Buddhist Monasteries of Bhutan

08.07.11 Bhutan. Taksang Lakhang Dzong Monastery, or “Lair of the Tiger”.

On the southern slopes of the Himalayas lies the kingdom of Bhutan – a reserved, hidden in the mountains country, which is often seen as a lost earthly paradise, where all dreams come true – the mysterious Shangri-La. In the mysterious kingdom is more than 200 dzongs, monastery-fortresses, one of the most sacred of which is the monastery of Thaksang Lakhang Dzong, or “Lair of the Tiger.

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For centuries, Tibet has been regarded as the lost paradise on earth. Its isolation, majestic mountains and unearthly lunar landscapes, ancient culture and a unique form of Buddhism “Lamaism”, monasteries – fortresses with tens of thousands of monks and legendary caravan trails described by Marco Polo contributed to this.

Hundreds of years on the impregnable rocks stood huge monasteries, which became centers of Buddhism. In the 8th century at an altitude of 900 meters above the Paro valley the founder of Buddhism Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche, founded the Taksang Lakhang Dzong Monastery. Here, in a cave still preserved today, Guru meditated, directing his thoughts toward Light, Joy and God, and looking up at the highest peak of the country, Jomolhari, where the Thunder Dragon, the symbol of the kingdom, lives.

Dzong Taksang-lakhang or Paro-lakhang, also known as the Tiger’s Lair, is a famous Buddhist monastery located on a cliff at the top of the Paro Valley in Bhutan. It was built in 1692, near the Lakhang Senge Samdup cave, where Guru Padmasambhava meditated for three months in the eighth century. He is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan, the Nyingma school, and a guardian deity. Today, Paro-lakhang is the most famous of the 13 caves in which he meditated.

According to the legends associated with Thaksang-lakhang, which literally means “tiger’s den,” it is believed that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew to this place from Tibet on the back of a tiger that his wife Yeshe Tsogyal had turned into.

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The monastery is located 10 km north of Paro and hangs on a steep cliff 3120 meters high, about 900 meters above the valley of Paro, on the right side of Paro Chu. The slope of the cliff is very steep (almost vertical). Although the mountain looks impregnable, the monastery complex has access from several sides: there is a path through the forest to the northwest, from the south and from the north (through a rocky plateau called “One Hundred Thousand Fairies”, known as Bumda). The road to the monastery passes through a pine forest that is colorfully hung with prayer flags.

A bridge made of bamboo is thrown over the mountain abyss. Bamboo is a flexible and strong building material, and a reliable defense system. When in danger, the bridge is rolled up like a carpet.

The monastery buildings consist of four main temples and living quarters. The design fits perfectly with the granite cave. The domes are covered with pure gold. Structures in the dark caves hold dozens of images of bodhisattvas and flickering oil lamps illuminate these idols. In one of the caves is the “Hall of 1000 Buddhas,” and in the next room, carved right into the rock, is the famous statue of a giant tiger, clawing at the head of two gaping contemplators. In one of the temples there is a scripture, “this important scripture, which was written down with a gold dusting and the bones of a divine lama crushed into powder. Monks who practice Vajrayana Buddhism (the official state religion of Bhutan) live in this cave of the monastery for three years and rarely go down to the Paro Valley.

All the buildings are connected by steps and stairs in the rocks. There are several rickety wooden bridges. The temple on the highest level is the frieze of the Buddha. Each building has a balcony that offers a beautiful view of the picturesque valleys of Paro. In the courtyard is a shrine (Urgyan Tsemo) – a prayer wheel. Every day at 4 am a monk turns the wheel announcing the beginning of a new day.

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In spring, a dance festival (Tsechu – literal translation: “10 days”) is held in Paro Valley in honor of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. It is held for 3-5 days, from the 11th to the 15th day of the second month (the days are set according to the Bhutanese calendar, which generally corresponds to the Tibetan calendar). It falls in March or April according to the Gregorian calendar.

