A Travellerspoint blog

Bhutan Tiger’s Nest

Paro Taktshang

September 23rd Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan

We left fairly promptly after breakfast to drive 10km to the car park at the bottom of the trek to Tiger’s Nest. From here we were recommended to hire some horses to take us half way. They didn’t mind what currency we paid in, although I think their exchange rates were a little inventive! The horses went along a wooded path initially and past a pretty stone hut on a stream, before heading quite steeply up the sandy paths. This hut housed a water-powered prayer wheel, set in motion by the flowing stream. Luckily the horse knew exactly where they were headed and simply got on with it. We arrived at a viewpoint with a hut, which looked over to the monastery on the other side of the ravine, which is known by the name “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava”. This small hut marked a Lhakhang (village temple). This is the view point for visitors and there is a cafeteria to provide refreshments. Here we left our horses and walked a short way to the cafe and temple of Urgyan Tsemo which, like the main monastery, is located on a rocky plateau with a precipitous projection of several hundred feet over the valley, to go to the toilet and pick up some water.

As it was 3,100m here we took a Diamox to be sensible. Interestingly mountaineering is forbidden in Bhutan, as is any ascent of a peak above 6000m (a hangover from pre-Buddhist days when mountains were, and still are, considered sacred places for the gods). Then we headed up the sandstone path towards the forest. Along the trek blue pine trees, prayer flags, small waterfalls and overhangs containing butter lamps (for the dead) were seen. Drubchus (Holy Water) are believed to have been created miraculously by saints. There are five drubchus on the route to Taktshang. These are Gyalsey Tenzin Rabgye Drubchu, Gurui Drubchu, Machig Phug Drubchu, Shelkarchu and one founded by Phadampa Sangye near the Zangtopelri Lhakhang. The rocky plateau is known as “Hundred Thousand Fairies” or Bumda (hBum-brag). Tshoyal Pangchung Before reaching Shelkarchu waterfall we crossed Tshogyal Pangchung, “the lawn of Khandro Yeshe Tshogyal”, where Guru Rinpoche bequeathed teachings to his wife Yeshe. After a while we reached the steps that wound us down into the ravine, with small temple stops on the way. At the bottom was a large waterfall, which continued on down (as we were halfway up the gorge. The waterfall fell 60m into a sacred pool which had the bridge to the opposite side. We wet our heads in the sacred pool for good karma, before heading on up the steps the other side. The waterfall, known as Shelkar Zar is believed to be the Drupchu (holy water) of one hundred thousand dakinis. Beside the waterfall is the main seat of Guru Rinpoche on a rock where he preached to his consort Khando Yeshey Tshogyal. As a blessing, he gave his crystal rosaries to Khando Yeshey Tshogyal and thereafter the area came to be known as Shelkar Zar. On the left side of Shelkar Zar is a small meditation cave in which Khando Yeshey Tshogyal and Guru Rinpoche meditated. The stone seems to resembles a snow lion’s face and therefore the cave is known as Shengye Phug (Lion’s Cave), see pic left. Machig phug (cave), located above the waterfall’s ravine is where Machig Labdron, the incarnation of Khandro Yesho Tsogyal mediated. Her footprint can be seen inside. Above that there is a cave where the stream flows over the waterfall called Sengye Phug where Guru Rinpoche mediated on Vajrakeli, the deity of the magic dagger.
Phurpa Lhatsho is the Spirit-lake created by the waterfall. It is believed that those who disturbs the Tsho faces divine retaliation. The track terminated at the main monastery where colourful paintings were displayed. We could see the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated but it is only open for public viewing once a year. We stowed out backpacks (no cameras allowed) in a locker and took the free tea and sweets on offer (too sickly for me, but Steve was keen). Some students were fundraising for the temple, so we bought some more karma before heading into the complex.
PS I counted the steps on the way back and it was 700 each side.

