Dolpo is largest districts of Nepal lies in Dhaulagiri rain shadows of North west Nepal. The southern part of Dolpo known as Lower Dolpo has Hindu influence and are also known as Khasan valley, where as the northern part has Buddhist and Bon influence due to Tibetan proximity for many years. This hidden land of Himalayas is the richest in Tibetan Buddhism, upholding ancient religious texts and sacred places.
The old manuscripts retaining in Dolpo depicts that, this land is purest and blessed by Lord Buddha, where as many disciple had attained their enlightenment through solitary meditation in caves and monasteries. It was believed that, Guru Rinpoche had traveled throughout the Dolpo region during his pilgrims travel across the Himalaya in 8th century. During his visit he had defeated three demonesses and made them to fled out from Dolpo.
Dolpo holds several century old Buddhist and Bon monasteries. Some of them are dating back over 700 years. Tibetan Buddhism is the major religion in Dolpo. All four Tibetan Buddhism sects such as; Shakya Pa, Nyima Pa, Kagyu Pa, and Gelug Pa are commonly practiced across the Dolpo region. Nyingma Pa, the red hat sect is the most popular one, which aligned on the myth of Guru Rincpoche. Shakya Pa, ‘the grey earth’ school represents the scholarly tradition, headed by the Shakya Trinzin rarely practiced in Dolpo. Kagyu Pa, is concerned with experimental dimension of meditation founded by Milarepa, an 11th century mystic, has also few numbers of followers in Dolpo. Gelug Pa the ‘way of virtue’ school was originally a reformist movement emphasis on logic and debate, was founded by Je Tsongkhapa in 14th to 15th century, symbolically represents the yellow hat is also practiced in Dolpo.
Tibetan Buddhism in Dolpo is practiced in dual way; the monks carry out religious practices in the monasteries and perform daily rituals by commoner. The commoners’ ritual includes household activities during birth, travel ceremonies, construction of houses, beginning of cultivation season, marriages function and death rituals. During some of these rituals local lamas are called to their house to read and perform the Pujas to Lama and monks. Tibetan Buddhism is also known as the Lamaism as the lama and monk play vital role.
Bon, an indigenous, ancient, pre-buddhist religion still exists in Dolpo. Some of the oldest Bonpo monasteries are still reserves in Dolpo. Bon religion revolves around the myths of its founder Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, who lived in 18,000 years ago in mythical land of Zhang Zhung near Tibet.
Bon religion is grounded on spirits and deities rather than philosophy; the religion is also emphasis on tantras, hence it is sometime regarded as Shamanism. The major distinction in between Bon and Tibetan Buddhism is, Bon circumambulating the shrine anti-clockwise meanwhile Buddhist undertake clockwise. In the same time, Bon revolving their prayer wheel and swastika to the left in contrast Buddhist perform this rituals to right. Furthermore, in case of chanting mantras, Bon enchants, ‘OM Ma Tri Mu Ye Sa Le Du’, however, Buddhist enchants ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’.
The various sects of Buddhism and Bon are practiced in the Himalayan highland Dolpo. Along the dogmas of religious insights many Bon and Buddhist monasteries and sacred places resides in Dolpo respecting each other’s sect. Hence, the Dolpo is characterized by the ‘Land of Bon and Buddhism’.