Home of Happiness “PUNAKHA”, The Top Tourist destination.
Punakha is a town situated in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. It is one of the 20 districts of Bhutan and the administrative centre of Punakha dzongkhag. Until 1955, Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of the government, after which the capital was shifted to Thimphu. The trail from Thimphu to Punakha is quite magnificent and takes travelers over the well-known Dochula Pass, which represents interesting monuments along its route and offers the splendid opportunity to see the great Himalayan Mountain Range.
The time it takes to reach Punakha is about two and half hours by car with a distance of about 72 km from Thimphu. The climate in Punakha is hot in the summer and warm in the winter. The main cash crop grown in Punakha is rice since Punakha is 1200 meters above sea level. The widely spoken dialect in the district is Dzongkha.
Punakha Dzong the Administrative Seat
Punakha Dzong is also known as Pungthang Dewachen Phodrang. It was constructed by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1637 and believed to have been completed in two years. It is also the country’s most beautiful Dzong. It is the winter abode of Bhutan’s Central Monastic Body led by the Je Khenpo. The Dzong houses the most revered relics consisting of the Rangjung Kasarpani, and the sanctified remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Tertoen Pema Lingpa. It was the site of the coronation of Ugyen Wangchuck as the first King of Bhutan in 1907.
Two of Bhutan’s important rivers unite in Punakha. At their convergence is the grandiose Punakha Dzong, a supreme spectacle. These rivers also habitat endangered species of white-bellied herons. The main reason why Punakha Dzong attracts more tourists is because of its magnificent structures. Chimi Lhakhang Temple is considered to be the temple of fertility that was blessed by the Divine Madman, Drukpa Kinley (1455–1529). Around the Punakha valley, there are also wonderful day hikes into traditional villages.
Festivals In Punakha
One of the greatest tourist attractions is the Punakha Tshechu. It pays tribute to Guru Rinpoche and introduces the tantric Buddhist teaching to all the people. Punakha Tshechu is a precious festival celebrated specially held after the Domchoe.
Many tourists experience the best ancient living culture of Bhutan in Punakha. It’s a great opportunity to honor Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
You can enjoy different types of mask dances performed by monks with different dresses and chants. The day ends with Thongdrel of great saints like Guru Rinpoche. That gives a blessing and sets up a good life ahead. It is one of the best moments that you will ever enjoy in your life.
Secret Relic of The Kingdom – Rangjung Kharsapani
Secret relic Rangjung Kharsapani is the Kingdom’s National Treasure. It was brought by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel from his monastery at Ralung in Tibet. Rangjung means ‘self-created’ and Kharsapani means Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig in Bhutanese. The self-created statue of ‘Rangjung Kharsapani’ (Avalokiteshvara) had appeared astoundingly from the vertebra of Tsangpa Gyare, the founder of Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Mahayana Buddhism. It was found in the cremated remains of Tsangpa Gyare. This relic has one face and two arms with lotus stalks in the left hand and the right hand in a position of protection.
It is widely believed that just having a glimpse of the Rangjung Kharsapani is equivalent to seeing the Avalokiteshvara in real life. Buddhist believe that every person whose heart is moved by love and compassion, who deeply and sincerely acts for the benefit of others without concern for fame, profit, social position, or recognition expresses the activity of Chenrezig. Love and compassion are the true signs revealing the presence of Chenrezig in him or her.
Among the most significant sections of the dzong that were completely reconstructed were the Machen Lhakhang where the sacred relics of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal rest in thudam (everlasting retreat), the Kuenrey (congregation hall), the Tsen Chhorten which houses the eight sandalwood Chhorten, and the Je Zimchung, and monks’ living areas. The complete atmosphere around the dzong was given a facelift and the banks of the rivers secured against major floods in future.