Tsatsas (wax or butter candles to remember the dead; Old Man’s or Spanish Beard
History of Taktsang In 853, Langchen Pelkyi Singye came to the cave to meditate and gave the name Pelphug to the cave, "Pelkyi's cave". From the 11th century, Tibetan lamas came to Taktsang to meditate, inc Milarepa (1040–1123), Pha Dampa Sangye (d1117), yogi Machig Labdrön (1055–1145), Thangton Gyelpo (1385–1464). The complex is, well, complex, with a variety of different rooms, temples, etc. Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Hermitage on the face of a sheer 1000m cliff, is sacred to the Bhutanese as they believe Guru Rinpoche, the father of Bhutanese Buddhism came here on the back of a tigress. In the late 12th century, the Lapa School (sect) was established in Paro and between 12-17th century, many Tibetan Lamas established monasteries in Bhutan. The first sanctuary here dates to the 14th century when Sonam Gyeltshen, a Nyingmapa lama of the Kathogpa branch arrived. The 1408 paintings he brought can still be faintly discerned on a rock above the main building, the Taktsang Ugyen Tsemo. Taktsang remained under the authority of the Kathogpa lamas until the mid 17th century. Paro Taktsang Goemba (Dzongkha: ) Taktsang Palphug Monastery, Tiger's Nest) was first built in 1692, around Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava (Rinpoche) is said to have meditated for 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, and 3 hours in 8th century. Padmasambhava is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan and is the tutelary saint of the country. Paro Taktsang is the best known of 13 taktsang (tiger lair caves) in which he meditated. The temple to Padmasambhava (Guru mTshanbrgyad Lhakhang= Temple of the Guru with 8 Names) is an elegant structure built around the cave in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. According to legend Padmasambhava 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 says Yeshe Tsogyal, the wife of an emperor, became a disciple of Rinpoche in Tibet, transformed herself into a tigress and carried him on her back to Taktsang. Tenzin Rabgye was believed to be Rinpoche reincarnated. Ngawang Namgyal of the Drukpa subsect, fled Tibet to Bhutan to escape persecution by the opposing sect of the Gelugpa order (which dominated Tibet under the Dalai Lamas). The monastery is located 10 km north of Paro and hangs on a precarious cliff at 3,120 m. The rock slopes are very steep (almost vertical) and the monastery buildings built into the rock face.
Padmasambhava on Paro Bridge
Odsel (Yoesel) Phug (cave) located to the left of the entrance main monastic complex is where the self-created Buddha Amitayus and pagsam-shing (wish-fulfilling tree) can be seen.

