- GENERAL INFO
The Punakha Dzong straddles the confluence of two rivers and resembles a giant Battleship. Its full name is Punthang Dechen Phodrang or “Palace of great Happiness” This impressive fortress was built as far back as 1637. It was the second of the mighty Dzongs built by the Zhabdung and was the seat of power till the end of the reign of the 2nd king.
The Punakha Dzong cuts a striking picture with its imposing walls rising up from the tumbling clear water of the river and framed against startling blue skies – the row of delicately flowering Jacaranda trees around it provide a beautiful colour accent.
Approached by a suspension bridge across the Mo Chu you have to climb a flight of steps to the great entrance door that leads you to the first courtyard.
The entire Dzong is 180m long and 72m wide and the gold domed central tower (utse) is six storey high with temples on each floor – the embalmed body of Jambey Dorji , the Zabdung’s son is kept in this utse.
The second courtyard beyond the Utse is for the monks and is surrounded by prayer halls and temples while an additional 3rd courtyard at the southern end holds the Kunrey or assembly hall of the Monks. This is quite spectacular with 54 magnificent pillars and beautiful statues of Buddha, Guru Padmasambhav and the Zhabdung.
There are about 600 monks here and Punakha continues to be the winter headquarters of the Dratshang (central body of the Monks) with the Je Khempo residing here for close to 6 months of the year.
Besides its historical importance the Punakha Dzong is held in reverence since it holds the embalmed body of the Zhabdung who died here in 1651. His remains are enshrined in a Sealed Casket and only the King, Je Khempo and 2 care taker Lamas are allowed to enter.
As per Tradition, the king and Je Khempo offer prayers and are blessed here by the Zhabdung before they begin their Reign.
The Dzong was damaged by fire in the 18th century and with each reconstruction several new temples were added and this vast complex now houses 21 Lhakhangs. Unfortunately Visitors are not allowed to visit most of these.