Punakha Dzong- The Must Visit Fairy Tale Fortress in Bhutan


Punakha served as Bhutan’s capital for over 300 glorious years, which still serves as the winter residence of the Zhung Dratshang (the Central monastic body).




Punakha served as Bhutan’s capital for over 300 glorious years, which still serves as the winter residence of the Zhung Dratshang (the Central monastic body). The first king, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck was crowned here in 1907 and the third king convened the Bhutan National assembly in Punakha dzong for the first time in 1952.

In the southernmost courtyard is the temple where the mortal remains of Terton Pema Lingpa and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal are preserved  in the Machey Lhakhang (machey means sacred embalmed body), which was rebuilt in 1995. Other than two guardian lamas, only the king and the Je Khenpo are allowed to enter the room.



To this very day, one can actually see the first coded law of the kingdom engraved in letters of gold on slates displayed on the chorten (stupa) which sits directly below the Dzongchung (mini-dzong or fort) in the front courtyard of the dzong entrance. Over 400 years ago, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal wrote the Chayig Chenmo and used it to unite the country. Today, the code of law is with the Zhung Dratshang and the state monks still abide by it. This is the tradition of the Dharma King of Bhutan.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is revered as the founder of Bhutan. He introduced statecraft, which has its root deeply embedded in Buddhism. Zhabdrung strengthened the Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Buddhism and became the head of the state with the title of Zhabdrung, also known as Dharma Raja, which means The King of Righteous Law. During his 38 years in Bhutan, he used the code of law to unite the minds of the Bhutanese and develop the first system of governance.

Before the Chayig Chenmo was introduced, there was no real law in the country. For example, each region had its own law and each place had its own religious system. There was no universal value or common interest to bind the people. So when the code of law was introduced it became the common denominator and many of the Bhutanese ungrudgingly followed it.



In 2008, The Present King, Jigme Gesar Namgyal Wangchuk recieved the scared Dhar or scarf on 1st November as per tradition in Punakha Dzong and was crowned the 5th King of Bhutan. His Majesty received the sacred Dar-Na-Nga from the Holy Machhen (the 357-year-old embalmed body of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal), in the presence of the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness the Je Khenpo, yesterday morning at the Puna Dechen Phodrang Dzong in Punakha.

The Dar-Na-Nga are the five sacred sashes of silk bearing five colors (representing the five elements) blessed by the Holy Machhen each time a royal successor to the Dragon Throne is invested as the king.



Most significantly the wedding of King Jigme Khersar Namgyal Wangchuk and Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck took place on 13 October 2011 in Punakha Dzong. Ever since the Royal Wedding, Punakha dzong has attracted international tourists and local who wishes to exchange marriage vows near the vicinity for the true a royal wedding experience.



Punakha has one of the most famous festivals in the kingdom, the springtime Domchoe , dedicated to the protector deity Yeshe Goenpo (Mahakala). At the south end is the hundred-pillar assembly hall (which actually has only 54 pillars). The exquisite murals that were commissioned by the second Druk Desi depict the life of Buddha.

The giant statues of the Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and the Zhabdrung date back to the mid-18th century and there are some fine gold panels on the eight main pillars of the alter.

Bhutan’s most treasured possession is the Rangjung (‘Self-Created) Kharsapani, an image of Chenrizig kept in the Tse Lhakhang in the Utse of the dzong. It was brought to Bhutan from Tibet by the Zhabdrung and features in Punakha’s famous Dromchoe festival which actually depicts the several war victories over the Tibetans.



Punakha dzong is 180m long and 72m wide.  Every three years during Punakha Dromchoe, a giant mural (probably the largest thangka in the world) covering the entire length and breadth of the six storey high building  is unfurled for the public. The thongdrel’s central image is the Zhabdrung encircled by miniatures of successive Je Khenpos (chief abbots) and other deities which truly is a work of fine silk embroidery, art and cultural heritage.



Punakha Dzong is well known for its magnificent architecture. The fortress in one of the must visit landmark in Bhutan. Hundreds of tourists travel to Punakha to visit the magnificent Dzong. 

During the spring season, lilac colored jacaranda flowers spread against the whitewashed towering wall envelope the dzong. The dzong gives viewers one of the most instagrammable photo quality.