Guru Rinpoche
Ngawang Namgyal (later granted the honorific Zhabdrung Rinpoche 1594–1651) and known colloquially as Bearded Lama, was a Tibetan Buddhist lama and unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state. As well as unifying the various warring fiefdoms for the first time in the 1630s, he sought to create a Bhutanese cultural identity separate from Tibetan culture from which it was derived. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal was born at Ralung Monastery, Tibet as the son of the Drukpa lineage-holder Mipham Tenpa'i Nyima. On his father's side Ngawang Namgyal descended from the family line of Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), the founder of the Drukpa Lineage. In his youth Ngawang Namgyal was enthroned as the 18th Drukpa or throne-holder and "hereditary prince" of the traditional Drukpa seat and estate of Ralung and recognized there as the immediate reincarnation of the 4th Drukchen, the "Omniscient" Kunkhyen Pema Karpo (1527–92), himself the 4th reincarnation of Gyalwang Drukpa. His recognition and enthronement as the Drukpa incarnation was opposed by Lhatsewa Ngawang Zangpo, an influential follower of Drukpa Pema Karpo, who promoted the recognition of a rival candidate, Gyalwang Pagsam Wangpo, an illegitimate son of the Chongje Depa, Ngawang Sönam Dragpa, as the Gyalwang Drukpa incarnation. Lhatsewa and supporters of the Chongje Depa conducted an enthronement ceremony of Pagsam Wangpo as the incarnation of Künkhyen Pema Karpo/ Gyalwang Drukpa. The Chongje Depa then persuaded the Tsang Desi (or Depa Tsangpa), the most powerful ruler in Tibet and patron of the rival Karma Kagyu sect, to recognise Pagsam Wangpo as Gyalwang Drukpa/ Künkhyen Pema Karpo. By 1612 the Tsang Desi, Karma Phuntsok Namgyal had gained control. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal continued to live at the main Drukpa seat of Ralung, as the main Drukpa hereditary lineage– holder, and legitimate throne-holder at Ralung Monastery, the traditional seat of the Drukpa Lineage. However following a misunderstanding Shabdrung (Zhabdrung) Rinpoche and his party had with an important Karma Kagyu lama, Pawo Tsugla Gyatsho [1568–1630], the Tsang Desi demanded compensation and that the sacred religious relics of Ralung (such as the Rangjung Kharsapani) should be surrendered to him so he could give them to the rival Gyalwang Drukpa incarnate Gyalwa Pagsam Wangpo. The Tsang Desi prepared to send armed guards to arrest Shabdrung Rinpoche and enforce his demands. In 1616 facing arrest, and following visions (in which it is said that the chief guardian deities of Bhutan offered him a home) Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal left Tibet to establish a new base in western Bhutan, founding Chagri/Cheri Monastery at the head of Thimphu valley. In 1629 he built Simtokha Dzong at the entrance to Thimphu valley. From this dzong he could exert control over traffic between the powerful Paro valley to the west and Trongsa valley to the east. He consolidated control over western Bhutan subduing rivals belonging to the Lhapa, a branch of the Drikung Kagyu sect which had built some of the original dzongs in Bhutan, including Punakha Dzong in 1637-38. The Drukpa Kagyu, the Lhapa Kagyu and the Nenyingpa had all controlled parts of western Bhutan since the 12th century. Later he conquered and unified all Bhutan, but allowed the ancient Nyingma sect to continue in central/ eastern Bhutan. In 1627, the first European visitors to Bhutan (the Portuguese Jesuits Estevao Cacella and João Cabral) found the Shabdrung to be a compassionate and intelligent host, of high energy and fond of art and writing. In 1634, in the Battle of Five Lamas Ngawang Namgyal prevailed over the Tibetan and Bhutanese forces allied against him and was the first to unite Bhutan into a single country. Zhabdrung also established the distinctive dual system of government under the Tsa Yig legal code, by which control of the country was shared between a spiritual leader (the Je Khenpo) to preside over the religious institutions and an administrative leader (the Druk Desi) as head of secular affairs, a policy which exists in modified form to this day. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal died in 1651, and power effectively passed to the penlops (local governors) instead of to a successor Shabdrung. In order to forestall a dynastic struggle and a return to warlordism, they conspired to keep the death of the Zhabdrung secret for 54 years. During this time they issued orders in his name, explaining that he was on an extended silent retreat.
Paro Taktsang consists of 8 caves, 4 main temples and a group of residential shelters designed by adapting to the rock ledges and rocky terrain. Each building has a balcony with views over the deep valley. The buildings are interconnected through stone steps along with several wooden bridges. The temple at the highest level has a frieze of Buddha. Of the 8 caves, 4 are relatively easy to access. The entrance to the main cave is through a narrow passage. It holds 12 images of Bodhisattvas with butter lamps burning in front of these idols. Paintings can be found on the walls of the monastery along with a sacred scripture kept in an adjoining small cell. The scripture is so important it has been printed with gold dust and crushed bone powder of a divine Lama. We went up the steps and through the first small temple, turning quickly to the right and into a small egg-shaped courtyard with a retaining wall. Here in a small passage to the drubkhang was the famous rock “Do Nyinda Marmo”. It bears the sun and moon’s imprints and is said to be the mouth of the treasure (in Bhutan this is revealed wisdoms, not gold and silver) of Gondue. The legend is that you stand a length away (further than you can touch the rock), then close your eyes, fall forward and try to land with your thumb on the black spot. If you land on the spot within 3 goes you will have good luck and a wish. I was really close, but Steve managed it on his 3rd go. The monastic complex contains Ten Lhakhangs (temples) :
➔ Drubkhang
➔ Sungjonma Lhakhang,
➔ Kudung Chorten and Chorten Lhakhang
➔ Guru Tshangyad Lhakhang
➔ Droloe Lhakhang
➔ Namsey Lhakhang
➔ Tshemaped Lhakhang
➔ Neykhang Lhakhang
➔ Marmey Dag Sum Lhakhang
➔ Sengye Phug Lhakhang
and 9 sacred caves (phug) :
! Machig Phug
! Sengye Phug
! Pel Phug
! Droloe Phug
! Odsel (Yoesel) Phug
! Gedig Phug
! Chogyal (Choegyal) Phug
! Kapali Phug
! Phagmoi Phug
Then a few pace into the small courtyard to take off your shoes. To our left was the first staircase (taken afterwards) and the entrance to the first level of temples, of which the main one, straight in, was the room where guru Rinpoche meditated. Drubkhang, to the lower right of the entrance stairway is the cave where Guru Rinpoche and Langchen Pelgyi Sengye meditated.
It contains a statue of Guru Dorje Drolo, one of the 8 Manifestations of Rinpoche, in wrathful form riding upon a tigress with which he flew to Taktshang, and several statues of Phurpai Kyilkhor, said to have been erected by Niwari artisan Pentsa Dewa during the reign of Desi Tenzin Rabgye. The cave holds the phurbu (ritual dagger) of the guru. This cave is Taktshang’s inner sanctum. Holy water flows from the cave stone surface even on the driest days when pilgrims pray before it. It contained a huge image of Guru Dorje Drolo and was moderately busy, too much for meditation anyway. The attached cave was where Padmasmabhava first came, riding the Tiger, and is known as Tholu Phug and next cave where he meditated is known as Pel Phug. He directed the spiritually enlightened monks to build the monastery here. Guru Rinpoche mediated here for three months over the deities of the magic dagger and today the set of magic daggers (Phurpai Ethram) are preserved 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 an elegant image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara). In an adjoining small cave, 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. Coming back out we picked up our shoes (you leave a different way) and ascended the wood over stone staircase to the middle level. At the top of the staircase was a covered wooden passage leading to an even small courtyard where we could leave our shoes again. On our right we entered into the temple of Guru Sungjoen, the “speaking” guru whose statue reputedly spoke (or sang) while being transported (to say who would be able to carry him). Sungjonma Lhakhang contains Guru Sungjonma’s statue sculptured by Pentsa Deva.
