Mantelpiece carving for the ‘Tiger’s Nest Resort’ Paro, Bhutan.

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Dorje Drolo Mantelpiece


A friend who owns a hotel on the hill opposite the famous Taktsang Monastery asked me to make a fireplace for the hotel dining room. He wanted a carving of Guru Dorje Drolo on the mantelpiece.


Taktsang Monastery (The Tiger's Nest) in the snow.

Taktsang Monastery (The Tiger’s Nest) in the snow.


Guru Dorje Drolo is one of the eight manifestations of the Buddhist saint, Guru Rinpoche. He assumed this wrathful form in Taktsang in order to bring the local deities and spirits under his control and make them protectors of the Buddha’s teaching.


Guru Dorje Drolo

Guru Dorje Drolo


There were several obstacles to overcome before we could enjoy a roaring fire:

  • The boulders arrived in huge, rough, random shapes.
  • The truck just dumped them in front of the building.
  • It took me two months to shape them into workable pieces of stone.
  • The stone is a type of Gneiss stone with a very fine grain that is very hard to work,  as it breaks into layers.


After completing the blocks, ten Indian workers helped me bring the mantelpiece inside, so I could carve the Guru Dorje Drolo face away from the monsoon rain and closer to the site of the fireplace.


As the building was almost complete when I was asked  to start the work, there was already a master suite with attached bathroom directly above where the fireplace would be. I had to slant the chimney sideways and backwards so it would fit inside the building. Luckily, due to the height of the building, the chimney had to be 11-12 metres high and this meant  there was enough room to correct any problems with draught that might have arisen with such an awkward design.


Two workers from West Bengal helped me with the masonry of the chimney; Abu and Achurdeen, two brothers. The carpenters were usually Hindu and the masons Muslims. But, more often than not, it depended on the village they came from rather than their trade. I think they saw me as a crazy Westerner who must have been very rich to be able to take a plane all the way to Europe. It’s amazing what can be said with three words of Hindi and English!



The fireplace took  a year to complete, with constant starts and stops to allow the Indian workers to go back to their villages for the zillionth local or national ‘Puja’ (ceremony),  or because the cast iron was blocked in Calcutta due to a strike at the Indo-Bhutanese border (another long story), or because there was a block of stone missing…or because…