Taktsang Monastery is a famous Himalayan Buddhist religious
place and shrine compound, situated in the Cliffside of the
upper Paro valley, in Bhutan. The Gompa is situated about 11
kms from Paro and located on a precipitous cliff at 3,120
metres, about 900 metres over the Paro valley, on the right
side of the Paro Chu.
temple complex was initially constructed in the year 1692,
around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Padmasambhava
is believed to have meditated for about 3 years in the eighth
century. Padmasambhava introduce Buddhism to Bhutan. Today,
Paro Taktsang is the well known as thirteen taktsang or "tiger
lair" caves in which he meditated.
The Guru mTshan-brgyad Lhakhang, the shrine devoted to
Padmasambhava is a graceful complex around the cave in 1692 by
Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye; and has become the cultural sign of
Bhutan. A famous festival, known as the Tsechu, celebrated in
honor of Padmasambhava, takes place in the Paro valley
sometime in the months of March or April.
History, Background and Myths
per the myth associated with Taktsang which exactly means
"Tiger's lair", it is considered that Padmasambhava (Guru
Rinpoche) flew to this place from Tibet on the back of a tigress
from Khenpajong. This site was sacred to tame the Tiger evil
Another myth states that a previous wife of the ruler, known as
Yeshe Tsogyal, happily became a devotee of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambahva)
in Tibet. She changed herself into a tigress and take the Guru
on her back from Tibet to the site of Taktsang in Bhutan. Then,
the Guru performed meditation in one of the caves and emerged in
eight embodied shapes (manifestations) and the place became
sacred. Afterwards, the place become famous by the name of
popular myth of the Taktsang Kloster is further embroidered with
the tale of Tenzin Rabgye, who constructed the shrine at this
place in the year 1692. It is also believed that the 8th century
guru Padmasmabhava had embodied again in the form of Tenzin
Rabgye. The corroborative evidences mooted are: that Tenzin
Rabgye was seen by his friends at that time inside and outside
his cave; even a small quantity of food was sufficient to feed
all visitors; no one was injured during worship; and the people
of the Paro valley saw in the sky various animal forms and
sacred symbols along with a shower of flowers that emerged and
also disappeared in the air without touching the earth.
Establishment as a Meditation Site
Gompa was constructed around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave,
where Guru Padmasambahva meditated in the 8th century according
to the traditions. He founded Buddhism and the Nyingmapa school
of Mahayana Buddhism in Bhutan, and has been the “protector
saint of Bhutan”.Afterwards, Padmasmbahva visited Bumthang
district to subdue a powerful deity insulted by a local ruler.
Padmasambhava's body imprint is imprinted on the wall of a cave
near Kurje Lhakhang shrine. In 853, Langchen Pelkyi Singye came
at this place to meditate and gave his name of Pelphug to the
cave, "Pelkyi's cave". After his death, his body was amazingly
taken to the Gompa by the elegance of the deity Dorje Legpa; it
is now believed to be preserved in a Chorten in a room to the
left at the summit of the entrance stairway. The chorten was
renovated in 1982-83 and again in 2004.
the 11th century, many Tibetan saints and famous personalities
came to Taktsang to meditate. Lapa School was built in Paro in
12th century. Between 12th and 17th centuries, many
Lamas who came from Tibet built their Gompas in Bhutan.
Structure of Takstang Monastery
Takstang Gompa complex is divided into 4 main shrines and
residential shelters perfectly designed by adapting to the
rock (granite) ledges, the caves and the rocky landscape.
From the 8 caves, 4 caves are very easy to reach. The cave
where Guru Padmasmabhava entered for the first time,
riding the Tiger, is known as 'Tholu Phuk' and the cave
where he live and did meditation is known as the 'Pel Phuk'.
He directed the religiously enlightened monks to construct
the monastery at this place. The main cave of the
monastery is reachable through a thin passage. The dark
cave exhibits a number of images of Bodhisattvas and
butter lamps sparkle in front of these statues.
A graceful image of Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara) is also
sanctified at this place. In an adjacent small cell, the
religious scripture is situated. It is also believed that
the monks who do Vajrayana Buddhism (the formal State
Religion of Bhutan) at this cave Gompa reside at this
place for 3 years and rarely go down to the Paro valley.
All the complexes are connected with each other through
steps and stairways made in rocks. There are few rocky
wooden bridges along the paths and stairways to cross
over. The shrine at the highest level has a wall painting
of Buddha. Each building has a balcony, from which amazing
views of the picturesque Paro valley can be seen.
Other structures within the monastery complex are
Taktshang Zangdo Pari, Urgyan Tsemo situated near the
temple has a tiny Mani Lakhang, prayer wheel. Above the
Urgyan is the sacred cave shrine known as 'Phaphug Lakhang',
which is the important temple of Taktshang. It is also the
dwelling of the Head Lama, Karma Thupden Chokyi Nyenci.
Paintings Inside The Monastery
“Copper-Colored Mountain heaven of Guru Padmasambahva is
vibrantly exhibited in a heart shape on every thangkha and also
painted on the walls of the Gompa as a constant reminder of the
myth. The paintings are situated on a base that signifies the
empire of the King of Nagas between Dakinis, and the summit in
the painting symbolizes the domain of Brahma. The paintings also
portrays Klu (Naga) demigods with a human head and the body of a
serpent, which are believed to reside in lakes. Symbolically,
they mean to symbolize the sacred writings. The paintings also
depict what is termed as “Walkers in the Sky”.
sacred hill is drawn in the surroundings with 4 faces painted
with diverse colors – the east face with crystal white color,
the west with red color, the south face with yellow color and
the north with green color. The palace has 4 sides and 8 corners
with its lower and upper tiers decorated with jewels. The
courtyard with 4 enclosures is believed to symbolize 4 types of
ways. The walls are made up of bricks, balconies have been
bejewelled with sacred signs. The atmosphere is shown in the
form of wishing trees, fountains of the water of life, rain bows
in different colors with cloud formations and light originating
from lotus flowers. The palace is also shown with a throne with
8 corners completely decorated with jewels. Padmasmbahva is
shown sitting on a pure stalk of lotus emitting celestial energy
appearing “divine, powerful and generous”.
Other paintings on the 4 faces and 8 corners, are five types of
Buddhas suppressing the vicious devils performing 4 pious deeds
and placed on thrones that are mounted over the stooping devils.
The devils and Khadoms are represented decorated and seated on 4
petalled and 4 faced thrones “decorated with necromantic
features” enjoying a good time; the Khadoms are seen on the 4
sided courtyard of the palace and also on all side walls.
scene is further embroidered around the Guru admashambahava
image and also in the palace, with gods and goddesses in the
heavens, with gate keepers at the 4 gates with an army of
servants; all trying to defeat the devils to dust. The helpful
staff shown are signifying the Himalayan clans of pre-Buddhist