TWHS: Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants, Bhutan

The second of the tentative World Heritage sites we’ve visited in Bhutan is a rather unusual one as nominations go — a serial collection of seventeen places,

Sacred Sites associated with Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants

The Drukpa-Kagyud Buddhist tradition was first introduced to Bhutan in the 13th century by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo, who travelled to the southern land (Bhutan) from Ralung, Tibet to propagate the teaching, as prophesized by Tsangpa Gyaray Yeshe Dorji, the founder of Drukpa-Kagyud tradition.

The sites identified and included in this list are the places blessed by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and also centers of the Drukpa-Kagyud School established by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo and his descendants in the different regions of the western Bhutan. It was from these centers that the influence of the Drukpa-Kagyud School in the region gradually gained strength by prevailing over groups of other Buddhist traditions.

Later in the 17th century, these sites took the significant roles becoming strategic footholds during the consolidation and unification of the country under the one rule by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who is believed to be the re-birth of Tsangpa Gyaray and also an emanation of Avalokitesvara…

Generally, nominations honoring a person rather than a place are regarded skeptically by the Inscribing Authorities; however, in this particular case inscription should be a sure thing, because of this at first glance unassuming line in the list of sites:

3) Taktshang: N27 30 00   E89 20 00

Taktshang Goemba aka Taktsang Lhakang aka Tiger’s Nest Monastery is, as they say,

… Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 hundred meters above the Paro Valley.

It was first built in 1692 at a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated in the 7th century A.D. Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it…

Definitely, this is your must see in Bhutan. Here, check out shots on Flickr, this is a particularly nice one:

Tiger's Nest Monastery Bhutan

The day we were there, of course, it was miserable, drizzly, and mist-clouded. This shot from the bottom was the last we could get before mist covered everything:

Tiger's Nest Monastery

Ah well, not every visit can go perfectly. And hey, it gives you an idea of how Tiger’s Nest appears to cling to the sheer cliff. We’ll get better pictures when we go back to finish off Bhutan’s other 6 sites, we promise.

As for the rest on the list of 17 places serialized here … they’re generally fairly obscure monasteries and dzongs. You could visit all of them if you like, here’s a good story about these travellers’

Hike To Tango Monastery in Bhutan

… but our approach to serialized sites is that there’s no need to obsess over hunting them all down, if you make it to one that’s enough. And especially in this case, where after Tiger’s Nest Monastery, pretty much anything else is going to be an anticlimax!


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