22/09/06 Taktstang – The Tiger’s Nest
Taktsang Temple monastry is probably the most famous site in Bhutan and revered as a holy place built on the spot where Guru Rimpochey, the Great Buddhist Master landed on his Tigress after flying from India in the 8th Century and meditated in a cave high up on the cliff side. The shrine in the cave was slowly added to with additional buildings until the monastic temple was formed. Destroyed by fire in the 1990’s, the temple was completely re-built and only finished and re-ordained in recent years.
Legend has it that the gold statue of Guru Rimpochey was just too heavy for the men carrying it up the mountainside (When hiking up the steep steps from 2200m – 3100m you can really appreciate that it would have been hard for them!). This caused the statue to speak out and tell the men just to leave it there on the mountainside. They obeyed the statue’s command and continued their ascent to the cave. When they arrived, they found that the statue was already there in place in the shrine as it had flown on ahead of them.
We stopped for tea after an initial hour’s climb and then headed on up to the temple. Additional coloured flags adorned the route and by another smaller shrine, en route, pine needles were scattered on the ground forming a green carpet over the path. We were advised that the Queen of Bhutan, Her Majesty Queen Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, (one of the 4 Queens, also 4 sisters) mother of the Prince and heir to the Bhutanese throne was visiting the temple that day.
In the holy shrine to Guru Rimpochey, we were offered Chai by the head monk- milky sweet tea, with small crunchy rice puffs sprinkled in. Unfortunately we had to drink quite quickly because the Queen was approaching…
From the temple we looked back along the path and could see the Queen and her entourage rapidly approaching. In the distance we could just make out her royal blue Toego with rolled back pink cuffs. The sound of horns, the welcome music for a royal welcome, started to resound across the valley echoing of the mountainside and the Queen arrived. She stopped to meet us on the temple steps, shaking our hands and asking where we were from, whilst our Bhutanese guide, observing strict protocol looked down at his shoes and avoided catching her eye or looking directly at her.
We descended back down to our lunch stop, thrilled with having met one of the Bhutanese Royal Family and at such a stunning location. I proceeded to try on an old Bhutanese warrior’s costume and posed, complete with sword and particularly striking boots!!!
Descending the rest of the way through the blue pine forest and hanging Spanish moss was beautifully peaceful. The sound of the rushing water of the steep mountain streams and the light ringing sound of the giant water turned prayer wheel was the perfect accompaniment to the scenic mountain views.
We rounded off the day with a late afternoon visit to the oldest Buddhist temple in Bhutan, the 1200 year old Kyichu Lhakhang Temple. It houses a rare statue of Buddha as a Prince, similar to a famous statue in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. In the temple grounds stands an orange tree that bears fruit all year round. Orange trees don’t grow in Paro at an altitude over 2000m but this tree grows on holy soil, which, allegedly is why it flourishes and provides fruit. Sure enough there were oranges all over it… and they didn’t look plastic!!!