Located in the Bhutanese State and formerly named Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong that translates to “the palace of bliss or great happiness,” Punakha Dzong was built in 1637.
The founder of Bhutanese State, Zhabdrung Ngawayang Namgyel himself chose the location and built this emblem of the Bhutanese religious architecture.
Reportedly, this specular Dzong was built in a year between 1637 and 1638. Punakha Dzong takes pride as the second oldest and also the second largest Dzong in the country. The building has become one of the most frequented tourist attractions.
Guru Rinpoche Predicted This Fortress
Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), the founder of the Tibetan Buddhism prophesied that a person by the name Namgyel would arrive at a hill that resembled an elephant. And true to his words, Namgyel built this fortress.
Served as the Government’s Central Location until the Mid-1950s
For many years, Punakha Dzong served as the seat or the central location for the Government of Bhutan, although they later relocated to Thimphu. The auspicious fortress remains the Punakha’s District Administrative Center housing a several religious relics. Besides, in 2011, the fort served as the venue for the wedding of the 5th King.
Despite Attacks, Earthquakes, and Fires, Punakha Still Stands Strong
In 1939 and 1944, the Tibetan attacked Dzong but thanks to its defenders, the attack was averted, and the palace survived to stand the test of time.
And to commemorate the victory, they introduced a New Year Festival. They then built Gyal Gonkhang Chen Mo, meant to be “the great shrine for the protective victorious Lord.”
What Makes Punakha Dzong Such a Unique Tourist Attraction?
Being the second build and second largest Dzong, Punakha Dzong measures 180m long and 72m wide. Punakha Dzong sits at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu Rivers. To access the Dzong, you’ll need to cross the Bazam Bridge, rebuilt in 2008 after severe floods swept away the original bridge built in the 17th century.
Instead of having the normal two Docheys or courtyards like the rest of the Dzongs, Punakha Dzong is somewhat unique in that it features three Docheys. The northern yard is where all the administrative functions take place and have a large white Stupa and a Bodhi tree.
Further, the utse (central tower) stands six stories high. Usually, you enter from the second Dorche. But the third Dorche is the most important as it has the main temple, which houses the national treasures. Unfortunately, they’ll not allow you into the treasury. Only the two guardians, lama, the king, and the Je Khenpo can access it.
As a tourist here, you can't fail to view the one-hundred pillar hall featuring exquisite murals. The inside of the Dzong is beautifully decorated with carved woodwork and colourful paintings.
Besides, the Nag Yul Bum Temple houses the original volume of the Kanjur, which is the golden holy book of the Drupka School of Thought.
What’s the Best Time to Visit Punakha Dzong?
For the best experience, visit the spectacular fortress in May. On the courtyard of this magnificent building, the jacaranda flowers have started to bloom.