The Legendary Perch of Guru Rinpoche’s Flying Tigress

I have always been drawn to the mountains for their majesty and that had led me to visit all of the Himalayan states in India. In 2014, I was looking to explore something new in the Himalayas for my vacations and so in October of 2014, I visited Bhutan along with my wife, Isha.

While doing my own bit of research on Bhutan, I had come across the picture of Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro. The photo of the Monastery on the cliff side and the thought of hiking upto the Monastery made it a must visit place for us in the travel itinerary.

As Mr. Norbu Non (our driver and guide for the Bhutan trip) drove us towards the starting point of the hike, he told us about the legend behind the Monastery – Guru Rinpoche flew to this cliff on the back of the flying tigress from Tibet and meditated here while the tigress stood guard. Later the Guru emerged in eight incarnated forms and thus this site became a holy place. Later in 1602, a temple was built here.

We started the hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery from the road-head at Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) trail. The round trip of the trail is around 6.5 km, with an gradual elevation gain of 500 meters. The Monastery appeared at the top of the mountain cliff, and it looked like a formidable ascent from the point of start of the trail.

The entire trail was through dense forest, laden with prayer flags and prayer wheels along the route which complemented the beauty of the splendid mountainside. Being a very popular hike in Bhutan, we frequently came across locals and tourists on the trail. Located midway on the hike, after an hour of hiking, is the Taktsang Café. We sat down at this place to have a cup of tea and admire the beauty of the green mountains across the valley, and stare up in awe at the majestic Monastery above us.

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Start of the hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Tiger’s Nest Monastery in the distant, barely visible, but very formidable looking; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Prayer flags welcoming the hikers enroute to the Monastery; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Well trodden wide trail to the Monastery; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

After the refreshing cup of tea, we started walking again and after another hour, we were greeted by a mighty waterfall. Located just in front of the Monastery, it was like the gateway to the Monastery complex.

While Isha went inside the Monastery complex, I sat down nearby, taking my time to soak in the peaceful and serene environment around me – the bright sun, the magnificent Monastery perched on the cliff-side of the mountain and the cool mist coming from the heavenly waterfall. Later on, I visited the Monastery and the Tiger’s Cave, which requires some effort to get down to the bottom. The other end of the cave opens to a steep drop, providing an bird’s eye view of the valley below.

Frankly speaking, the Monastery is an engineering marvel. The photos do tell a lot about its but just being there and seeing it up close and personal gives us a perspective of the faith, effort, and dedication it takes to make something so magnificent in such an environment and terrain.

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A view of the final section of the trail as seen from the Tiger’s Nest Monastery; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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The mighty waterfall, just before the Monastery, appears to be the guarding gate; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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A true engineering marvel and an architecturally brilliant structure; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Mesmerising colours of the prayer flags and the monastery, mixed with those of the sky and the forests, make it a sight to be remembered for a lifetime; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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