The most skilled artisans from Nepal, Pentsa Dewa, Dharma and Dharmashri erected the statue of Guru Sungjoen. This temple contains other beautiful paintings of the eight manifestation of Guru, the cycle of Lama Gongdue and Tshepamed, the god of longevity. Guru Sungjonma Lhakhang has a central image of Pema Jungme, another of the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava. There are shrines to Guru Tshengyad (Rinpoche) and Naypoi. On the inner left corner is the Dorlo Lhakhang, the temple dedicated to Guru Dorji Dorlo, which had been installed by Late Lama Sonam Zangpo. In the main building, there are three temples.
We came out and followed the sign “Temples” with an arrow to some stone steps (upper level), which gave access to a large room (temple), which contained the Eight Manifestations of Rinpoche. This large temple was to Guru Tshangyad Lhakhang. The upper temple “The Temple of the eight manifestations of Guru Rinpoche" was built under the auspices of Myangmed Chungpo from Paro and contains other interesting mural paintings. One of them depicts vividly how Zhabdung Ngawang Namgyel vanquished his Tibetan enemies. Located on top of the main building, the lhakhang is dedicated to Guru Tshangyad. It contains Guru Rinpoche’s idol flanked by his two principal consorts: Khandro Yeshi Tshogyal and Mandarawa. Outside was a courtyard/ balcony which gave amazing views of the valley.
A second temple here was Droloe Lhakhang (aka Hall of 1000 Buddhas) and it contained a life sized statue of Tshemaped, flanked by Gongdue and Guru on the right and Dorje Drolo and Phurpa on the left. It derives its name from the fact that Dorje Drolo used to be the main image in it before the fire that broke out in 1998. We could see into the Tiger’s Lair, a cave between Droloe lhakhang and Sengye Samdrup Lhakhang where that Yeshi Tshogyal lived as a tigress. A large statue of a tigeress is located here.
To the left side of this room we took some very steep stones steps to access 2 temples on 2 levels. The uppermost, to the right, Neykhang Lhakhang/ Senge (Singye) Samgrup lhakhang contained a huge image of Buddha with Rinpoche on his right and Singye Samdrup, the protective deity of Taktsang, on the left. She was standing on a tiger with many heads. This room was quieter and we were able to take some time to sit and meditate. Attached (behind) were two caves, Gedig Phug where virtuous and non-virtuous actions are separated and Chogyal (Choegyel) Phug where Chenrizig (Lord of Compassion) resides in the form of Lord of Death. Further away (and not accessible) was Droloe Phug, shaped like Dorje Droloe. The second temple, a bit lower to the right, contained the two Taras. Above this was Marmey Dag Sum Lhakhang on top of the Neykhang, and dedicated to the Kagyud lamas. It contained the images of 3 prominent Kagyud masters; Marpa, Milarepa and Dagpo Lhaje (photo).
Namsey Lhakhang is dedicated to the God of Wealth (Namthoesey/Kubera/Vaisravana) whose principal image in the room is surrounded by his attendants. Another temple a little lower was Tshemaped Lhakhang, dedicated to Tshemaped, the god of longevity. On the right of Tshemaped’s image is Drolma (Tara) while on the left is Namyalma (Vijaya). The trio is called “Tshelha Namsum”. On going down we passed the butter lamp building and Kunrey (Assembly Hall), then back to the Middle Courtyard where, to the right, we entered another temple, Kudung Chorten with
room Chorten Lhakhang.
This lhakhang contains Langchen Pelgyi Sengye’s kudung chorten. In the entrance was a roped off area. We looked down to see a crevasse, Phagmoi Phug at the centre of the cliff, and said to look like a skull. The hall also contained a rock believed to be Dorje Phagmo’s (incarnation of Dolma and a reincarnation in Tibet) skull and a drubche believed to be founded by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye. Past this was the entrance to a cave behind the temple, which we took clockwise. Inside was the was the Kundung stupa which contained the remains of Langchen Pelgyri Singye. It is still believed that on auspicious days a visit to Taktshang and the chorten which contains his remains will fulfil ones wishes. Although most of the temples were decorated on the walls by paintings or embroidery, this was particularly fine and our guide explained the symbolism. The “Copper-Coloured Mountain Paradise of Padmasambhava” (Zangdopari) was vividly displayed in a heart shape on every thangka and painted on the walls of the monastery as a reminder of the legend. The paintings represents the realm of the King of Nagas amidst Dakinis, and the pinnacle in the painting denotes the domain of Brahma. The paintings also depict Klu (Naga) demigods with human heads and serpents bodies, said to reside in lakes (guarding the hidden treasures). Allegorically, they represent holy writings. The paintings also show “Walkers in the Sky”. The holy hill is drawn in the back with four faces painted different colours; the east face is crystal white, the south face is yellow, the west is red and the north green. The palace is depicted with four sides and eight corners and its lower and upper tiers adorned with jewels. The courtyard with four enclosures is said to represent four kinds of conduct. The walls are brick, and balconies are bejewelled with religious symbols. The ambience is shown in the form of wishing trees, fountains of the water of life, rainbows in five colours with cloud formations and light emanating from lotus flowers. The palace is shown with a bejewelled throne of eight corners. Padmasambhava is shown sitting on a pure stalk of lotus emitting divine energy appearing “divine, charitable, powerful, or fierce”. Further details show five kinds of Buddhas suppressing vicious demons (performing four pious deeds) and placed on thrones mounted over the stooping demons. The demons and Khadoms are depicted adorned and seated on four petalled/ four faced thrones enjoying a good time; the Khadoms are seen on the four-sided courtyard of the palace and on all side walls. The scene is embellished around a Guru Rinpoche (Padmashambahava) image and gods/ goddesses in the heavens. Gate keepers at the four gates have an army trying to crush the demons to dust. The supporting staff shown are said to represent the Himalayan tribes of pre-Buddhist periods.
This was our last temple and we found our shoes once more, collected our belongings and set off back to the steps. Looking up just to the right we saw the higher, smaller temples of Taktshang Zangdo Pari and Urgyan Tsemo. Zangdopelri is the place where Padmasmbahava’s wife, the “Fairy of Wisdom”, Yeshe Tsogyal (Ye-shes mtsho- rgyal), founded Mon-Taktshang convent. Urgyan Tsemo, the “Peak of Urgyan” has a small Mani Lakhang. The prayer wheel, turned by an old monk, resounds with chimes heard every day at 4 am. Above the Urgyan is the holy cave 'Phaphug Lhakhang' (dPal-phug IHa-khang), with the main shrine of the Taktshang and the residence of the Head Lama, Karma Thupden Chokyi Nyenci.

