Punakha Dzong

Nature At Its Best

Punakha Dzong is arguably the most beautiful Dzong in the country, especially in the spring when the trees bring the lush sensuality to dzong’s towering walls all whitewashed. It was second to be built in Bhutan and served as the capital and seat of the government until 1950. With the Bhutan Kings who have been crowned here, Dzong is considered to be the winter residence of the Drashtang. Guru Rinpoche prophesized the construction of Punakha Dzong predicting that a person named Namgyall will arrive at the hill that looks like an elephant. When the Zhabdrung visited Punakha, he chose the tip of the trunk of the sleeping elephant at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu as the place to build a dzong.

Punakha Dzong is 180m long and 72m wide, and the utse is six storeys high, the gold dome was built by the local ruler Gyaltsen Tenzin Rabgye. Many of the dzong’s features were added between 1744 and 1763 during the rule of the 13th ruler Sherab Wangchuk. The item he donated was the thanka named Chenmo Thondrol that depicts Zhabdrung and is exhibited to the public once a year during the tsechu festival. A brass roof for the Dzong was the gift of the seventh Dalai Lama, Kelzang Gyatso.

Access to Dzong is across the Bazam Bridge rebuilt in 2008 after the original 17th century bridge was washed away in floods that occurred in 1958. The Dzong is unusual as it has three docheys instead of two. The first (northern) courtyard is for administrative functions and houses a huge white chorten and bodhi tree. In the far left corner is a collection of stones and a shrine to the Tsochen, queen of the naga (snake spirits), whose image is to the side. The second courtyard houses the austere quarters and is separated from the first by the utse.

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