Tengboche Village and Tengboche Monastery

engobche monastery in Tengboche village is the largest monastery in the Khumbu region

Tengobche monastery in Tengboche village is the largest monastery in the Khumbu region. The Tengboche village is situated in the Khumbu Pasanglhamu rural municipality in the Khumbu subregion of Province No. 1 in Nepal. This village is at a height of 3,867 meters (12,687 ft). The Tengboche monastery, which is also known as the Buddhist monastery in this region by both the locals and the visitors, holds the most prominence here. The structure of the monastery is said to be built in the year 1923. Though an earthquake in 1934 destroyed the monastery, it was restored and rebuilt eventually. The Tengboche monastery has pretty strong links with its mother monastery, called Rongbuk Monastery, which is located in Tibet.

There are several interesting facts associated with Tengboche village and Tengboche monastery that we have summed up in this article. Make sure to read till the end of this article to know more!

Table of Contents

Where is Tengboche Village?

Where is Tengboche Village?

Tengboche village is in Khumbu Pasanglhamu rural municipality in the Khumbu subregion of Province No. 1 in Nepal. It is one of the most popular villages in the area because of the relevance of the Tengboche monastery in Buddhism. Rowling and Khanbalung valleys have been considered sacred places in the Tibetan Buddhist literature, and this fact has had a significant effect on the sacredness of the Tengboche village as well. Some of the mountains that you can get a scenic view of when you are in the Tengboche village include Tawache, Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and Thamserku. Moreover, an interesting fact about the largest monastery in this village is that Sir Edmund Hilary, who was born in a village called Thani, was sent to become a monk there.

The hill in which this village is located is at the intersection of the Dudh Kosi and the Imja Khola rivers. Since it is in the Solukhumbu district to the Northeast of the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, there are many Sherpa inhabitants in the area. Sherpas are the people who inhabited the mountainous and hilly parts of Nepal from Tibet around just six hundred years ago. Tengboche village is also connected to Namche Bazaar, which is very close to the only airport in the area, Lukla Airport. This airport has a direct connection to Kathmandu. Moreover, Tengboche also lies at the midsection of the way to Mount Everest. Hence, many visitors, trekkers, and tourists, whenever they come to the Everest Base Camp, visit this monastery as well. In fact, during peak seasons, the monastery is almost just as crowded.

History of Tengboche Monastery

History of Tengboche Monastery

The history behind the Tengboche monastery is very interesting and holds great significance among the Sherpas and Buddhists in the area. It has been famously said that Lama Sangwa Dorje, who is also the founder of the oldest monastery in Khumbu at Pangboche and other monasteries and small heritages, referred to the suitability of a monastery being placed in the Tengboche village. Lama Sangwa Dorje is considered one of the most knowledgeable and well-known monks, and his intuitive psychic and vision helped establish a monastery association with his footprints in the place where he meditated, which later became Tengboche monastery.

This led to the establishment of the Tengboche monastery, the largest monastery in that area, around 350 years ago in Khumbu Valley. But it was not during Lama Sangwa Dorje’s time that the monastery was established. It took several years for the fifth incarnation of Dorje to finally make an initiation to build the monastery in Tengboche village. Ngawang Tenzin Norbu was Dorje’s incarnation, who also also blessed Lama Gulu to be the founder of the holy monastery. As per the Nyingmapa lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism, the Tengboche monastery is also the very first celibate monastery.

The funding for the monastery was provided by three people, all from the Sherpa community. Among the three, Karma, who was also the wealthiest, had the most influence as he was a tax collector and was able to enjoy the customs of the Rana family of Nepal. Sherung Sherpas were also involved in the establishment of the Tengboche monastery. The Mani wall inside the monastery has several sacred texts and writings that date back to the year 1915.

The earthquake of 1934, the death of Lama Gulu, and more tragedy

The earthquake of 1934, the death of Lama Gulu, and more tragedy

The monastery lasted quite some years until a major earthquake in 1934 led to the destruction of the Tengboche village. Lama Gulu, who had been responsible for the establishment of the monastery, had also been long dead at the time of this earthquake. His descendent, Umze Gelden, under the guidance and blessings of Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, held himself responsible for the re-establishment of the monastery. Some of the finest carpenters from Lhasa were hired for the work. Kappa Kalden, a renowned artist, painted murals himself inside the monastery.

The monastery went through a lot even after its re-establishment, and many funds and donations from people all around the world helped rebuild the monastery. An incident that led to the monastery needing a rebuild was the fire in 1989. The footprint in the monastery of the great monk Dorje was said to have had a fractured leg. This made trekkers salvage the ancient scriptures and writing.

There are still many mysteries related to the constant destruction of the monastery. However, most of it still has been associated with natural and unavoidable events that took place as an accident. After the fire of 1989, Nawang Tenzing Jangpo, who was considered an incarnation of Lama Gulu and the founder and an ancestor of Jangpo, took the responsibility to rebuild the monastery. This time, many trekkers, as well as mountaineers, came to help. Sir Edmund Hillary and Himalayan Trust, the American Himalayan Heritage Foundation, and a few more international donation trusts came forth to show their generosity during this time. The monastery of Tengboche was restored and rebuilt with necessary sacred rituals, and the paintings and writings in the monastery were rewritten and remade as it was before.

