A visit to Tengboche Monastery was one of the most up-lifting experiences of my life.
Mary Bell, England
Located at the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and Imja rivers at an altitude of about 3870m, this Buddhist monastery is the largest in the area and home to about 60 monks. It was originally built in 1916 and maintains strong links with its mother monastery, Rongbuk, on the north side of Mount Everest in Tibet.
An earthquake destroyed the monastery in 1934. It was subsequently rebuilt, only to be destroyed a second time in 1989; this time by fire due to an electrical fault. A large amount of the monastery’s precious scriptures, murals, statues and woodcarvings were lost in the fire. Volunteers with the aid of international assistance rebuilt it.
Being on the main route to Everest base camp, means that many trekkers and climbers visit the monastery to light candles and seek blessings.
Sir John Hunt, who led the successful 1953 Everest expedition offered the following description, “Tengboche 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 mediaeval in appearance, it provides a grandstand beyond comparison for the finest mountain scenery that I have ever seen, whether in the Himalaya or elsewhere.”
The magnificent backdrop of Ama Dablam with the tip of Mount Everest visible, ancient mani stones and Buddhist prayer flags, make this a very popular spot for photographers.
Increasing tourism has put a strain on a very fragile and ecologically sensitive area, therefore the monastery, in conjunction with specialists, has established a “master plan” which has resulted in developing a water supply system that is providing clean drinking water to Tengboche (even during the coldest months), a micro hydropower station that provides assured electricity (halting the rapid deforestation due to over-reliance on wood), the establishment of sacred land for a high altitude medicinal herb plantation close to the monastery, an Eco-Centre to promote sustainable tourism, better toilets and accommodation for porters, income generating schemes to sustain the local population and establishing schools for better education facilities for local people.
More recently, the monks of Tengboche have set up their own trekking agency. It is a registered charity in Nepal, and all profits go to aid the families of Sherpas killed in climbing accidents.
Visitors are welcome to attend daily puja (prayers). Check locally for times. Please be aware that the wearing of shoes or shorts, smoking and taking photographs is prohibited.
The Mani Rimdu Festival in October/November, at the height of the trekking season, is worth a look. This is a 19 day long festival of eating, drinking and merriment along with more serious ceremonies and meditation. The monks perform rites and the world-renowned mask dances to defeat demons and dispel all harm from the world.
THE TENGBOCHE MONASTERY WEBSITE >