FIRE The monastery first burnt down in 1951 when a woman preparing her land by burning the old stalks, let the fire get out of control. King Jigme Wangchuck ordered the entire population of Tsento village to rebuild the four temples of Taktshang as they did not help in controlling the fire. Above Taktshang two smaller temples in the group known as Shama, Zangdopelri and Ugyen Tsemo were built. Kapali Phug near Shama Lhakhang, has an oral traditions that it can subjugate demons and spirits. On April 19, 1998, a fire, probably caused by butter lamps, broke out in the main building of the monastery complex, which contained valuable paintings, artefacts and statues. Most of the buildings were burned down and a monk was killed during the blaze. Since the temple is difficult to access, emergency assistance was impossible. However, the monastery has since been meticulously rebuilt to its original form in 2005 by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth king of Bhutan and the Government of Bhutan at a cost of 135 million ngultrum (£1.8 million). Our guide’s brother was one of the wood carvers involved, a fact of which he was very proud.

A note of terma treasures
Terma are spiritual treasures hidden by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal in the earth and in the minds of disciples to be revealed at the appropriate time by ‘treasure revealers’ or tertöns. Many of these ter were collected by Jamgön Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo into more than 60 volumes, the Rinchen Terdzö, or Treasury of Precious Termas. The Terma lineage, together with the Nyingma Kama, are the two modes of transmission of the teachings of the Nyingma School. Terma are divided into two categories, according to the manner in which they were concealed/ discovered:
" earth terma- physical objects
" mind terma- discovered within the mindstream of the tertön.
To discover earth termas, earthly materials such as symbolic script written on yellow scroll are used to awaken the terma in the mind of the tertön. For mind termas, no external objects are needed. In many instances, seeing or hearing symbolic words or sounds in visions causes the discovery of the terma.
" Another type of terma in the Nyingma tradition are pure vision teachings
The Terma tradition originally comes from Tibet, where it is still commonly believed, and was enthusiastically adopted in Bhutan, where most Bhutanese believe each generation is waiting for their treasures to be discovered. In the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, the tradition of concealment and revelation of teachings and materials of religious value through the mystical power of enlightened beings is most prevalent by far. This tradition of mystical discovery is known in Tibet and Bhutan as Ter ('Treasures'), Terma ('Treasured Ones'), or Terchö ('Dharma Treasures' or 'Treasured Teachings'). The main source of the Terma tradition of the Nyingma school is Guru Padmasambhava. While transmitting esoteric teachings to his disciples in Tibet, Guru Padmasambhava concealed many teachings with his enlightened mind stream in the intrinsic awareness of the minds of his disciples through the power of “mind-mandated transmission”; thereby master and disciple became united as one in the teachings and realisation. However, the master also concealed some teachings, blessings, and esoteric attainments, as ter in the pure nature of the minds of his disciples with the aspiration that the ter may be discovered for the sake of people when the appropriate time comes. In propagating the Buddha’s teachings amid the shamanistic society that dominated Tibet at that time, Padmasambhava saw clearly that some teachings would have to wait for a more appropriate time to take root. He concealed them until certain great practitioners could reveal them and bring them to fruition.

