Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the founder of Bhutanese state. It was originally named Puntang Dechen Phodrang Dzong which means the Palace of Great Bliss.
Punakha Dong was built on the 8th day and 8th month of the Fire ox year in 1673. The dzong was attacked by the Tibetan in 1639 and 1644. The attacks were successfully repelled by the defenders. To commemorate the victory, a New Year festival was introduced and Yu Gyal Gonkhang Chen Mo, “the great shrine of the protective and victorious lord” was built.
Phunakha Dzong (right) continues to be the winter home for the clergy, headed by the Chief Abbott, the Je Khenpo. It is a stunning example of Bhutanese architecture, sitting at the fork of two rivers, portraying the image of a medieval city from a distance. The dzong was destroyed by fire and glacial floods over the years but has been carefully restored and is, today, a fine example of Bhutanese craftsmanship.
The first King of modern Bhutan was crowned in Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong remained the centre of government until it was relocated to Thimphu. In 2011, the wedding of the 5th King was held in this fortress.
Best time to visit: May. Jacaranda flowers will be blooming in the courtyard of the fortress.
Chimmi Lhakhang is the temple of fertility, dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, popularly referred to as the ‘Divine Madman’.
His sexual prowess was legendary; the many flying phalluses that one sees fiercely adorning the walls of houses and hanging by the rooftops are not just symbols of fertility but a sign of people’s continuing reverence for him.
Unlike in the other temples, this is one where you get blessed by a phallus. It is popular destination for women who are unable to conceive.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten stands out on a beautiful ridge above the Punakha valley. Her Majesty built the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck it. It took 9 years to build and Holy Scriptures rather than engineering manuals were consulted to construct this 4-storey temple. It is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions. This temple has been dedicated for the well being of the kingdom, its people and all sentient beings. It is a 15-20 mins hike from the suspension bridge.
The Chorten would take a one-hour hike to approach. It offers a beautiful view of the Punakha Valley.