PARO TAKTSANG is the popular name of the TAKTSANG PALPHUG MONASTERY and it is also known as TIGER’S NEST.
According to the legend related to the Taktsang (which in the Tibetan language is spelt “stag tshang”) which literally means TIGER’S LAIR, it is believed that Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva) flew to this location from Tibet on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong. This place was consecrated to tame the Tiger Demon.
An alternative legend holds that a former wife of an Emperor, known as Yeshe Tsogyal, willingly became a disciple of Guru Rinpoche in Tibet. She transformed herself into a tigress and carried the Guru on her back from Tibet to the present location of the Taktsang in Bhutan. In one of the caves here, the Guru then meditated for 3yrs, 3mths, 3wks, 3dys and 3hrs in the 8th century, and emerged in 8 incarnated forms (manifestations) and the place became holy. Subsequently, the place came to be known as the TIGER’S NEST.
The popular legend of the TIGER’S NEST is further embellished with the story of Tenzin Rabgye, who built the Temple here in 1692. It has been mentioned, by authors, that the 8th century Guru Padmasambahva had reincarnated again in the form of Tenzin Rabgye. The corroborative proofs mooted are : that Tenzin Rabgye was seen (by his friends) concurrently inside and outside his cave ; even a small quantity of food was adequate to feed all visitors ; no one was injured during worship (in spite of the approach track to the monastery being dangerous and slippery) ; the people of the PARO VALLEY saw in the sky various animal forms and religious symbols, including a shower of flowers that appeared and also vanished in the air without touching the earth.
On the 19th of April, 1998 a fire broke out, due to an electrical short-circuit, in the main building of the monastery complex, which contained valuable paintings and statues. The restoration works were undertaken at an estimated cost of 135 million ngultrum.
The monastery is located 10km to the north of Paro and hangs on a precipitous cliff at 3,120 metres about 900 metres above PARO VALLEY, on the right side of the PARO CHU ( “chu” in Bhutanese means “rivers of water” ). 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 north-west path through the forest, from the south along the path used by devotees, and from the north (access over the rocky BUMDA, which is called “Hundred Thousand Fairies” ) A mule track, leading to it, passes through pine forest that is colourfully festooned with moss and prayer flags. On many days, clouds shroud the monastery and give an “eerie feeling of remoteness” —On the approach path, to the monastery, there is a LAKHAN (village level monastery), a Temple of URGYAN TSEMO, which like the main monastery is located several 100ft over the valley. From this location, the monastery’s buildings are on the opposite ravine, which is known by the name “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambahva”. This is the view-point for visitors, and there is a cafeteria to provide refreshment. the trek beyond this point is very scenic, with the sound of the waterfall breaking the silence.
Along the route, blue pine trees, prayer-flags and kiosks selling paraphernalia for worship (such as prayer-wheels, temple bells and skulls ) are seen. The route has many Temples. On this path is a large waterfall, which drops 60mts into a sacred pool, is forded over by a bridge. The track terminates at the main monastery, where colourful paintings are displayed. Guru Rimpoche’s cave, where he meditated is also seen. This cave is opened for public viewing only once a year.
The monastery’s buildings consist of 4 main Temples and residential shelters, ideally designed by adapting to the rock(granite) ledges. Out of the 8 caves, 4 are easy accessible. The cave where Guru Rinpoche first entered, is known as THOLU PHUK and the original cave where he resided and meditated is known as PEL PHUK. The monastery is so precariously perched, that it is said : “it clings to the side of the mountain like a GECKO”.
In a small cell, adjoining the main cave, the sacred scripture is placed, the importance of this scripture is that it has been scripted with “gold dust and the bone powder of a divine Lama”. All the buildings are inter-connected through steps and stairways —— made in rocks. There are a few rickety wooden bridges, along the paths. The Temple at the highest level has a “frieze” Buddha. Each building has a balcony which provides lovely views of the scenic PARO VALLEY down below.