Taktsang translates to The Tiger’s Nest. The monastery is situated 900 meters above the Paro valley precariously perched on a cliff. It has an equally fascinating history. According to the legend, Guru Rinpoche flew to the current site of the monastery riding atop a tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 years 3 months and 3 days to subdue an evil force and bless the land. The monastery was subsequently constructed at the site in 1692. Guru Rinpoche is a Buddhist saint who according to history introduced Buddhism in Bhutan.
About 20 minutes’ drive from the town, tourists will arrive at the base of the monastery and continue an uphill climb on foot. The Tiger’s Nest is the most visited tourist attraction in Bhutan and owing to its history; it is also one of the most sacred religious site in the country. The wide dirt trail takes hikers through the pine forest. As the hike reach its summit, tourists can take in the spectacular panoramic view of the valley below and a close up view of the monastery above seemingly floating in the sky.
(Taktshang or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is truly one of the most incredible sites as well as the most venerated places of pilgrimage in the Himalayan Buddhist world. The monastery clings to the side of a precipitous rock face at 2,950 meters above the sea level. For the average hiker it takes about 2 hours to get to the monastery. Getting there does involve a bit of an effort, but it truly is worth every bead of sweat.
The Monastery derived its name from the story of its foundation. Legend has it that sometime in 747 AD, Guru Padmasambhava flew to the cave astride a tigress in his wrathful manifestation of Guru Dorji Drolo in order to subdue evil spirits in the locality and preserve the integrity of the Buddhist teachings, which is why the cave came to be known as ‘Taktshang’ or the ‘Tiger’s Lair.’ It is also maintained that it was his consort, Tashi Khyden (daughter of Sendha Gyelp whose health Guru helped restore in return for which Tashi Khyden was offered as consort) who transformed into the tigress and flew to the spot from Sengye Dzong in Kurtoe. There at the cave, the Guru is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. A Temple complex was first built at that spot in 1692. Today, Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen ‘Tiger’s Lairs’ in which the Guru meditated. The cliff on which Taktshang stands is also supposed to resemble a ritual dagger known as Phurpa. Many Buddhist masters also spent time here in meditation, the foremost being Langchen Pelgi Sengye, one of the twenty five disciples of Guru Rinpoche. The site was later visited and blessed by many other prominent Buddhist saints and masters as well, including the likes of Milarepa, Thangthong Gyalpo, Phajo Dugom Zhigpo and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava was a great saint and mystic from the Swat valley in modern day Pakistan who visited Bhutan and Tibet in the 8th century, tamed the hostile and negative forces and reintroduced Buddhism in these regions, broadly referred to as the second propagation of the faith. He is worshipped popularly in Bhutan and the Himalayan regions as the Second Buddha and regarded with the utmost reverence. The most important festivals celebrated in Bhutan – the Tshechus, are held to commemorate his birth and celebrate his magnificent deeds.
***Note: The total duration of the hike depends on your ability to walk. You can opt for renting a pony if you are not too confident about the uphill climb. (The fee for the hiring of ponies are not included in the package))