The area has a lot of caves where many Buddhist masters came to spend time in meditation. The foremost of these was Langchen Pelgi Sengye (Singye), in 853 AD, one of the 25 disciples of Guru Rinpoche, so his cave was named Pel-phug (cave/phug of Pelgi). Langchen Pelgi Sengye went to Nepal after this spell of meditation in Taktshang and died there. However, Damchen Dorji Legpa (a Tibetan demon subjugated by Padmasambhava and oath bound as a dharma protector and safeguarder of the Revealed Treasure texts (Terma) of the Nyingma Tradition of Buddhism) is said to have brought back his kudung (bone relic), and hidden it as a terma (treasure). It was later revealed (discovered) and is preserved today in Kundung Chorten. The site was later used by many other Buddhist saints and masters including Milarepa (1040=1123), Thangthong Gyalpo (1385-1464) “Iron bridge builder” who discovered a terma treasure text here, and Phajo Dugom Zhigpo.
Khuru player
Taktsang (lit Tak = ‘tiger’ and Tshang = ‘nest’) was under the charge of the Kathogpa lama since 14th century. Kathogpa lam Yeshi Bum (1245-1311) visited Taktsang where he intended to build a temple, but his wish remained unfulfilled until 1508 when his nephew and disciple, Sonam Gyaltshen built the temple of Ugyen Tsemo above Taktsang. In 1646, Zhabdrung invited Lopon Rigzin Nyingpo, the descendent of Terton Sangye Lingpa (1340-1396) from Kongpo in Tibet. They visited Taktsang and took control of Taktsang including Ugyen Tsemo from Kathogpa Lama. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who conducted Monlam Chenmo/ Phurpai Kyikhor (the great prayer ceremony), and Drubchen (consecration ceremony) for a week in honour of Tshepamed - Amitayus and formally took charge of Taktshang. He appointed Jinpa Gyeltshen, the brother of 4th Druk Tenzin Rabgye, as the Taktshang Lama, which was then still a small shrine. Zhabdrung wished to build a temple at the site where the Taktsang now stands, but had to wait as the construction of Paro Rinpung Dzong was underway. Soon after Tenzin Rabgye (architect) laid the foundations of Taktsang Monastery and construction began on the 10th day of the Water Monkey Year 1692. The two storey monastery was completed in the Wood Dog Year 1694. The first Lama installed was Sakya Tenzin.

