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Paro Taktsang Monastery

Paro Taktsang Buddhist monastery, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang Buddhist monastery / Avinash Singh, / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

One of the holiest places in Bhutan and even whole Himalaya is Paro Taktsang ("Tiger’s lair of Paro"). This amazing monastery is entwined with legends… or may be these miracles happened in reality?

5.3 out of 10 stars 53.0%

GPS coordinates
27.4930 N 89.3642 E
Location, address
Europe, Italy, Lombardia, centre of Milan
Asia, Bhutan, Paro district, some 10 km north-west from Paro
Alternate names
Paro Taktshang, Taktsang Palphug Monastery, The Tiger’s Nest
Founded
The 8th century?, 1692
Religion
Buddhism

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Coming of Second Buddha

Paro Taktsang and Himalayas
Paro Taktsang and Himalayas / Simon Monk, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

History of Bhutan changed in the 8th century when the legendary Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) arrived here from Tibet. This holy man arrived with style – he escaped from Tibet on the back of a tigress and stayed in a remote cave high in the cliffs of Paro valley. Padmasambhava meditated in this cave for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours. He introduced Buddhism in Bhutan (and also in Tibet).

Padmasambhava meditated in thirteen such tiger’s caves (taktsang) of Bhutan but Paro Taktsang is the best known.

The life of this legendary man was full of adventures and extraordinary feats. He died in Nepal – but his body miraculously returned to Paro Taktsang and, reportedly, is sealed in a room at the top of the entrance stairway. His followers believe that Padmasambhava is still alive and active – but in another form, as Rainbow Body. Padmasambhava is seen as the Second Buddha and a guardian spirit of Bhutan.

Paro Taktsang, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang / Soham Banerjee, / CC BY 2.0

Since the death of Padmasambhava (or… is he dead?) local people and guests often saw religious symbols and figures of animals in the sky above the monastery. Once a shower of flowers happened – flowers appeared in the air from the rainbow, as if borne by the wind and disappeared in the air again.

Monastery

More and more monks looked for enlightenment in this holy place. The first sanctuary was built here in the 14th century – remnants of the paintings from this era still can be seen on the rock above the main building of the monastery.

Nevertheless only in 1692 there was laid fundament of the first large temple in front of one of the holy caves. Soon after was built a temple – a beautiful structure in a seemingly impossible location.

Paro Taktsang from the distance, Bhutan
Paro Taktsang from the distance / rajkumar1220, / CC BY 2.0

Monastery was built by another legendary personality – Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, seen by many as a reincarnation of Padmasambhava. Since then this amazing structure has become a cultural icon of Bhutan.

In 1998 happened a tragedy: a fire in the main building of the monastery killed a monk and destroyed most buildings with unique cultural values – paintings, sculptures, and others. The monastery was meticulously renovated in 2005.

Paro Taktsang consists of four main temples and a group of residential shelters. All buildings are harmoniously adapted to the cliff surface, each has a balcony with fine views over the deep valley.

Monks who arrive here, stay in the monastery at least for three years, seldom leaving it.

Head Lama of monastery resides in the holiest of the caves – Phaphug Lakhang, the main shrine of Taktsang. In total here are eight holy caves, some are adorned with images of Bodhisattvas.

Waterfall near Paro Taktsang and guardhouse, Bhutan
Waterfall near Paro Taktsang and guardhouse / Stefan Krasowski, / CC BY 2.0

One of the main artifacts in the monastery is a painting of the "Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambahva" – an artwork rich with symbolism and allegories.

Location

Paro Taktsang can be accessed from several directions. Temple itself is beautiful – but the access routes are not less amazing, leading through magnificent pine forest and breathtaking mountain scenery. One path near the monastery leads over a 60 m tall waterfall.

Monastery itself is located in a dramatic setting, perched on a high cliff some 900 m above Paro valley, 3,120 m above the sea level.

Although this is most desired tourist destination in Bhutan, Paro Taktsang is truly holy place, rich with history and traditions and surrounded by unspoilt nature.

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