Mani Rimdu

ImageMani Rimdu is a 19-day sequence of sacred ceremonies and empowerments, culminating in a 3-day public festival. It's an opportunity for the local Sherpa and Tibetan communities, to gather and celebrate together with the monastic community.

Mani Rimdu is a re-creation of legendary events; the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by the great saint, Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). Through the dances, symbolic demons are conquered, dispelled, or converted to Dharma Protectors, as positive forces clash with those of chaos. The dances convey Buddhist teachings on many levels - from the simplest to the most profound - for those who do not have the opportunity to study and meditate extensively.

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Festival Preparations

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 puja's (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. 

The Sand Mandala

ImageThe Mandala is carefully constructed, grain by grain, from colored sand; an intricate and symbolic design that takes many days to complete. Protective dagger deities are placed around the Mandala, and the bowl of Mani Rilwu pills (spiritual medicine) is placed above the center.

The Mandala becomes the palace of Garwang Thoze Chenpo, the Lord of the Dance; an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion, and the central deity of  Mani Rimdu. The mantra "OM AH HUNG RHI, OM MANI PADME HUMG", is repeated thousands of times by the monks during the weeks of ceremony preceeding the public festival. During their meditation, they visualize compassion flowing in the form of the mantra, into the Mandala and the Mani Rilwu pills. Compassion then radiates out from the Mandala, blessing all those who attend the Mani Rimdu festival.

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The Empowerment (Wong)
The Wong is the opening public ceremony. It's performed on the full moon day, of the tenth month in the Tibetan lunar calendar. His Holiness Trulshig Rinpoche, gives the empowerment on this auspicious occasion; for long life, happiness and prosperity. The sacred Mani Rilwu (sacred pills) and Tshereel (pills for long life), are given to everyone attending.

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The Dances (Chham)

The dances take place on the 2nd day of Mani Rimdu.

ImageSer-Kyem

This offering of spiritual nectar is made in many ceremonies. The six dancers represent Ngag-pa, Tantric magicians. They make offerings of alcohol from silver chalices, and small tormas, to the Lama, Yidam, Khandro, and Shi-Dak (the Earth deities).

A Buddhist practitioner takes ‘refuge’ in the Lama (spiritual guide), Yidam (personal deity) and Khandro (wisdom dakini). A central theme in Tibetan Buddhist practice, is to make offerings to these beings, so that they will help with the virtuous actions which lead to Buddhahood.

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The Fire Puja (Jinsak)
ImageThe Fire Puja is performed in the courtyard the day after the dances. Most of the village people have gone home, and Chiwong has a quiet, almost family atmosphere.

The Fire Puja is an offering to Agni (the god of fire), and to the Gods of the mandala - to allay all harm in the world. The harm is visualized as dissolving into the grain and butter is burned.

Afterwards, the sand mandala in the temple is dismantled, and the sand is given as an offering to the serpent gods (Nagas), at the spring below the monastery.
 
Chhingpa

ImageThe next dance depicts the Four Protecting Ghings, defending the Buddhist faith    against attack by demons. Shining paper masks hide the faces of the dancers, each a different color and each displaying a constant smile. The dancers' skips are rhythmically accompanied by the beating of cymbals.     

Without breaking step, the dancers charge haltingly at children in the audience. The youngsters recoil in horror, much to the amusement of everyone else in the crowd.

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