Tengboche Monastery in the Khumbu Valley

Located at an altitude of 3867 meters in the Khumbu valley of northeastern Nepal’s Sagarmatha Zone, the village of Tengboche offers a spectacular panoramic view of a range of famous Himalayan peaks, including Everest, Lhotse, Tawache, Nuptse, Ama Dablam and Thamserku. Legendary Sherpa Tenzing Norgay was born in the nearby village of Thani, and it is said that attended the Tengboche Buddhist Monastery for a time. Apart from the spectacular scenery, the Tengboche Monastery is the main attraction of the village of Tengboche.

The idea of building a monastery on the site it now occupies came from Lama Sangwa Dorje, who is said to have used his clairvoyant and divine psychic abilities to pinpoint the location. The footprint he left on a rock while meditating has been preserved to this day and is displayed at the monastery. While Lama Sangwa Dorje chose the location, the monastery was only constructed during the lifetime of Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, considered to be the fifth incarnation of Lama Sangwa Dorje. Chatang Chotar, also known as Lama Gulu, was given the task of founding the monastery and it was completed in 1916 as the first celibate monastery for the Nyingma school of Vajrayana Buddhism. There are many smaller and older monasteries in nearby villages, but Tengboche is the largest in the Khumbu region, and is considered to be the most important. It is also a major attraction for tourists trekking in the Khumbu valley.

During a major earthquake in 1934, the monastery and a number of surrounding buildings were destroyed. With support from Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, the monks and local community, Umze Gelden set about rebuilding the monastery. A carpenter from Lhasa in Tibet assisted with rebuilding, and Nepali artist Kappa Kalden painted the monastery’s murals. In January 1989 the monastery, along with all its murals, wood carvings, statues and priceless old scriptures, were destroyed by fire. Even the stone with Lama Sangwa’s footprint cracked from the fire’s heat. However, with the help of donations from around the world the Tengboche monastery was again rebuilt, this time overseen by Nawang Tenzing Jangpo, an important spiritual leader of the Sherpas and considered to be an incarnation of Lama Gulu, the original founder of the monastery. Today the Tengboche Monastery features wall paintings by Tibetan painter Tarke-la, depicting Bodhisattvas, a popular theme in Buddhist sacred places. The rebuilt monastery was consecrated in 1993 and is now home to sixty monks.

With the village and the monastery lying on the route to the Mount Everest base camp when approach via the Khumbu icefall and west ridge, many mountaineers heading for the ultimate challenge of scaling the famous mountain are known to stop and light a candle at the monastery, seeking blessings of gods for a safe expedition.