On finishing our visit, we collected our belonging and set off back down the mountain. Surprisingly quick, our guide announced we had taken 6 hours to go up, look around and return. A respectable time, a little faster than average on the walking section (good for us!) We then drove back towards Paro. On the way we stopped first at Kichu Lhakhang. Kyichu Lhakhang was originally a small structure, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan built in the 7th C by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The story goes that a giant demoness lay across Tibet, so he pinned her down. Over the years the temple was visited and blessed by many famous Buddhist saints including Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, Lam Kha Nga and Phajo Dugom Zhigpo to list few. Many expanded the temple. One such was Je Sherub Gyeltshen who lived in the 18th century. He extended the Jowo Lhakhang and added many new statues. The latest extension was carried out in 1965 under the initiative of the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Kezang Choden Wangchuck. She added a new structure to the temple known as Guru Lhakhang. As one of the oldest temples in Bhutan, the temple has many relics. The inner hall of the main Jowo Lhakhang conceals the valley’s greatest treasure, an original 7th century statue of Jowo Shakyamuni, believed to be cast at the same time as its famous counterpart in Lhasa. Guru Lhakhang temple contains 5m high statues of Guru Rinpoche and Red Tara (Kurukulla) with bow and arrows. Also in here is the chorten containing the ashes of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a revered Nyingma Buddhist teacher who was cremated nearby in 1992. As you enter the inner courtyard you'll see a mural to the right of the doorway of King Gesar of Ling, the popular Tibetan warrior-king, whose epic poem is said to be the world's longest. The ornately carved wooden pillars are superb, as are the snow lions that support the flower pots.
Kyichu Lhakhang

Then it was only a short trip to the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong monastery. Drukgyel Dzong (Fortress of the Victorious Bhutanese) was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 to commemorate his victory over marauding Tibetan armies. Though the fortress was destroyed by fire in 1951, the ruins remain an impressive and imposing sight. Interestingly there was a game of Khuru, a national game that involved two teams through darts into a target approximately 20m away. If your dart hit the target you added a coloured scarf to your belt, making some men quite multi-coloured. We stayed for a while admiring their skill before heading back to hotel http://khangkhuresort.com/ for a rest.
That night Mr Rai offered to take us to some relatives to taste a proper Bhutanese meal. We drove out over Nyamai Zampa bridge (traditional cantilever and covered with ancient wall paintings) into the countryside, before literally leaving the road and driving through rice fields to arrive at a farmhouse. This was the traditional 3 storey house (by law houses are not allowed to be over 3 storeys, and their design in a traditional fashion is strictly controlled) and we took off our shoes and walked up the ladder to the second floor, which is where you traditionally eat. We sat cross legged on mats on the floor (the proper way) as our hosts brought us the local starting drinks. First up was ara, a Bhutanese rice wine and very potent. This was followed by Bhutanese tea (very sweet, like condensed milk had been added) and butter tea (suja, yummy, and that is literally what is was). Then the food arrived in large pots which were placed centrally on the floor for us to take directly from. We used a fork, but our hosts just used their hands to eat. The dishes included