During the festival, a procession of traditional mask dances of sacred idols performed by monks follows. On the last day of the festival, a large Padmasambhava tanka is displayed for all to see for a certain time in the early morning so that, according to tradition, the sunlight does not reach it.

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Monasteries of Bhutan

Monasteries of Bhutan

Between China and India, amidst the luxury of the Himalayan Mountains, sits a small monarchical state, the Kingdom of Bhutan. However, for Buddhist devotees, this information is unlikely to be anything new, and it is not surprising. It is here are located a considerable number of temples, which follow the teachings of Buddha. In this article, you can learn in detail about the main monasteries of Bhutan that preach the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

Bhutan’s Most Famous Monasteries

  1. Perhaps the most popular Buddhist temple among tourists is Taktsang Luckhang , also known as the Nest of the Tigress. It has a reason for its name, as it is located on a steep cliff, which overhangs the valley Paro. Like the vast majority of temples, Taktsang Lakkhang has its own history and legend. It is also worth a visit if only for the wonderful nature in the vicinity and the amazing views from the top of the cliff.
  2. In the Paro Valley, one of the regions of Bhutan, there are several other interesting monasteries. For example, on the outskirts of the town of the same name you can visit Duntse lakhang, a Buddhist temple, which is distinguished by its architecture and looks like a chorten. You can also see a unique collection of Buddhist icons here.
  3. Kyichu-lakhang Monastery is also located on the outskirts of Paro and is one of the oldest temples of the Tibetan tradition. It is he who, according to legend, chained the sole of a huge demoness to the ground.
  4. Another interesting place to visit is Rinpung Dzong, which combined the functions of a monastery and a fortress, and from the 11th to the 15th day of the second month of the Tibetan calendar a grand festival Paro Tsechu is held here.
  5. In Bumthang, one of the regions of Bhutan, which is crossed by the river of the same name, there are also many monasteries. Pretty popular is Jambay Luckhang, known for its festival.
  6. On the outskirts of the city of Jakar you can visit the temple-fortress Jakar Dzong , but for tourists is open only to the courtyard. Given that the monastery is located on the crest of the mountain overhanging the city, the experience of such a trip will still be a lot – even from the surrounding nature and impressive panorama of the surroundings.
  7. Not far from the capital of Bhutan Thimphu there are also temples, which will be interesting to visit the tourist. For example, the Tashicho Dzong Monastery has been the seat of the national government since 1952 and bears some elements of a fortress. Its central tower formerly housed the National Library of Bhutan.
  8. Five kilometers south of the capital is a Buddhist university temple Simtokha-dzong, which is also on the list of “must-see” in Bhutan.
  9. In addition, in the suburbs Thimphu you can visit the monastery Tango, which is dedicated to the Indian god with a horse head – Hayagriva.
  10. A little more than a half dozen miles to be overcome to visit Changri-gompa – Buddhist temple, especially revered among hermits.
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In fact, there are many more monasteries in Bhutan than are listed in the article. However, some are closed to tourists and some are abandoned or destroyed. However, on your way to another Bhutanese shrine, it is best to put aside all unnecessary thoughts and just enjoy the diversity and charm of nature, which is so rich in this country.

If you are planning to travel to Bhutan soon, but are still undecided about your accommodation, our next article is just for you. We will tell you about luxury hotels and budget apartments, as well as about some of the peculiarities of accommodation in this wonderful country.

The Kingdom of Bhutan is incredibly popular among tourists, but at the initial level of travel planning, hardly anyone thinks about the transport system in this fabulous country. For example, there is no railroad, and guests of Bhutan are not allowed to move around the state on their own.

Shopping in Bhutan will bring pleasure not only to tourists visiting the country, but also to please the relatives and guests who are waiting for you at home. About the main features of shopping and the most popular souvenirs, we will talk further in our article.

Between India and China, in the mountains, is one of the most mysterious and beautiful countries in the world – the Kingdom of Bhutan. Before you plan your trip, we advise you to get acquainted with some of the peculiarities of obtaining a visa. More about that we will tell further in our article.

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