Punakha dzong is extraordinary in the sense that it has three Docheys (courtyards) instead of the usual two found in other fortress in Bhutan. The first (northern) courtyard is for administrative functions which houses a huge whitewashed Stupa and a lofty bodhi tree. In the far left corner are a collection of stones and a shrine dedicated to the Tsomen, queen of the nagas (snake spirits) whose image lies to the side.

The second courtyard houses the monastic quarters and is separated from the first by the Pinnacle (utse). In this courtyard, there are two halls, one of which was used by the first king Ugyen Wangchuck where John Claude White presented him with the Order of Knight Commander of the Indian empire in 1905.



A flood washed the original roofed wooden cantilever bridge, built together with the Dzong in the 17th century away in 1958. However,  today the sacred Punakha Dzong has regained its full beauty, harmony and spirituality when the PUNA MOCHHU BAZAM, the cantilever bridge adapted traditional Bhutanese architecture.



Related Posts

The Significance of Jela Dzong

The journey towards the most popular Druk Path Trek starts with a short climb up to Jela Dzong. Jela Dzong is perched...

Sep 19, 2020 13:57

The Longest Urban Hiking Trail from PangriZampa to Lungtenphu,...

This trail is a less explored pocket of paradise for trekkers and wanderers who are in search of natures hospitality and...

Aug 05, 2020 10:40

Tomorrow is the Most Auspicious Day of the Year at Paro Taksang.

Even before the gilded door to this holy site is open, pilgrims from all walks of life from all over the country flock...

Jul 19, 2020 20:53

Trailing Dodeydra Monastery through the scenic route from...

Did You Know The holy spring water near the monastery is supposed to aid those whose hearing is impaired.

Jul 13, 2020 22:57

Reasons why one should visit Druk Wangditse Lhakhang

The temple is reconstructed to its glory and is dedicated to his majesty the king of Bhutan.

Jul 08, 2020 14:43

You cannot travel to Bhutan without tour guides - Featuring Mr...

In this series, Dailybhutan speaks to licensed tour guide Mr Tobgay who is one of the most senior and experienced tour...

Jun 21, 2020 21:07



Australia supports Bhutan in its COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery

Extending support to Bhutan in its fight against COVID-19, the Australian Government has supplied medical equipment in response to the Royal...

Sep 22, 2020 09:39

Virtual Tsechu in Bhutan amid Pandemic.

Tsechu (Festival ) is one of the biggest religious celebrations of the Bhutanese year in every district in Bhutan. Tsechu has been held...

Sep 21, 2020 12:38


The Heart Shaped Stone- Story to remember while you hike through Phobjikha Nature Trail.

Interesting Stories from the Trail

Sep 09, 2020 18:29

View from the Sky For Every Travellers Flying into Bhutan

Despite Boeing ranking Paro airport as 'one of the world's most difficult for takeoffs and landings, the views over the clear blue waters...

Aug 06, 2020 14:25


Football clubs in Bhutan gearing up for Bhutan Premier League (BPL) 2020

Bhutan Premier League (BPL), the top national football tournament in Bhutan is set to commence on August 1.

Jul 24, 2020 14:33

Karma – Female Archer From Bhutan Qualified For Tokyo 2020 Olympic Quota

Karma has been specialising in Olympics-style archery since 2009.

Nov 30, 2019 13:18


Are Local Vendors Earning More Money Than the Civil Servant?

A Farmer from Lango, Paro gave up farming to be vendor while office goers are switching into agriculture as the remedy to curb their...

Jul 27, 2020 19:15

Once the booming Handicraft Shops in Paro Dying- Paro Today

Paro town looks so different in its history as tourist destination in Bhutan.

Jun 24, 2020 16:58


The Significance of Jela Dzong

The journey towards the most popular Druk Path Trek starts with a short climb up to Jela Dzong. Jela Dzong is perched on top of the...

Sep 19, 2020 13:57

The Longest Urban Hiking Trail from PangriZampa to Lungtenphu, Thimphu

This trail is a less explored pocket of paradise for trekkers and wanderers who are in search of natures hospitality and solitude away from...

Aug 05, 2020 10:40


Food on Wheels- First of its kind in Bhutan

The World's Largest Fast Food Restaurant Chains doesn't exist in Bhutan.

Mar 04, 2020 09:39

Amazing Stories from the Eastern Part of Bhutan

You can't say you have visited the eastern part of Bhutan unless you have experienced the following bizarre things.

Mar 02, 2020 19:02

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!