If you had only one place to visit in Bhutan, this would be the one.
About 20 minutes of uphill track after the first pit stop, we came across this shrine. The path, as you can see, took a sharp turn and I was beginning to wonder where it was going. There is a natural water stream at this point and the water tastes something very different. I drank the water, bowed before the deity here and started walking on the blind turn…
….woohhww.. there it was! The Tigers Lair, right in front, slightly below where I was! It appears suddenly before you and I stood there, stupefied, admiring its beauty.
From this point, the actual approach to the monastery is a treacherous walk that could take 20-45 minutes depending on how scared you are of heights. The narrow path kisses the mountain’s rock face as it turns sharp left, dipping slightly from the point where I am standing, to sharp right, finally climbing towards the monastery. All through the path, you can see the monastery – its right there in front of you, you feel like touching it, but you can’t! Not before you complete what a local called, “the final task”.
One needs a special ‘Monastery’ permit from the Ministry of Culture to visit this temple. You’ll have to deposit absolutely everything at the front gate. We reached the monastery 45 minutes before it closed and the monks had locked several rooms already, but he was kind enough to open the doors for us. The Guru Lhakhang has a central image which is one of the manifestations of Guru Rinpoche, the guru who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan. A level below is the Dubkhang cave, where the guru Rinpoche meditated. Several murals decorate the walls.
Views from the monastery, as you would expect, are spectacular. The air is filled with soft chanting of mantras and the mild smell of incense. It is very likely that you’ll stand there looking at the valley, doing nothing for a bit, and the next thing you know is the monk tapping on your shoulder saying that its been 10 minutes.
I like the musical aspect of chanting mantras in Hindu / Buddhist traditions. Usually a male guru’s voice acts as the drone, with his voice fixed at lower octave, while his disciples sing an octave higher, creating a very fulfilling feeling.
I really wanted to stay here forever, or for a long time atleast. Unfortunately it was close to sunset, and since we were on our own, it was imperative to return before dark. The ascent can get very confusing at night.
They say that one must visit the Taktsang Lhakhang atleast once in their lives. It’s the holiest of the holy places in Bhutan. I’m glad, fortunate, lucky, blessed, etc. for having visited this temple.