Paro Taktsang or Taktsang Palphug Monastery (also known as The Tiger's Nest) is a Buddhist sacred site and
temple complex in Paro valley in Kingdom of Bhutan.The monastery is 6 miles to the north of Paro.It is sitting on
a spectacular cliff at 10,240 ft altitude, hanging above the Paro valley.
Taktsang Tiger’s Nest is a temple complex built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, perched on the sheer
cliff above the Paro Valley floor. According to the legend, the location of the monastery is the place where Padmasambhava,also known as 'Guru Rinpoche,' the founder of Bhutanese Vajrayana Buddhism (the formal State
Religion of Bhutan),flew to on the back of a tigress in 747 AD. During his journey through Tibet and Bhutan
Guru Rinpoche meditated in many caves (taktsangs) but announced Paro Taktsang to be a sacred place (palpate)
for meditation.According to legend,at that time malignant spirits abounded and,in order to subdue them,the
Guru assumed the terrifying form of'Guru DorjeDrollo' one of the Eight Manifestations of Guru Rinpoche and
consecrated Paro Taksang as a sacred site to protect the Dharma and subdue harmful forces. Paro Taktsang
is the best known of the thirteen taktsang or "tiger lair" caves in which Padmasambhava meditated for four
months taming and subjugating the eight classes of malicious spirits, while concealing many
profound treasures at Taktsang.
An alternative legend holds that a former wife of an emperor, known as Yeshe Tsogyal, willingly became a disciple of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva) 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 nine caves here, the Guru then performed meditation and emerged in eight incarnated forms (manifestations) and the place became holy. Subsequently, the place came to be known as the "Tiger's Nest".
In 1692 the 4th Druk Desi (the secular ruler of Bhutan) Tenzin Rabgye laid the foundation for the temple dedicated to Guru Rinpoche. In 1694 construction of the main two story temple around the holy cave was completed.
The monastery consists of four main temple buildings and living quarters for monks which were designed by adapting to the out-crop of granite ledges, the caves and the cliff face. Of the eight caves, four are comparatively easy to access. The main buildings are constructed around the eight caves and perfectly adjusted to the granite parapets and rocky terrain. Each building has a balcony, which provides stunning views of the scenic Paro valley below. Steps, stairs and passages carved in the rocks and wooden bridges connect various structures transforming them into an impressive and intricate complex. The temple at the highest level has a frieze of Buddha.
The main cave is entered through a narrow passage. An elegant image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) is also deified here. In an adjoining smaller 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. The remaining caves are dark and house dozen of images of Bodhisattva, all lit by flickering butter lamps. It is also said that the monks who practice Vajrayana Buddhism at this cave monastery live here for three years and seldom go down to the Paro valley. For centuries the monastery was untouched by elements until fire in 1998 when the Paro Taktsang and many of the artefacts it held were destroyed. After intensive work the complex was restored in 2005.
There are nine sacred caves at Paro Taktsang: The Machik Phug - the cave where Machik Labdron meditated. Machik Labdron (1031-1129) was a disciple of Padama Sangye and founder of Cho, a great female master who established the system of Cho'd in Tibet, a system of practices based on Prajnaparamita.
The other caves are: The Senge Phug, the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated on 'Vajra Kilaya' which is located just after the Shelkarchu waterfall ravine just before you reach the main complex of Taktsang, the Pel Phug, the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated for four months, as well as the Drolo Phug, known as the Monastery of Crazy Wisdom,' Osel Phug, Gedig Phug, Chogyal Phug, Kapali Phug and Phagmo Phug.
Offerings of rice, crackers, cookies, water and money surround the eight statues, as well as a host of demonic animal-headed deities which are painted on the walls.
There is also the Chapel of Vaishravana, one of four guardians in the north, and the Shrine room of Nedag Senge Samdup, dedicated to the protective deity of Paro Taktsang. Close to these is the Chapel of Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, whose temple houses the 3 great lineage holders of Drukpa Kagyu teachings.
The Taktsang Palphug is only one of a series of Buddhist monasteries in the immediate area, with further complexes at the top of the mountain and beyond. Poised on a projecting rock spur above the Taktsang, the Sang-tog Peri monastery overlooks the whole Paro valley. Built in harmony with the natural features of its site, this 300 year old retreat is, in name as well as by virtue of its lofty elevation, "the temple of heaven."
Another special site in the immediate area is the Shama Lhakhang (temple), called the 'Key to Taktsang.' Although Shama is very close to Taktsang one must ascend to Urgyen Tsemo complex at the top of the cliff and then descend through a small ravine to reach Shama. Urgyen Tsemo is located on the summit of the cliff above Paro Taktsang. A temple was established here in the 15th Century by 'Uwo Yeshe Bumt of Kathok' whose descendants looked after Taktsang until it was offered to 'Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal' in 1645.