Mountaineers and Tengboche Monastery

Mountaineers and Tengboche Monastery

Tengboche monastery is situated quite close to some of the most prominent mountains in the Solukhumbu district. This makes it easier for mountaineers and trekkers to get access to one of the holiest monasteries of the Tengboche village. The monastery has a great significance, which allows the trekkers and visitors in the area to get blessings from the monastery anytime they are off on their journey. Both Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hilary were inhabitants of this village, and they became the first to set foot on the top of Mount Everest.

As the interest of international trekkers increased in mountaineering activities and expeditions started increasing over the years, people started visiting the monastery all the more. Plus, they brought along candles to light in the monastery to pray for health and success in whatever they were doing. So, it is right to say that Tengboche monastery is not only famous in but also out of Nepal.

John Hunt, who approached Mount Everest from the northern side and also was the leader of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition, in his book “The Ascent of Everest” wrote about Tengboche , “Thyangboche must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. The height is well over 12,000 feet. The Monastery buildings stand upon a knoll at the end of a big spur, which is flung out across the direct axis of the Imja River. Surrounded by satellite dwellings, all quaintly constructed and oddly medieval in appearance, it provides a grandstand beyond comparison for the finest mountain scenery that I have ever seen, whether in the Himalayas or elsewhere.”

After the sanctification of the monastery in 1993, the Tengboche monastery has been considered a gateway to Mount Everest. Greater Himalayas Foundation, based in Washington DC, United States, funded the rebuild of the gate of the monastery. Likewise, there is a saying that the monastery is the house of 60 monks who all reflect financial prosperity. Sadly, with time, young boys in the area, including Sherpas, have been holding themselves back from working in the monastery due to their increased interest in mountaineering and trekking activities.

Mani Rimdu Festival in Tengboche Monastery

Mani Rimdu Festival in Tengboche Monastery

Mani Rimdu festival in Tengboche monastery is a very important one among the Tibetan and Sherpa communities in the Khumbu region. This festival is celebrated during the 10th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. The occasion lasts around 19 days and falls in autumn. Hence, during this time, there is not only a crowd gathering from the village but also the trekkers and mountaineers who have come to climb or trek through Mount Everest or the Mount Everest Base Camp, as autumn is also the peak season for climbs and treks. It is of great importance that red pills are held during a ceremonial ritual in this festival. This red pill is blessed several times and distributed to all the people present during the time. Drupchen, meditation, and ritual are also conducted during the Mani Rimdu Festival.

As for the name of the festival, Mani refers to “part of the chant of Chenrezig,” and Rimdu refers to the red pills that are blessed and distributed at the time of this festival. Hence, it can be considered not just the chanting of Chenrezig but as a gate to hope for better through the pills distributed. This tradition has been passed from the mother monastery of Tengboche, the Rongbuk. The center of this festival is the mandala that is made during the festival. It takes around 3-4 days for the mandala to complete, and after its completion, the mandala is covered. There is 16 animated and comical form of dance, which is also one of the most important aspects of the festival. Finally, after the visitors leave, monks perform a fire rite meant to end any harm to the world.

The sand mandala decoration is removed carefully after the end of this festival with necessary rites. Likewise, the monks perform a mask dance, which is considered the manifestation of the legendary saint Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. These mask dance numbers also indicate the downfall of demons and the initiation of Buddhism to Tibet. The resident, Tengboche Rinpoche of the monastery, blesses everyone present once the Mask dance ends.

There are at least 15,000 visitors who come to visit the Tengboche monastery every year. Plus, during the peak seasons, visitors increase by 600 people per week. Mani Rimdu festival has much to contribute to the number of visitors to the monastery during the peak season.

The economy of Tengboche Village

The economy of Tengboche Village

There is no road network to the Tengboche village. While there are many people trekking and even residing in the area, livelihood is extremely expensive here. The frequent visits from tourists have promoted both international and national mountaineering, which is also a reason why living here is expensive even for the locals. Much of the things that come here premade are imported from the capital city of Nepal or directed from China, and both the alternatives are quite costly considering the transportation cost and road difficulties in bringing those things to the village.

Moreover, Tengboche village has been famous as a place where visitors rest for acclimatization. This has caused a lack of proper sanitation, water, electricity, etc., even for the locals of the area. Tengboche Monastic community started the Tengboche Development Project to improve the economic situation of Tengboche village by providing service of water, especially for the use of tourists in the area. There have been several organizations and individuals from the international arena who have promoted the development of the village by providing donations and funds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the largest Monastery in Nepal?

Tengboche Monastery is the largest monastery in Nepal.

In which country or state of India is Tengboche Monastery located?

Tengboche monastery is not situated in any part of India. In fact, it is located in the Khumbu region of Nepal.

What is the meaning of Thyangboche?

Thyanboche or Tengboche is a rural village located in Nepal.

How many people live in the Tengboche?

It has been famously said that 50 monks and several families live in the Tengboche.

How old is Tengboche monastery?

The Tengboche monastery is around a little more than a century old.

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