About Dochula Pass
Dochula Pass is a beautiful mountain pass located between Thimphu and Punakha in Bhutan. Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the eldest Queen Mother of Bhutan built 108 memorial chortens known as “Druk Wangyal Chortens” at Dochula Pass in honour of the fourth king, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The chortens were built adjacent to the country’s first Royal Botanical Park.
The Dochula Pass is a historical landmark built to honour the bravery and sacrifices of the fourth king and the soldiers who perished during the battle against Assamese insurgents in 2003. It particularly marks the victory of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck who dislodged the rebels from their camps (there were 30 camps) in Bhutanese territory from where they raided Indian territory of Assam. After the war, the King went back to Thimphu on 28 December 2003. Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck commanded for the 108 chortens to be built. The construction of the chortens was completed in mid-June 2004 and formally consecrated and sanctified with religious rites on 19–20 June 2004.
108 memorial chortens at Dochula Pass
The chortens were built in three layers; the first lowest layer has forty-five chortens, the second has thirty-six and the top layer has twenty-seven built around the main chorten. The construction of these chortens was done as per religiously ordained ritualistic procedures. As the height of the chortens attained 1m, a pit was excavated in the ground in the centre, and symbolically offerings of grains and bronze utensils filled with butter were placed in the pit. At the next stage, as the height of chortens increased, images of Buddhist gods made of clay stuffed with papers inscribed with prayers were interred. Following that, which is considered the "vital stage", the fixing of the sokshing meaning "the life tree of the chorten" was erected. The sokshing, which is believed to provide a link between heaven and earth within a chorten, is in the form of a long square wooden pole made from a juniper tree made by an individual who has appropriate qualities from an astrological point of view. The pole was painted in red colour and inscribed with sacred hymns and banded with religious paraphernalia such as gilded images of gods, prayer bells, small clay stupas, and also precious stones and jewellery. The sokshing was then wrapped around by silk cloth and then fixed in the partly built chorten on an auspicious day.
Breathtaking view from Dochula Pass
Dochula Pass is one of the main highlights for many tourists. You can never take a bad photo at the stunning Dochula Pass. In fact, if you are lucky, you can even see the Himalayan range in full view on a clear day from the mountain pass. Gangkar Puensem at 7,158 metres (23, 484 ft), the tallest unclimbed mountain in the world, can be seen from Dochula Pass.
If you are going to Punakha (the old capital) from the current capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, you’ll definitely pass through Dochula Pass. The pass was part of an ancient trail between Thimphu and Punakha, such as the Dochu La Nature Trail [1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi)] which begins at the Dochu La cafe and meets the present road at Lamperi, and the Lumitsawa Ancient Trail [4.7 kilometres (2.9 mi)] that connect the main road at Lumitsawa. Both trails are sections of the original route.
What is the best time to visit Dochula Pass
The weather at the pass generally remains foggy and chilly. However, between October and February, panoramic views of the Bhutan Himalayas can be seen. The Dochula Pass remains beautiful in all seasons. Sometimes, you may even see snowfall at Dochula Pass and capture the chortens majestically covered in snow.
What can you see at Dochula Pass
The forest cover on the slopes of the pass consists of cypress trees. The hill slopes around the pass are festooned with a profusion of colourful religious flags fixed by the Buddhists as a mark of veneration. The flags, made in five colours representing the natural forces, — "blue (sky), white (clouds), red (fire), green (water) and yellow (earth)" – are inscribed with Buddhist scriptural prayers to usher prosperity and peace around the country.
Beautiful flowers around Dochula Pass
After the Losar festival in February, which marks the Bhutanese New Year, and as the snow melts, the pass provides a spectacle of many species of flowers such as the Primal Denticulata, Primula Garcilipes, rhododendrons and Magnolia campbellii. Another fragrant plant, which people come to enjoy, is the Daphne which is a small shrub which blooms with white flowers amidst an array of prayer flags that are fixed on the slopes. The bark of this plant is used to make paper which is a traditional paper used for writing religious scriptures as it is termite-free.
Druk Wangyal Lhakhang
Apart from the chortens, there is a monastery built nearby called the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang. The monastery was built against the backdrop of pristine forest of the snow-covered Himalayan mountains. The construction was completed in June 2008. The temple was built as a memorial to celebrate 100 years of monarchy in Bhutan. Paintings on themes of Bhutanese history decorate the walls of the temple. Some of the paintings include the fourth King fighting Indian rebels in the forest, monks with laptops, and a Drukair plane.
Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival
The open ground in front of the monastery is a venue for the annual Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. The Dochula Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a Bhutanese festival held annually on December 13. The festival is unique in Bhutan and the performances are unlike any other festivals. Usually, monks and laity are the ones who performed during a Bhutanese festival but Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival is performed by the Royal Bhutan Army. This festival was established in 2011 to commemorate victory of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Armed Forces in 2003. A special Tsechu was composed for the occasion by Dasho Karma Ura which involved costumed mask dances. It is a tribute to the wise leadership of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck and to celebrate the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Himalayan mountain range.
Other popular attractions in Thimphu and places of interest in Punakha.