Taktsang tiger nest monastery is located at 2,950 meters (9,678 feet) above the sea level and about 900 meters above the upper Paro valley floor. Paro is a historic town with many sightseeing and scared places. Taktsang or the tigers nest monastery is one of the sightseeing places in Paro.
The Legend of Taktsang starts from Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. He was the one who brought the teachings of Buddha to Bhutan. Around 8th century, its believed that Guru flew on the back of a tigress to this cliff (where the monastery stands at present). He mediated here for three years, three weeks, three days and three hours to subdue evil spirits and emerged in his eight manifestations. The tigress in which Guru Padmasambhava flew is believed to be Yeshi Tshogyal, a consort of Guru, who had changed herself into a tigress.
Who built Taktsang tiger nest monastery?
At around 1508, the monastery was built by a Nyingma Buddhist called Sonam Gyaltshen. It was formally built as monastery in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye (4th Druk Desi). The most beautiful thing about Taktsang is that the Monastery is beautifully built on a steep cliff. It is believed that the Monastery is tied and held on to the cliff by the hairs of female celestial beings called ‘Khandroma’ who had carried the materials for building the monastery on the cliff.
The Legend says that when Pentsa Deva sculptured the statue of Guru and while taking it to Taktshang, the statue is said to have spoken, “Don’t worry, for someone shall come to carry me to Taktshang”. Then, the statue got transported to the Monastery miraculously. There we can see the beautiful paintings of Guru and his twenty five chief disciples.
The Taktshang consists of four main temples. The buildings are joined by the steps and stairways made in rocks and have a balcony on each building, so the viewers can have a beautiful view of Paro valley below.
The only way to Taktsang Monastery is walking or on a pony. Visitors are allowed to visit the monastery from morning 8 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm daily in October , November, December, January, February, March and till 6 pm in April, May, June, July, August and September.
It will take about two hours walk to the Monastery from Ramthangkha road which is 12 kilometers away from Paro town. On the way to the Taktsang, there can be seen a Lakhang (temple) and a Lakhang of Urgyen Tsemo. There is a view point for the visitors and even a cafeteria for refreshment. Even the trek route is filled with views, adventures and peaceful nature where we find blue pine trees, fresh flowing water, beautiful fluttering prayer flags, a large waterfall and religious items for sale. As we enter we can see colorful paintings and the meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche which is opened only once a year for public viewing. We can also see images of Jampelyang, Chenresig and Chana Dorje as entering the shrine.
What’s inside Taktsang?
As we enter we can see colorful paintings and the meditation cave of Guru Rinpoche which is opened only once a year for public viewing. We can also see images of Jampelyang, Chenresig and Chana Dorje as entering the shrine.
There are eight caves in the Taktsang. Pelphu Lakhang is the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated and outside of the cave has the statue of Dorje Drolo (one of the eight manifestations of Guru). Here, inside the inner cave is believed to be holding the Phurbu (ritual dagger) of the Guru and is sealed by a gilded door. The walls are decorated with the murals of eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and Thangtong Gyalpo. From here, comes the Guru Sungjonma Lakhang. Here we can see a central image of Pema Jungme (one of the eight manifestations of Guru). Outside of it, we can see an image of the long-life protector Tseringma riding on a snow lion and inside the paintings of demonic deities and manifestations of the deity Phurba.
Turning to the left, we will find an inner chorten (chapel) belonging to Langchen Pelgye Sengye, who was a 9th century disciple of Guru Rinpoche. There is a holy spring behind the chapel as well which makes it more beautiful to see. Moving further, we will find the Drole Lakhang to the left and Guru Tsengye Lakhang to the right. In the Drole Lakhang, there are monks selling blessed lockets and in the Guru Tsengye Lakhang, there is an image of 4th Druk Desi Gyelse Tenzin Rabgay.
The main cave has a narrow passage and several images of Bodhisattvas. The cave is dark but the butter lamps make it beautiful while entering. As we enter more, we can see the sacred scripture which is important as it has been scripted with gold dust and a divine Lama’s crushed bone powder.
What’s next after Taktsang?
After visiting the Monastery, we can also take a 15 minutes uphill trail to Machig-phu Lakhang. Here, Bhutanese pilgrims come to pray for children and inside the chapel are the main statues of Machig and her husband Padampa Sangye.
Royal Visit to Taktsang
On 15th of April (2016), the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton trekked to the Taktshang Monastery in three hours while on their Royal Visit to Bhutan.
Best time to visit Taktsang monastery.
It is advisable to start the trek in the early morning as there will be freshness in the air and the hikers will be in their best mood. If you start around 7 am or 8 am, you will reach the Monastery around 10 am or 11 am.