Guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as Guru Rinpoche visited and sanctified Bhutan in the 8th century when evil spirits abounded and harmed people.
Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche flew to this site on a tigress’ back to subdue a local demon. Thereafter, hemeditated here for three months.
Taktshang Goemba or Tiger’s Nest Monastery was blessed and sanctified as one of Bhutan’s most sacred religious sites. It hangs on a cliff and stands above a beautiful forest of blue pine and rhododendrons.
- Tourists can enter the monastery as per these timings as long as your guide has arranged the standard permit in advance:
- 8 AM to 1 PM and 2-5 PM daily, October – March
- Until 6 PM, April – September.
- You have to register with the security at the entrance and deposit your bags and cameras.
- Camera and Photography is not allowed inside the monastery.
Taktshang Goemba is perched on the side of a cliff 800m (2,600 ft) above Paro valley. It is 2,950m (9,678 ft) above sea level.
Getting To Taktsang
It takes around 1 hour, 45 minutes to get to Taktshang walking or riding a horse. If the full hike is too tough, you can rest at the wooden teahouse restaurant or cafeteria after the first hour. You can get horses, too if you mention it to your guide.
The trail takes you through blue-pines to a series of three water-powered wheels. You will get breathtaking views of the Paro valley from here. After gaining an additional 300m from here, you will reach a small chorten and some prayer flags on the ridge. After another 30 minutes, you will reach a spring and basic monastery guesthouse.
There is a cave and plaque that marks the birthplace of a previous Je Khenpo following which a short walk further up brings you face to face with the monastery but it’s still 150m away on the far side of a deep valley.
The trail crosses a chapel of butter lamps and descends to a waterfall by the Singye Pelphu Lhakhang (Snow Lion Cave) that is associated with Guru Rinpoche’s consort, Yeshe Tsogyal.
It is said that Milarepa also visited the place. So did Thangtong Gyelpo who discovered a terma (sacred treasure) at the site and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646.The Paro Penlop, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, built the first monastery in 1692 around the holy cave in which the Guru meditated.
However in 1998, a fire destroyed the main structure and all its contents. Previously, it had suffered a fire in 1951. It was reconstructed in April 2000.
According to legend, Guru Rinpoche flew to the site as the fiery Dorje Drolo, one of his eight manifestations, on the back of a tigress, a form assumed by his consort Yeshe Tsogyal to subdue the local demon, Singye Samdrup. After that, he meditated in a cave for three months. It is said that when the monastery was first built, it was anchored to the cliff by the hairs of khandroma (female celestial beings).
Nine sacred caves
It is believed that Machig Labdron, the incarnation of Khandro Yesho Tsogyal mediated here. It is located above the ravine where the waterfall is. Her footprint can be seen inside.
This cave is located near the stream that flows rough the ravine. Guru Rinpoche mediated here on Vajrakeli, the deity of the magic dagger.
Guru Rinpoche mediated here for three months over the deities of the magic dagger. Today, the set of magic daggers (Phurpai Ethram) is preserved here.
This cave is shaped like Dorje Droloe and stands a little further away from the Senge Samgrup lhakhang.
The cave is located to the left of the main monastic complex where the self-created Buddha Amitayus and pagsam-shing (wish-fulfilling tree) can be seen.
It is believed that this is the acve where virtuous and non-virtuous actions are separated.
The belief is that Chenrizig or the Lord of Compassion resides in this cave assuming the form of the Lord of Death.
Located near the Shama Lhakhang, this cave is said to hold profound oral traditions that can subjugate demons and spirits.
Located at the center of the cliff, this cave can accommodate ten persons.
Drubchus (Holy Water)
Drubchu is the holy water believed to have been founded miraculously by saints. There are five drubchus around Taktshang. These are Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye Drubchu, Gurui Drubchu, Machig Phug Drubchu, Shelkarchu and one founded by Phadampa Sangye near the Zangtopelri Lhakhang.
Before reachoing Shelkarchu you come across Tshogyal Pangchung , meaning “the lawn of Khandro Yeshe Tshogyal”, where Guru Rinpoche bequeathed teachings to her.
Ten Lhakhangs and sacred objects
The monastic complex contains these lhakhangs:
To the lower right of the entrance stairway stands the cave where Guru Rinpoche and Langchen Pelgyi Sengye meditated. This cave is Taktshang’s inner sanctum. Holy water flows from the cave stone surface even on the driest days when pilgrims pray before it.
This lhakhang contains Guru Sungjonma’s statue which is venerated. It was sculptured by Pentsa Deva.
Kudung Choeten and Choeten Lhakhang
This lhakhang contains Langchen Pelgyi Sengye’s kudung choeten . The hall also contains a rock believed to be Dorje Phagmo’s skull and a drubche believed to be founded by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye.
Guru Tshangyad Lhakhang
Located on top of the main building, the lhakhang is dedicated to Guru Tshangyad. It contains Guru Rinpoche’s idol flanked by his two principla consorts: Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal and Mandarawa.
It contains a life-sized statue of Tshemaped, flanked by Gongdue and Guru on the right and Dorje Drolo and Phurpa on the left. It derives its name from the fact that Dorje Drolo used to be the main image in it before the fire that broke out in 1998.
Namsey Lhakhang is dedicated to the God of Wealth (Kubera/Vaisravana). The principal image in the room is Namsey surrounded by his attendants.
This lhakhang is dedicated to Tshemaped. On the right of Tshemaped’s image is Drolma (Tara) while on the left is Namyalma (Vijaya). The trio is called “Tshelha Namsum.”
This lhakhang is dedicated to Sengye Samdrup, Taktshang’s guardian deity.
Marmey Dag Sum Lhakhang
Located on top of the Neykhang, this lhakhang is dedicated to the Kagyud lamas. It contains the images of three prominent Kagyud masters – Marpa, Milarepa and Dagpo Lhaje.
Sengye Phug Lhakhang
It is located near Shelkarchu, below a cliff face that resembles a snow lion.
- A rock called “Do Nyinda Marmo” lies in the passage leading to the drubkhang. It bears the sun and moon’s imprints and is said to be the mouth of the treasure of Gondue.
- The Tiger’s Lair is a cave between Droloe lhakhang and Sengye Samdrup Lhakhang. It is here that Yeshi Tshogyal resided as a tigress.
- Phurpa Lhatsho is a Spirit-lake at the base of the cliff. It is believed that those who cause disturbances to the Tsho face miraculous retaliation.