Punakha Dzong – meaning ‘great pleasure’ or ‘joy castle’, is the administrative headquarters of Punakha. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan, and one of its most beautiful buildings. Moreover, Punakha Dzong served as the administrative headquarters until 1955.
Importance of Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong, located in western Bhutan, is often regarded as the country’s most beautiful Dzong. In Bhutanese history, it is also the most important Dzong. The Dzong houses most of Bhutan’s national treasures, and it was here that Bhutan’s King, His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, and his lovely bride, Bhutan’s Queen Jetsun Pema, married in October 2011. The Punakha Dzong is by far Bhutan’s most iconic landmark, rivaling The Tiger’s Nest in Paro, so it’s easy to see why it’s one of the country’s top three attractions, along with the Tiger Nest Monastery and Dochula Pass.
Location of Punakha Dzong
In the Punakha valley, the location of Dzong is in between the Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers. Punakha is Bhutan’s winter capital. Because Punakha Dzong is just 1,200 meters above sea level, you will not experience oxygen difficulties as you would at higher elevations such as Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest), making it an excellent spot to commence for beginning hikers who may experience altitude sickness in the first few days.
Punakha is also home to Bhutan’s second-longest suspension bridge (Punakha Suspension Bridge), as well as Chimi Lhakhang, the Divine Madman’s fertility temple, which is about 7.5 kilometers away by a vehicle. Also, visit Dochula Pass, which is midway between Paro and Punakha Dzong, to enjoy the panoramic Himalayan view. A stay further down on the banks of the river at a campsite in Punakha is a must.
Why was Punakha Dzong built?
The significance of Punakha Dzong is that the dzong was one of the 16 dzongs erected by the Zhabdrung during his reign from 1594 to 1651 as an “embodiment of Buddhist principles.” There are three docheys in the dzong (courtyards). A steep wooden draw stairway and a heavy wooden door that is locked at night are among the defensive fortifications installed in the dzong to protect it from enemy attacks. A big prayer hall was later erected after the dzong was damaged by a fire.
Punakha Dzong Architecture
Ngawang Namgyal is the mastermind behind Punakha Dzong and is Bhutan’s second oldest and most magnificent Dzong. Also, It is a six-story building with a central tower situated at an average elevation of 1,200 meters against a picturesque mountainous backdrop. In addition, compacted soil, stones, and timber for doors and windows constitute the construction of the Dzong.
Firstly, the Dzong was damaged by several fires and was extensively damaged as a result of the 1897 earthquake. A high wooden draw staircase and a massive wooden door are among the defensive measures that remain tall in the dzong to safeguard it from enemy attacks.
The first courtyard houses the dzong’s administrative buildings, a huge white-washed stupa, and a bodhi tree. The monks’ living quarters are in the second courtyard. In this courtyard, there are two ancient halls. Also, the burials of Pema Lingpa and Ngawang Namgyal are in the third courtyard. It is located at the dzong’s southern extremity.
In the Mo Chu and Pho Chu rivers, flash floods generated by glacial lake outburst flooding in the upper parts of the valley are regular and have caused flooding and damage to the dzong in the past. Restoration is now complete with the Government of India sponsorship. The Dzong is now as magnificent as its historic times.
Festivals at Punakha Dzong
Domche is a yearly celebration held at the Dzong that attracts people from all around the region, including villages and outlying areas. There are some pretty magnificent performances during this five-day celebration, also known as the Punakha festival, which takes place in February/March. A re-enactment of the Tibetan invasion of Bhutan in 1639, in which the Tibetans were defeated, is a significant exhibit. Another annual rite at this dzong is the Lhenkey Dungchhur, which is a remembrance of departed spirits.
To conclude, the place has some amazing artwork, well-documented history and attracts a lot of visitors. In addition to these photos, watch the video below for more photos and to get a feel of the place in and around Punakha Dzong. Also, consider SUBSCRIBING to my YouTube channel.