Arguably the most beautiful dzong in entite Bhutan is the Punakha Dzong also known as Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzong. This dzong is located strategically at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chhu (father) and the Mo Chhu (mother) rivers. Punakha Dzong was also the administrative capital of Bhutan till 1955 after which the capital was shifted to Thimpu.
There is a very beautiful and interesting story related to how the conception of this dzong came into place. Guru Rinpoche who is also considered as the ‘Second Buddha’ is the most revered figure in Bhutan. He was a brahmin royal and is said to have born in a lotus flower and hence also called Padmasambhava. He bought Buddhism in Bhutan and have also believed to have arrived at the Tiger’s Nest monastery on the back of a flying tiger.
He blessed the land where the dzong stands today and predicted that one day a very beautiful fortress would come up on that land. One day as he was staying in Punakha for a camp he got a prophetic dream. In his dream he got the instruction to create a dzong at Punakha and secretly keep the sacred ‘Avalokiteśvara’ statue that he bought with him from Tibet. The Avalokiteśvara statue is a powerful bodhisattva which embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.
Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara/Guanyin occupies a unique place in the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. Buddhist sutras speak of several bodhisattvas but it is Avalokitesvara/Guanyin who is revered and adored by followers of both Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism and by all art lovers. He/she has acquired a status equal to the Buddha and sometimes his importance surpasses even the Buddha’s.
The Tibetans were long in search of this statue after Guru Rinpoche bought it with him from Tibet. Angered they attacked the Punakha Monastery but was defeated by the Bhutanese people. This victory celebration happens every year during the ‘Sacred Victory Festival’. This is how the conception and creation of the beautiful Punakha Dzong is described in folklore.
|Punakha Dzong from the bridge|
|Inside the Dzong|
|Staircase to the inside|
|Government offices inside dozing|