Rolwaling is a remote mountain valley (4000m altitude) to the north east of Kathmandu, close to the Tibetan border and to the west of the Khumbu region. 

Rolwaling holds special religious and spiritual significance for the local people and Tibetan Buddhism. In Tibetan language ‘Rolwa’ means ‘furrow’ and ‘ling’ means ‘place’. It is said to be a beyul or sacred hidden valley, carved from the land with one stroke of buddhist saint Padmasambhava's plow.

It is said Padmasambhava rested and meditated for three months with his consort and 100 followers after creating the valley. Rolwaling was thereby consecrated as a beyul, one of eight created by Padmasambhava in Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim. These valleys were created to serve as dharma sanctuaries in future times of trouble. Padhmasambava had prophesied that some Buddhists would be able to take refuge from an oppressive government, keeping the faith for more auspicious times.

The main settlements are at the end of a long valley, a high mountain pass separating it from Khumbu valley. 


Blessed by many powerful buddhist masters, Rolwaling is a high altitude east-west beyul (hidden valley) situated approximately 180 km northeast of Kathmandu near the border with Tibet. The very narrow valley stretches for over thirty kilometres through beautiful mountainous terrain of forest, glaciers, rivers and snow capped peaks dominated by Gaurishankar Mountain (7145m) marking the border with Tibet.

It is home to a buddhist sherpa community predominately following the Nyingma lineage. However, many of the children from the area became monks (mostly at Kopan monastery in Kathmandu) in the Gelug tradition. 

Rolwaling was once home to Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, one of the most respected living masters of our time, founder of Kopan Monastery and Spiritual Director of FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition), an organisation committed to preserving and spreading the dharma. 

Born in 1946 in Thangme, Rinpoche was recognised as the reincarnation of the Lawudo Lama, Kunzang Yeshe. At the age of six he left his home for Rolwaling, where he spent several years of his childhood studying Buddhism with his uncle.


Spiritual History

Khandro Rolwaling can be translated as The Playful Ground of the Dakinis or region where the dakinis play. As a beyul, or hidden valley, Rolwaling was visited and blessed by the great buddhist master Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. There are many sights in the valley associated with his time there such as the Guru Rinpoche rock and cave near Naa.

It is mentioned in the scriptures that there are many benefits for sentient beings in such hidden sacred places . As foretold by Guru Rinpoche himself, these hidden sacred places are to provide refuge to those who are virtuous so that the Dharma can be preserved in times of crisis. 

It is written that self-arisen images of buddhas and bodhisattvas, scriptures, stupas and other things once concealed by the kasung will be revealed by the terton at the appropriate time. These are said to purify the obscurations of sentient beings. Moreover, meditative experience and realization arise swiftly for whoever practices in the beyuls.

Thus, Beyul Khandro Rolwaling is a highly sacred and significant place. It has been blessed with many treasures and is one of the meditation places of Guru Rinpoche. This sacred hidden valley is protected by Kasung Tashi Tseringma and the treasures are safely guarded by  the terdag (treasure-owner) Gora Nagpo.

Many powerful lamas have also spent time practicing in the valley including Dzatrul Ngawang Tenzin Norbu, His Eminence Kyabje Trulzhig Rinpoche, Kyabje Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, Dephug Rinpoche, Ngawang Tsering Dondrub, Ngawang Shedrub Tenpe


Settlements in Rolwaling

As a nomadic community, the people of Rolwaling move between three settlements throughout the year. However, the earthquakes of 2015 left their smaller winter settlements largely destroyed by a landslide, so their year is now mostly spent between the two larger settlements, Beding and Na.

Beding (3600m)

Beding is the main village of Rolwaling situated mid-way between the summer and winter settlements staggered up the side of the mountain on the edge of the river. People stay here before moving up the valley in the summer.

Na (4200m)

The summer settlement is on a slightly sloped plateau higher up the valley from Beding. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, it is a warm and pleasant place in the summer, autumn and spring. The community stay here for nearly six months of the year during summer and autumn.


Climate

The climate in the area will be an important factor to consider when planning your retreat with temperatures and rain/snow fall varying drastically throughout the year and each season bringing its own challenges.

Summer (June-September)

Relatively light monsoon rains due to the orientation of the valley. Wet and warm with temperatures reaching 20 degrees in the sun during the day. Conditions for retreat are warmer but can be damp.

Most local people will be living in Naa during this time.

More difficult to reach Rolwaling by bus and then walking due to risk of landslides.

Autumn (October - November/December)

The mornings are generally sunny and dry, while moisture from the Tama Koshi river brings lower temperatures and persistent fog to Beding in the afternoons.

Local people generally move between Beding and Naa during this time.

Winter (December - March)

Average temperature below 10 degrees. Snowfall typically starts in late December/January becoming heavier in February and sometimes continuing until April. However, this has become increasingly less predictable over the past few years.

During this time many of the local people will move to Kathmandu to stay with family during the harshest time. However, those with cattle stay to take care of them so there will still be people available if any assistance is needed.

The higher areas such as Naa receive significantly more snowfall than Beding so any locals who stay in the area will leave Naa around the beginning of December.

There is also significantly less daylight during this time due to the narrowness of the valley and lower sun.

Spring (March - May/June)

The mornings are generally sunny and dry, while moisture from the Tama Koshi river brings lower temperatures and persistent fog to Beding in the afternoons.

The shoulder seasons of Autumn and Spring are typically the best time for retreat in Rolwaling, with kinder temperatures and drier air providing more comfortable conditions and stunning views.


​Daily life

A typical Sherpa house is built of stone with sloped roofs usually made of wood. Most of the houses are two-story, the lower part of which is typically used to house cattle and store firewood, fodder etc. The family lives in the upper story, traditionally one big, open room with a kitchen, shrine and beds. The doors and windows are typically smaller with cold drafts very common due to gaps in the brickwork, where the walls meet the roof and around the windows.

There are taps for water in some homes but the majority of households must collect their water from public taps. At the date of writing there was a water project about to begin with the aim of bringing more sustainable and cleaner water to the village due to current sources becoming too dry for use during the winter months.

Wood burning fires are typically used for cooking wholesome sherpa food such as champa, syakpa (Sherpa stew), rigi kuri (potato pancake), thukpa (noodle soup) and many other delicious meals.






About Rolwaling