  • Ema Datshi (chilies and cheese) like a stew or curry, made of green, yellow or red chilies, yak or cow’s milk, cheese, onions and tomatoes. Taste VERY carefully; the chilies of Bhutan are high up on the Scoville Heat Scale and meant to make you warm enough to sweat. Steve loved this, but it was too hot for me.
  • Jasha Maroo or Maru (spicy chicken), A mix of chilies, onion, tomato, garlic, coriander leaves and ginger with finely diced chicken. Though often called stew, there’s actually a hefty portion of liquid (chicken broth) in the finished dish. Like most Bhutanese food, chicken comes with bones intact.
  • Phaksha Paa (Pork with Red Chilies), a classic Bhutanese stew of strips of boneless pork shoulder simmered slowly until tender with mooli (daikon radish), ginger, bok choy, and chili powder, topped with dried pork and fresh green chilli strips.
  • Red Rice, is to Bhutanese food as bread is to us, but the rice is probably healthier. The rice paddies of Paro Valley where red rice is grown are irrigated with mineral-rich glacier water. Just one serving gives 80% of your daily requirement for manganese and 20% of your need for phosphorus. The red colour of the uncooked rice comes from the cancer-fighting antioxidant, the flavonoid anthocyanin. As it cooks, it fades to a pale pink and the texture becomes soft and sticky.

❖ Interestingly no one in Bhutan (or Tibet, but for a different reason) eats fish. Fishing has been prohibited and the only person in Bhutan you will EVER see with a rod is the king, who has exempted himself.
All delicious, and certainly up Steve’s street. We chatted for a while, before thanking our hosts and going back down to the ground floor which are the living quarters (kitchen, larder and what would have been called the front room in old days as it was for family gatherings and ceremonies, which is why it had photos of the royal family who are really loved in Bhutan). Then, back to the hotel and bed.

Constitution of Bhutan
The Druk Desi (Deva Raja) was the title of the secular (administrative) rulers of Bhutan under the dual system of government between 17th-19th centuries. Under this system, government authority was divided among secular and religious administrations, unified under the nominal authority of the Zhabdrung Rinpoche. Druk, meaning "thunder dragon", refers symbolically to Bhutan, whose most ancient name is Druk-yul. Desi, meaning "regent", was the chief secular office in realms under this system of government. The office of Druk Desi was established by the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century under the dual system of government. Having fled sectarian persecution in Tibet, Ngawang Namgyal established the Drukpa Lineage as the state religion. Under the Bhutanese system, the powers of the government were split between the religious branch headed by the Je Khenpo of the Drukpa Lineage and the civil administrative branch headed by the Druk Desi. Both the Je Khenpo and Druk Desi were under the nominal authority of the Zhabdrung Rinpoche, a reincarnation of Ngawang Namgyal. The Druk Desi was either a monk or a member of the laity—by the 19th century, usually the latter; he was elected for a 3-year term, initially by a monastic council and later by the State Council (Lhengye Tshokdu). The State Council was a central administrative organ that included regional rulers, the Zhabdrung's chamberlains, and the Druk Desi. In time, the Druk Desi came under the political control of the State Council's most powerful faction of regional administrators. The
Zhabdrung was the head of state and the ultimate authority in religious and civil matters. The seat of central government was at Thimphu, the site of a 13th century dzong spring-autumn. The winter capital was at Punakha. The kingdom was divided into three regions (east, central, west), each with an appointed penlop (governor), holding a seat in a major dzong. Districts were headed by dzongpens (district officers), who had their head-quarters in lesser dzongs. The penlops were a combination of tax collector, judge, military commander, and procurement agent for the central government. Their major revenues came from the trade between Tibet and India and from land taxes. It is believed that the death of Ngawang Namgyal in 1651 was concealed for 50 years as authorities sought his reincarnated successor. At first the system persisted, however the Druk Desi gradually gained political power and civil wars ensued. Once a reincarnation was found, the Druk Desi was unwilling to part with his acquired power, and the power of the Zhabdrung gradually declined. Similarly, the Druk Desi also lost control over the local rulers and penlops (governors). The country devolved into several semi-independent regions under the control of penlops. In practice, the Zhabdrung was often a child under the control of the Druk Desi, and regional penlops administered their districts in defiance of the Druk Desi. The Constitution of Bhutan, 2008, confirms Bhutan's commitment to the dual system of government, but the title "Druk Desi" never appears, and all administrative powers are vested in the Druk Gyalpo and civilian offices directly. The Druk Gyalpo appoints the Je Khenpo on advice of the Five Lopons (learned masters), and the democratic Constitution itself is the supreme law of the land, as opposed to a Zhabdrung figurehead.

Posted by PetersF 15:47 Archived in Bhutan Tagged bhutan paro tiger's_nest taktshang

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