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Tengboche Monastery is located on a hill near the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and Imja Khola rivers, with a panoramic view of Mount Everest. Around 350 years ago, Khumbu's Lama Sangwa Dorje (a high priest) designated Tengboche as a holy spot where an important monastery would one day be built. The actual monastery was founded in 1923 by the reincarnate of Lama Sangwa Dorje, a boy from nearby Khumjung. With 35 monks living within its walls, it is now one of the most important religious centers for Sherpa culture.
Tengboche is a Shangri-La, one of the final stops before reaching the high peaks. However, this peaceful location has a lengthy history of tragedy. The monastery was devastated by an earthquake in 1933, only to be rebuilt and completely destroyed by fire in 1989. The heat was so severe that no old texts, sculptures, or paintings could be saved. The majority of the historic objects were entirely destroyed. The monks reconstructed the monastery with the assistance of local carpenters. Patience and mindfulness are essential precepts of Tibetan Buddhism, and they are desperately required here since the rebuilding effort has lasted months, if not years.
Tengboche is flanked by ancient mani stones, which are flat stones etched with the mantra "Om Mane Padme Hum." Prayer flags float in the steady air that blows off the high peaks; the flags, which come in five different colors, represent the five Buddhist elements: earth, wind, fire, water, and awareness. We visited the monastery on our way up to Base Camp during the peak of the spring season when the slopes of Tengboche hill are carpeted with flowering rhododendrons. Jamling gently presented a ceremonial khata scarf to the monastery's presiding monk, exactly as his father had done years before. In response, the monk blessed the bundle of prayer flags that Jamling plans to spread on the top.
Wearing colorful costumes, the monks performed Mani Rimdu, a masked dance ceremony designed to summon some of the major protecting deities, including a wrathful apparition of the renowned saint Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The movements of the dancers reflect the historic defeat of demons and the advent of Buddhism to Tibet. Tengboche and Mani Rimdu have become tourism icons in Nepal, receiving around 15,000 people each year and up to 600 per week during peak season.