Being the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan, the Punakha Dzong, often referred to as the ‘Palace of Happiness’, is also the country’s most gorgeous and majestic dzong. This spectacular emblem of Bhutanese religious architecture sits right at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu rivers and is perhaps the obvious key to unlocking Bhutan’s secrets.
The dzong is believed to be prophesied by Guru Rinpoche. The ‘one hundred pillar hall’, which has exquisite murals, is a sight to see. The Nag Yul Bum Temple has an original volume of the Kanjur, the holy book of the Drukpa school of thought, in gold.
Its proper name is Pungthang Dechen Phodrang, which means the Palace of Great Happiness. The Dzong was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637-38. The Dzong was damaged by flood, earth quake and several times by fire and was rebuilt each time to its original grandeur. The Dzong houses the most sacred relics of the Drukpa Kagyu school including the Rangjung Kasarpani, and the mummified remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who passed away here in 1651. In 1907 (on 17 Dec) Punakha Dzong was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan. It is the district administrative center of Punakha Dzongkhag and the winter home of Bhutan’s Central Monastic Body led by HH the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot).
Punakha is accessible from a 3 hours drive east of the capital Thimphu, and after crossing a pass in the mountains, the place is a breathtaking and glorious sight on the first glimpse from the road.
Punakha Dzong is joined to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge and contains many precious relics from the days when successive kings reigned the kingdom over this valley. Furthermore, it is blessed with a temperate climate, and lovely lilac colored jacaranda trees grow around the Dzong during the spring season.