Punakha Dzong (Punthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong)
Situated on a stretch of land where two rivers – the Phochhu and the Mochhu converge, Punakha Dzong was the second Dzong to be built in Bhutan. The Dzong appears as a great anchored ship. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel built it in 1631. It was named Punthang Dechen Phodrang Dzong or ‘the Palace of Great Bliss’.
Since than Punakha became the capital of Bhutan where the successive Desids administered the country through the Dual system of government. It served as the seat of government until the reign of the second king Jigme Wangchuck. The negotiations with the British envoys all took place in this Dzong. It was also the place where Ugyen Wangchuk, Bhutan’s first hereditary king, was crowned in 1907. The first session of the National Assembly of Bhutan was also held here under King Jigme Dorjee Wangchuk in 1952.
Having been ravaged by fire, earthquakes and floods many times, Punakha Dzong has had to be rebuilt several times and always to the original specifications. It was damaged by fires in 1780, 1789, 1802, 1831, 1849, and in 1986. There was a massive earthquake in 1897 and a devastating flash flood in 1994 when the Dzongchhung, which houses the images of the Lord Buddha and Dupthob Ngagi Rinchhen was nearly washed away. According to a common folklore, the then Zhabdrung had taken a disliking to Punakha; therefore in 1835 he summoned a flood upon the area, damaging the Dzong. The Desi repaired the Dzong in 1849. Another fire in 1986 caused considerable damage to the south-West corner of the Dzong, which was the home of the Je Khenpo.
Through a desire to recover the relic of Ranjung Kharsapani the Tibetans invaded Punakha in 1639, but were defeated. In honour of the protective deities that is deemed to have played a key role in the victory over the Tibetans, Zhabdrung had an additional chapel built in the Punakha Dzong. The Punakha Damchoe is held to commemorate this famous victory every year.