A Passage to Shangri-La
By Anand Jha

Lonely Walk seeking mighty lair
Tigers fly, holy Dragons glare
Wisdom here silently rests
Atop Nature’s divine library
Opens Taktshang Monastery

Far from home walking in the scattered bylanes of Paro valley, I find myself immersed in train of thoughts. Little did I know, my peregrinations in the valley would lead me to Taktshang Goemba- a buddhist monastery at a cliff, that’s 900m above the Paro valley; a view that I can only summarise as a personification of harmonious solitude. The trek to the monastery is a gratifying experience and anticipating the same my breath forms a rhythmic symphony with my heartbeat. The pine trees are my only perpetual companions throughout the journey leading to Taktshang. I walk towards my destination, lost in thoughts of the bygones, with no realization of the present that seems to pass by. This ramble is a physical endeavor but my mind finds each moment filled with an uncontained joy, the inexplicable rush that comes from exploring a new place that promises a transformation into a newer self, a better one.

Taktshang monastery is said to be three centuries old, the mystical cliff surrounded by mist seems more beautiful with every step I take. The walk uphill gets colder and I soon start feeling less of my body as I get numb but the foggy weather tends to clear my thoughts. I decided to take a break, after what I felt like was the completion of half my trek. I sat on a raised ground, close to a small rock, contemplating about the nature that was surrounding me.

Earlier in the day I had met one of the English-speaking monks from the valley and he had explained the saga about the formation of Taktshang or ‘Tiger’s nest’, which led me to embark upon a journey towards it. The story starts with an Indian Guru Padmasambahva, who meditated here arriving from Tibet on Yeshe Tsogyal (The queen of wisdom). The Yeshe Tsogyal later was transfigured into a flying tigress and the guru is said to have been an instrumental factor for building the monastery on the cliff.

Walking again, I see the Taktsang Prayer Wheel, a small construction enroute the monastery with the sacred wheel. The mudstone track is damp around this area and rain showers are almost an everyday experience. The steady water flow around the smaller shrine makes for a pleasing sound in the engulfing eeriness. After the brisk trek on a relatively easy gradient, now I have to take up a steeper path. I turn behind and look at the small, colorful figures that I see downhill, a kaleidoscopic view of the entire Paro valley. I also see colorful flags, which have prayers written on them. A few steps ahead I find a bifurcation, one leading to Taktsang and the other to a tiny cafeteria.

I sip on a deliciously warm cup of tea and munch on some snacks to derive energy for the rest of my journey uphill. The cafeteria is brimming with few locals and many travelers lost in the pronounced beauty of what lies ahead. One of the locals starts humming a Bhutanese song, which although I can’t comprehend but feels strangely euphonic. I move on towards Taktsang and see a few pilgrims descending. A few of them are looking out for medicinal herbs and they smile at me and I reciprocate it with the same warmth.

I reach the highest point of the trek, where I see a long flag with the dragon inscription, so ubiquitous throughout Bhutan. Taktsang now feels closer than ever. I take a few steps towards it and reach the sacred waterfall, Dakini. I can see a few locals sprinkling water on themselves and drinking it. I follow suit. After this, I take a few steep steps and reach Machig Phug, one of the nine sacred caves at Taktsang.

Thereafter, filled with invigorated spirit I see the the entrance gate of the Taktsang and with shivering hands and a smile, I enter the shrine of holy Taktsang.

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