Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tiger Nest - Humble Monastery That Put Bhutan On The World Map

The early morning mist, wet roads and an almost hidden narrow deviation from the highway crossing a few villages leads you to the parking lot of the most impressive trek of your lifetime. The Tiger's Nest trek. The view of the woods and horses grazing all around in the parking lot make you feel like the adventure has already begun. To reach the Takstang Monastery, you can trek all the way up or you can sit on the back of a horse for three fourth of the distance and then continue the rest of the climb on foot. We chose the more adventurous path - trekking all the way up to admire the beauty of the wilderness.

But before we could start the trek we joined a group of locals who lit a bonfire and were keeping themselves warm. The warmth from rubbing your palms and the bonfire gave us the much energy required to beat the cold and start the trek.

The trek path is well maintained and as you begin your trek you come across hydro powered prayer wheels spinning around at great speed. The path through the pine forests is steep but well worth it for the views of the Paro valley and of course the glimpses of the monastery captivating and recharging you to finish the trek. All through the trek path you find prayer flags fluttering and carrying the prayers to Almighty.

There are two cafes en-route the monastery. A stop at the main Cafeteria with a beautiful sit out and magnificent views of the monastery leaves you spellbound. This is the place where most of the trekkers end their trek and head back. The food offered is basic consisting of dal rice and noodles but considering the remoteness of the location it is a feast and the steep price is well worth it. Of course, the perfect place to enjoy the view with a hot cup of tea in your hand munching on some biscuits and witnessing this wonder of the world.

View From Cafe
After crossing the cafeterias, the path is much steep but with even better views of the Monastery. You finally reach the point where the horses end their journey and then begins the climb of rock cut steps leading you to the Monastery. The huge waterfall on the way, the sounds of which could be heard in the cafeteria takes your breath away.

It was thrilling to reach the monastery. Be it the dramatic location, the monstrous structure, the mythical stories, the adventurous trek, Tiger's Nest packs a powerful punch.  It is believed that Guru Ringponche flew up to the monastery on the back of a Tigress in order to subdue evil spirits in the vicinity and meditated in a cave here for three long months. It is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists in Bhutan as this is the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan. The monastery houses huge sculptures of various Buddhist gurus. Right next to the huge sculpture of Guru Ringponche is the cave in which he meditated. However, this is closed for public viewing and remains open only once in a year.

The most dramatic aspect of the monastery is the 'Tiger's Nest,' be sure to check out this cave located in between the Butter lamp room and Namsey Langhankha. This dramatic cave leads you to the edge of the mountain and throws open the view of Paro valley, this cave is where the mythical tigress rested long ago. However, please be cautioned that this place can only be reached by climbing down a couple of make shift wooden ladders. A slip here or there would result in broken bones and people hardly visit this place so getting help might be a distant dream.

A little before the entrance to the monastery is the Lion's Cave. This is where Yeshi Tsogyal, consort of Guru Ringponche meditated.

This monastery is nothing less of an engineering marvel. The master artisans and skillful carpenters of Bhutan have built such a wonderful monument centuries ago. And all of this was built without a blue print. It is believed that higher spiritual powers helped build this stunning monastery. A walk around the monastery witnessing this unbelievable wonder of the world that has survived a fire and still stands solid to tell the tales of history is mind blowing.

With a sense of calm, we started to climb down to the Valley.

Few things to keep in Mind:

  • Mobile phones and cameras are prohibited inside the monastery premises and have to be deposited in the locker room. However, these lockers are not equipped with locks.
  • It would be a great idea to leave a little early in the morning for the trek as the monastery visiting hours are from 8 am to 4 pm (during winter) and is closed for lunch from 1 pm to 2 pm. 
  • One needs good amount of stamina for the trek. An average person would take anywhere between 2 to 3 hours to reach the monastery and it's quite a difficult trek.
  • As it is a sacred site, please maintain decorum and respect the sanctity of the monastery .