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

Forging the Unbeaten Trail Towards Wangdue Nye

When you dedicate year 2020 to hike on unbeaten trails in Bhutan.

Jan 21, 2020 10:58

Make Your Own Personalised Stamps And Discover Bhutan’s Postal...

The Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimphu is also a major tourist attraction.

Jan 18, 2020 21:08

Discover The Hidden Gems Of Trashiyangtse In Eastern Bhutan

Till date, the eastern part of Bhutan is still relatively unexplored as compared to the western region.

Jan 11, 2020 23:48


Just because your bank account doesn’t boast a whole bunch of extra zeroes on your monthly statement doesn’t mean you...

Jan 11, 2020 20:51

Haa Plans To Set Up 100 More Homestays To Promote Eco-Tourism In...

Haa’s unique selling point is that it is a green dzongkhag with a clean environment and rich cultural heritage.

Jan 10, 2020 15:18

Why You Must Visit Chimmi Lhakhang – The Famous Fertility Temple...

Although Chimmi Lhakhang is made popular by the most revered figure ‘the divine madman’ who carried the thunderbolt of...

Jan 03, 2020 11:27



Foothills Festival- The Southerners Cultural Carnival

The festival showcases Sarpangs unique culture, natural resources and local products while offering some fun and rewarding challenges...

Jan 27, 2020 13:27

USD 25.3m Green Climate Fund To Address Climate Change Adaption In Bhutan

The project can help address climate change adaptation challenges facing Bhutan, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Jan 15, 2020 16:28


Bhutan Embarks On Green Financing Roadmap, To Mitigate Climate Change Impact

A Joint Learning Program on ‘Inclusive green finance’ was held in the capital, Thimphu from 20-22 January 2020.

Jan 27, 2020 20:28

Losar Tashi Delek - How The Bhutanese Celebrate The Year Of The Male Iron Rat

According to the Bhutanese calendar, Losar falls on 25-26 January this year.

Jan 26, 2020 18:28


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

Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08


Economic Roadmap Needed To Steer Bhutan Towards Higher GDP Growth

The Lyonchhen said that the economic figures will improve in 2020 as 70 percent of the capital investments still lie unused.

Jan 17, 2020 23:38

Celebrating Bhutan’s entrepreneurs: Tashi Wangdi of iHub

This story is part of an exclusive feature by Yeewong Magazine in Dec 2018 on celebrating entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

Jan 12, 2020 23:38


Forging the Unbeaten Trail Towards Wangdue Nye

When you dedicate year 2020 to hike on unbeaten trails in Bhutan.

Jan 21, 2020 10:58

Make Your Own Personalised Stamps And Discover Bhutan’s Postal History At The Postal Museum

The Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimphu is also a major tourist attraction.

Jan 18, 2020 21:08


Bhutan- The Wedding Destination in Asia

Bhutan, a Himalayan kingdom, is a landlocked country located between China and India. With its reputation for mystery and magic, stunning...

Jan 23, 2020 09:07

Relish Your Taste Buds With 8 Delectable Bhutanese Staple Food

One of the best places to try authentic Bhutanese cuisine is through a homestay, where you will get to sample what most locals eat at home.

Jan 19, 2020 21:08

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!