The three-storey Machen Lhakhang was built out of Cyprus wood with four entrance pillars intricately marked with religious symbols in gold and silver. The inside of the Lhakhang has been decorated with fundamental and rich murals and frescoes depicting the teachings of Lord Buddha. The images of seven incarnations of the Zhabdrung were also installed in the Lhakhang. An ornate 15-foot Kudung Chhorten was installed, made of sandalwood and encased in silver and gold and adorned with jewels like corals, pearls, turquoise, and other precious stones. It was constructed by 20 craftsmen over four years.
Chimi Lhakhang Monastery
Chimi Lhakhang monastery is similar to other monasteries. It just has a lot more phalluses. This monastery also known as the Fertility temple was originally built back in 1499 AD on a short hill. This fertility-focused monastery is dedicated to Buddhism’s “Divine Madman”. In addition, he was ‘the monk of 5000 women’, his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, humor and outrageous behavior, was shocking and has many sexual overtones.
Visiting Chimi Lhakhang, located in Punakha, requires district level permission. However, a tourist guide will help you with the necessary permissions. The daily tariff to stay in Bhutan can be super expensive for outsiders other than a few countries in the Indian subcontinent and a guide is a must. Chimi Lhakhang is on the way to Punakha Dzong. It is just over 100 kilometers from Paro and 65 kilometers from Thimphu. But it takes 2-3 hours to drive in the mountains. Meanwhile, reaching the Chimi Lhakhang monastery from the highway is an approx one-kilometer hike. The hike is scenic, crossing the paddy fields, via the Yowakha village full of handicraft stores, paintings, and prayer flags. Also, the hike can be even more pleasing if you take the back entrance, next to the Puna Tsang Chu River.
Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Temple
There is no temple in Bhutan built as elaborately as this. This fascinating temple was built by the Queen Mother of the 5th King to bring universal peace to this nation and to our fifth king. The best of the spiritual artworks are painted on the inner walls. There are also paintings of Buddhist teachers and tutelary deities of the country and this is a great temple to study the symbolic meanings from frescoes and sculptures.
Rafting Available in Punakha
Bhutan’s rivers are untainted, fresh and lucid, fed by the glacial-lakes of the Eastern Himalayas. Six major rivers (Wang Chhu, Sunkosh, Puna Tsang Chhu, and Mangde Chhu, KuriChhu and Dangme Chhu and their tributaries) are scouted for kayaking and rafting.
Rafting and kayaking provide a unique opportunity to explore Bhutan’s beautiful wilderness through the pristine natural setting and variety of the river courses. The river currents vary during the course of its path. There are painless routes for beginners and terrifying runs for the adventurous. The best time for rafting and kayaking is from March to April and November to December. The guides are also well trained to ensure tourists enjoy the adventure.
Agricultural Farming In Punakha
Punakha valley is renowned for rice farming. Both red and white rice are grown alongside the rivers of Pho and Mo Chu. Ritsha (meaning at the base of a hill) is a distinctive village in Punakha. The houses in the village are made using mud and stones. Each house is only two stories high and are surrounded by gardens and the rice fields. The gardens also usually have fruit-bearing plants like oranges and papaya among other organic vegetables.
The village is 1 km away from Punakha-Gasa high-way. In recent years, the farming work is becoming mechanized and power-tillers instead of bullocks are used to plough the fields, and villagers have become relatively prosperous. This village is often called the ‘rice bowl’ of Bhutan due to the abundance of red and white rice. It served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953.
Punakha is the greatest place for tourists to visit and the place is blessed with great happiness from Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, Guru Rinpoche and other great saints. The best time to visit Bhutan from May to March and November to September. Bhutan is famously known as a carbon negative free country and consists of 72 percent of forest coverage. If you want to know more about Punakha, all you need to do is register yourself and book the travel agent tour in Bhutan. This would also make sure that Bhutan would give quality services and hospitality at the same time. Experience unique cultures and traditions of Bhutan in life through Druk Heritage Tours. Make you stay well in Bhutan and take the best memories when you go back home.