The Butter Lamp Stand at Tiger's Nest

As you stop at the Taktsang Cafeteria for a breather and enjoy one of the finest views of the Tiger’s Nest, your eyes will be caught by the three beautiful butter lamp stands — erected just next to the cafeteria — that provide a place to offer prayers and make wishes; especially for travelers who are not able to make it all the way to the top.

A handmade butter lamp stand on the way up to Tiger’s Nest

A handmade butter lamp stand on the way up to Tiger’s Nest

Two of the three stands were built by the cafeteria’s property owners, but the one in the middle has a special story as to how it was created; involving much perseverance, determination and faith in the Buddha Dharma.

Gembo, a senior licensed guide with MyBhutan, conceived and pursued a dream of building a monastery at Taktsang when he hiked the Tiger’s Nest with his wife and his firstborn. Over the years, his dream shifted from a monastery to a stupa and, eventually, to a butter lamp stand; which he vowed to complete come what may. Thus, his amazing endeavor of building this simple, yet complex, butter lamp stand began.

It took Gembo nearly four years to carry rocks that he found from all 20 districts up the Tiger’s Nest mountain

It took Gembo nearly four years to carry rocks that he found from all 20 districts up the Tiger’s Nest mountain

Gembo started collecting appropriate sized rocks from sacred holy sites across the entire country when he visited these regions as a guide. Then, each time he concluded a client’s trip with a hike to Tiger’s Nest, Gembo would carry a stone in his backpack. With each climb, Gembo dropped the stone at the site. It took him nearly four years and weekly hikes to Tiger’s Nest to accumulate enough rocks to finally be ready for the next step. As luck would have it, a group of Germans took interest in his project and willingly sponsored the required materials to finish the build of the butter lamp. With the help of the cafeteria staff, Gembo finally realized his dream.

Gembo stands beside the butter lamp stand that he built

Gembo stands beside the butter lamp stand that he built

To this day, Gembo and his colleagues at MyBhutan make sure to carry enough refined cooking oil (7 kilos that usually last for 14 days) to fill the butter lamp every time they hike up to Tiger’s Nest with their clients. One man’s dream is lit and burns through night and day; courtesy to the numerous loyal Buddhists who hike up and down the Taktsang Trail.

We invite you to fill Gembo’s butter lamp with oil during your pilgrimage to one of Bhutan’s most sacred mountains, too.

A view of the butter lamp with Tiger’s Nest hanging on the cliffside behind it

A view of the butter lamp with Tiger’s Nest hanging on the cliffside behind it

 
 

STORY BY KARMA YONTEN

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATTHEW DESANTIS

 
StoryKarma Yonten