Punakha was the setting for some of the most significant historic events in the country. It was here that the dual system of governance was first established, the first King of Bhutan was enthroned, and the first session of the National Assembly was held. It was the capital of Bhutan from 1651 and remained the seat of government till 1954. Today, it continues to be the winter residence for the monastic body. It consists of eleven administrative counties.
|Surface area||1108.26 sq. kilometers|
|Altitude||1,200 to 4,800 meters above sea level|
Getting to Punakha
Punakha is about 3 hours drive from Thimphu. You will pass through the 3050 meters high Dochula pass. On a clear day at the pass, you will get a breathtaking view of several eastern Himalayan mountain peaks. There is a beautiful assembly of the 108 Druk Wangyel Chortens, and on a hillock over looking these Chortens is the Druk Wangyel Lhakhang. The scores of fluttering prayer flags adorn the entire pass.
Places of Interest
Punakha Dzong: (also known as the Punthang Dewa Chengpoi Phodrang, the Palace of Great Bliss): The Dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. In a deviation from the usual positioning of Dzongs on hilltops, this Dzong is located at the lower end of the valley at the confluence two rivers, referred to as the Pho Chhu (the male river) and the Mo Chhu (female river). The Dzong houses several sacred temples including the Machhey (embalmed body) of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal lies in state.
Chhimi Lhakhang: This temple honors Lama Drukpa Kuenley (1455-1529) who is known to have subdued a large number of demons in Bhutan using unorthodox methods. It is believed that the goddess Palden Lhamo appeared in a vision and told Lama Drukpa Kuenley to propogate the Drukpa tradition in Bhutan.
There are several other temples and religious sites in Punakha. Apart from these, the main festivals held in the Dzong are well-known throughout the country. The warm weather in Punakha provides a pleasant respite from the cold during winters.