10,000 feet from 3,000 feet in 2 hours! Even in the cold climate, I was sweating like anything. I was planning to take a short break. Suddenly, I noticed a group of people are smiling and taking groupies. I slowly approached there. The view was fascinating; the monastery was now out of the cloud, it was now completely visible. It seems like I was now standing just opposite side of the heaven. I am talking about the landmark of Bhutan – The Taksang Monastery or popularly known as The Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a world famous destination of Bhutan. This isolated heavenly monastery attracts thousands of tourists every year. It might be a great subject for a layman photographer like me, but for every Bhutanese, this is a sacred place. As per common believe, three times visit to this location will earn special spiritual merits to them.
There is an interesting story behind this monastery. As per folklore, great PadmaSamvaba transformed her female consort into a Tigress, and flew on her from Tibet to here. The great master meditated here for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours and dominated various evil demons. Even the mediation cave exists today.
Guru PadmaSamvaba meditated here on 7th Century, but the 1st structure of the monastery was made end of the 16th Century. Post that it has faced many challenges; the last one was a deadly fire accident in 1998. The present structure was reconstructed by the government in 2005.
Tiger’s nest monastery is approx 10 km away from the main Paro town. There is a refreshing pine forest in the beginning of the trek trail. One can hire a pony from here; hiring a pony is a faster option and it will give you relief for 2/3rd of the trail. For the rest, 1/3rd trekking is the only option. I do not wanted to hurry rather I wanted to enjoy the magnificent view throughout the trail, thus chosen to trek the entire trail. At the start point, I stared up and the monastery was visible, just like a small dot. The weather was cloudy and cold.
Entire trail was truly beautiful. Many corners offer great panoramic views of the Paro city. 2/3rd of the trail was less noisy and slightly dirty due to the animal’s leftover.
After trekking almost 70%, I found a cafeteria. During my trip research, I read somewhere that this cafeteria offers a great view of the monastery. After entering the café I sighed! Clouds were everywhere; even a single inch of the gigantic architecture was not visible. Refuelled with a cup of black coffee and cookies, I resumed my journey. This part of the trail was clean and much enjoyable due to less distraction of ponies. After walking approx half an hour, I found the most picturesque location; which I mentioned earlier.
I started getting motivations from the crowd and become a photo maniac; I took no less than 50 photographs of the iconic monastery. After finishing the photography, suddenly I discovered there are series of stairs, which I have to climb down and then again go up to reach the holy monastery. Somebody told me, there are 800 plus stairs which I have to climb.
After concluding my struggle, I finally touched the destination. The Tiger’s Nest monastery are a combination of various small prayer huts. Camera, mobile, etc. is not allowed inside the cave. After surrendering all my digital stuffs, I entered inside the cave. I visited three prayer rooms. Horrendous statues of all Buddhist masters, smell of incense and soft lights of butter lamp made the ambience truly mystical. Few tourists were meditating inside the room. I joined them, only a few minutes in Lotus position amazingly calmed my mind. I spend some time roaming every corner of the monastery. The atmosphere is truly mystical.
I collected all my stuffs from the counter. After spending some more memorable time, I started climbing down. This time I decided to go slowly. My cab driver was waiting for me at the end point. For the last time I looked back, big architecture had again become a small dot.
I was just thinking about my recent collection of memories, great Tiger’s Nest has surely created a permanent mark in my memory bank. I checked my watch; it is just beginning of an afternoon, it means today also I can enjoy Thechu.
Few tips to visit Taksang Monastery
- Hiring a cab is the only way to visit the monastery. Do not forget to visit Kichu Lakang – another old monastery on the way to the Tiger’s nest.
- Please remember, one needs good strength to climb Tiger’s Nest. Thus, thus brisk walking, light exercise before the trip will be highly beneficial.
- You can hire a pony to cover 2/3rd of the trail. However, generally they have bad habits to walk from the sides. Be aware about that.
- Dedicate an entire day and start early to enjoy a memorable day.
Hey!! This makes for quite an informative read for travellers and non travellers alike. Keep going!
Dr. Ashok K. Ghosh