Punakha Dzong, also named Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong, is the oldest dzong in Punakha, Bhutan and the most famous Buddhist shrine in the country. Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637 AD, it's located at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu(the Father river and Mother river in Bhutan), at an altitude of 1463 meters. The central tower is nearly 183 meters long, 7 meters wide, 6 stories high, and rectangular in shape. At the same time, it is also a famous repository where Bhutanese Buddhist manuscripts, sacred Buddhist celebrity lists, religious paintings of different sizes and vivid portraits of religious figures are collected. In this magnificent fortress, Zhabdrung’s remain is embalmed with spices. The room placing body is off-limits to anybody except the king and senior lamas.
History and Status of Punakha Dzong
Located in west Bhutan, Punakha Dzong is the second largest Dzong in this country. It's majestic and solemn. Punakha Dzong was originally the old capital of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu in 1955. As the former capital, Punakha Dzong has witnessed the origin and history of Bhutan. It successfully helped the Bhutanese people to resist the invaders and remained strong even after the earthquake and flood.
In ancient times, Punakha Dzong was an important place for the rulers of Bhutan to live and hold ceremonies. It's now the winter palace for the chief abbot of the Zhung Dratshang (the Central Monastic Body). Every year from October 1st to next April 1st according to the Bhutanese calendar, Je Khenpo leads the central monastery lamas to remove from the summer residence of Tashicho Dzong, Thimphu, to Punakha Dzong for the winter. As a result, the Dzong occupies a prominent position in both the ethnic and religious affairs in Bhutan. In addition, Punakha Dzong is also the place where Bhutan King IV and King V held their weddings.
What Makes Punakha Dzong Such A Popular Tourist Attraction
Punakha Dzong is recognized as the most beautiful Dzong fortress in Bhutan. Walking across the traditional wooden bridge over the Punakha River, visitors can see white buildings standing tall, with red windows on the white exterior walls, dazzling and vivid. May is the most romantic moment in Punakha Dzong. The surrounding jacarandas are in full bloom, and the treetops and green areas are covered with small purple-blue flowers, which look a dreamlike paradise from afar. Different from other dzongs in Bhutan, Punakha Dzong is mainly decorated and painted. All the window lattices and wooden bars in Punakha Dzong are exquisitely carved and painted with vivid images of auspicious clouds and dragons. Not all clan fortress possess such luxury and magnanimity as the royal family in this old capital. The house elaborately carved with dragon and phoenix is said that it was once the king's palace.
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