About Paro Taktsang

Bhutan’s recorded history begins with the great saint Padmasambhava, one of his holiest sites is the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) which overlooks the Paro valley. HummingbirdTV is located in the shadow of Taktsang situated high above the Paro Valley.

History of Paro Taktsang

The monastery was built around the  cave, where custom holds that the Indian Guru Padmasambahva meditated in the 8th century. He flew to this place from Tibet on the back of Yeshe Tsogyal, whom he transformed into a flying tigress for the purpose and landed at the cliff, which he “anointed” as the place for building a monastery. He established Buddhism and the Nyingmapa school of Mahayana Buddhism in Bhutan, and has been considered the “protector saint of Bhutan”. After he died later in Nepal, his body was said to have been miraculously returned to the monastery by the grace of the deity Dorje Legpa; it is now said to be sealed in a chorten in a room to the left at the top of the entrance stairway.[5] The chorten was restored in 1982-83 and again in 2004.[5]

From the 11th century, many Tibetan saints and eminent figures came to Taktsang to meditate,

In the 17th century the well-known Tertön Pema Lingpa of Bumthang, who founded many monasteries in various parts of Bhutan, conception of the (the Copper Colored mountain), which was the abode of the Guru Padmasambahva (which is the same place as the Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s nest).

The monastery is located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to the north of Paro and hangs on a precipitous cliff at 3,120 metres (10,240 ft), about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above the Paro valley, on the right side of the Paro Chu (‘chu’ Bhutanese means ”river or water”.[12]]).[13] The rock slopes are very steep (almost vertical) and the monastery buildings are built into the rock face. Though it looks formidable, the monastery complex has access from several directions, such as the northwest path through the forest, from the south along the path used by devotees, and from the north (access over the rocky plateau, which is called the “Hundred Thousand Fairies” known as Bumda (hBum-brag). A mule track leading to it passes through pine forest that is colorfully festooned with moss and prayer flags. On many days, clouds shroud the monastery and give an eerie feeling of remoteness.

Tiger’s Nest temples

The monastery buildings consist of four main temples and residential shelters ideally designed by adapting to the rock (granite) ledges, the caves and the rocky terrain. Out of the eight caves, four are comparatively easy to access. The cave where Padmasmabhava first entered, riding the Tiger, is known as ‘Tholu Phuk’ and the original cave where he resided and did meditation is known as the ‘Pel Phuk’. He directed the spiritually enlightened monks to build the monastery here. The monastery is so precariously perched that it is said: “it clings to the side of the mountain like a gecko”. The main cave is entered through a narrow passage. The dark cave houses a dozen images of Bodhisattvas and butter lamps flicker in front of these idols. An elegant image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) is also deified here. In an adjoining small cell, the sacred scripture is placed; the importance of this scripture is that it has been scripted with gold dust and the crushed bone powder of a divine Lama. It is also said that the monks who practice Vajrayana Buddhism (the formal State Religion of Bhutan) at this cave monastery live here for three years and seldom go down to the Paro valley.[4][18][19]

All the buildings are interconnected through steps and stairways made in rocks. There are a few rickety wooden bridges along the paths and stairways also to cross over. The temple at the highest level has a frieze of Buddha. Each building has a balcony, which provides lovely views of the scenic Paro valley down below. The Monasteries have ancient history of occupation by monks, as hermitages.[4][18]

The “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambahva” (Zangdopari) as a constant reminder of the legend. The Klu (Naga) demigods which are said to reside in lakes (said to denote that they are guarding the hidden treasures). Allegorically, they mean to represent the spiritual holy writings. They also show what is termed as “Walkers in the Sky” (mKha-hgro-ma)

The holy hill with four faces painted with different colors – the east face is in crystal white color, the south face is yellow, the west is in red color and the north has green color. The palace has four sides and eight corners with its lower and upper tiers adorned with jewels. The courtyard with four enclosures is said to represent four kinds of conduct. The walls are built with bricks, balconies have been bejeweled with religious symbols. The ambience is shown in the form of wishing trees, fountains of the water of life, rainbows in five colors with cloud formations and light emanating from lotus flowers. The palace is also shown with a throne with eight corners fully and curiously bejeweled. Padmasmbahva is shown sitting on a pure stalk of lotus emitting divine energy appearing “divine, charitable, powerful, or fierce”.

Further are five kinds of Buddhas suppressing the vicious demons (performing four pious deeds) and placed on thrones that are mounted over the stooping demons. and also in the palace, with gods and goddesses in the heavens, with gate keepers at the four gates with an army of messengers and servants; all trying to crush the demons to dust.

Paro Taktsang Painting

Support HummingbirdTV with a poster of Taro Taktsang painting by Khenpo Lobsang Tenzin.