Pungtang Dechen Phodrang (meaning “the palace of great blissness”), most popularly known as Punakha Dzong today, was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal , the founder of the Palden Drukpa Zhung in 1637. It is the second oldest dzong in Bhutan. This structure was first constructed after the formation of the first official government. Its leader Zhabdrung made it the capital of Buthan. However, the capital was shifted to Thimphu (present capital) during the reign of the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
This Dzong has played a vital role as a historical benchmark of Bhutan eversince its construction. The Machen Lhakhang, a temple inside the Dzong, enshrines the mummified body of Zhabdrung, who passed away in 1651 while in retreat in this temple. It was in this very Dzong that the first king of Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned on 17 December 1907. Ever since, all the monarchs of Bhutan have been crowned in this Dzong.
Today it serves as the District administrative centre of Punakha as well as a winter residence for the monk body. Like every other Dzongs in Bhutan, Punakha Dzong exhibits Tshechu annually. It is a special religious and historical festival consisting in a variety of mask dances.
written by: Jigme Namgyel