14th March 2010, contd..
The Paro town is a beautiful charming town. The town center has a huge prayer wheel (I am getting used to see these wheels and stupas everywhere) in the square, surrounded by a small park. On either side of the main street are buildings modeled in the traditional architecture. The river runs somewhere close, and its flow can be faintly heard in the quiet of the town. With only 36000 people in the entire district, the town center looks very unhurried, sometimes even deserted, but still marked by a calm. This calm is something which seems to follow you everywhere, and for a Mumbai-harassed mind, is soothing in an unsettling way.
Today we spent another lovely day, with an excursion to Tiger’s Nest or Taktsang Gompa, a jewel for Bhutan which is as prestigious to them as Taj Mahal is to India (Phub’s thoughts, not mine). The monastery is a beautiful building in the style of those Chinese fortresses so remarkably featured in Crouching Tigers, Hidden Dragons ( of course it is called Tiger’s nest, and is in the dragon’s land). It is perched tentatively at the edge of a steep cliff, and looking at it from below, you can never believe you can get up there. Like those peaks you admire from the bottom. But 2 hours 15 minutes after being convinced that I can only view it from afar, I was inside this wonderful monastery. After a consistent and grueling climb, starting in the pine forests and ending in a punishing flight of stairs, it was a pleasant destination, with its faintly religious smell of many incenses burnt, and lamps lit through the years. The trek it self is beautiful despite the climb, because there is always a pleasant breeze accompanying you (you should not try the climb in summers, as per Phub), and close to the monastery, there is a high, gushing waterfall, which, after you further climb the steps of the monastery, becomes only a small stream of water.
The monastery was built to honor a sacred saint Padmasambhava, often called Second Buddha, who it is believed came in a terrifying form, riding on a flying tigress (an avatar of his consort), to kill the demons. After subduing the demons, he came on this hill and meditated there in a cave. Second Buddha being one of the most important religious figures in Bhutan, this place is thus considered the most holy of all pilgrimages for the Bhutanese.
These are the three names often repeated in Bhutan: Buddha, Second Buddha or Padmasambhava, and Zhafdrung. Then there is Avatilokeshvara, or Buddha of longevity, who is also the guru of Padmasambhava, whose statue you see in many places.