.
Tengboche also forms the end point of “Sacred Sites Trail Project” a circular trek inside the park, passing clockwise through ten monasteries, caves, Hermitages and Nunneries, starting from Namche Bazaar and ending at Tengboche Monastery.
Know the way of the Sherpas
Tengboche is a central hub for insightful resource into the life of the Sherpas, who migrated from Tibet around six hundred years ago, and they constitute the primary indigenous people inhabiting the region, among others. Buddhist monasteries have always been paramount in unifying the Sherpas in their spiritual, economic and day to day life. And a visit to the monastery, which comprises the most important of the sacred places in the entire region, will only deepen the visitors’ understanding of Sherpa culture, their pride and traditions.
The colourful Mani Rimdu Festival
Each year, the monastery hosts the delightful Mani Rimdu Festival on the tenth lunar month of Tibetan calendar, corresponding to the months of October-November, coincidentally during the best trekking season in Nepal. This is a festival of religious rites, songs, dances, enactments of legends, and characterised by vibrant colours and noise that takes the centre stage in one of the most spectacular of settings.
Performed by local monks dressed up in traditional religious attire and masks, the dance symbolizes the victory of Buddhism over the ancient religion of ‘Bon’. This is an important event well attended by the local Sherpa community, many of whom travel a long journey to witness the event. As the festival is celebrated over an extended period of nineteen days, you could very well be a part of the occasion, and even partake in the events itself.
A must-visit establishment along the Everest trail
As a leading Buddhist centre of spirituality and pilgrims in the area, with international media coverage in recent years, and of course lying conveniently midway to Everest Base Camp trek, the monastery has carved a niche of its own. Combine that with the rich culture and unspoilt traditions of the indigenous mountain people, and an opportunityto immerse yourself in the Himalayas of the Khumbu Nepal, Tengboche is surely a site that you can’t afford to miss if you are travelling anywhere near Everest.