As we return downhill through the valley, we explore the massive architectural structure of the 17th-century Punakha Dzong. The Dzong was strategically built at the confluence, the river island between the mighty Phochu and Mochu Rivers in Punakha.The construction of Punakha Dzong was completed in 1637 AD and it represented the supreme flowering Bhutanese art and architecture.
A visit to the Punakha Dzong also presents an opportunity to see the resident monks during their daily prayers. The Monastery is also the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks.
Khamsum Yueling Temple
There is no temple in Bhutan built elaborately as this. Khamsum Yueling Temple is a great temple to study the symbolic meanings from frescoes and sculptures. The chorten was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in Bhutan & the world.
The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chhu and up towards the mountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond. The view of the valley and the surrounding snow-capped mountains are stunning, the setting of the chorten is idyllic, the atmosphere tranquil and the interior artwork depicting the teaching of Dudjom Rinpoche are magnificent. Linger long at this chorten, relaxing and simply appreciating the harmonious beauty of the location.
The presence of monasteries and red-robed monks throughout the country demonstrates the importance of Buddhism in almost every aspect of Bhutanese life. Every district in Bhutan has a Dzong that houses the official monk body as well as several temples.
Stroll around the community temple and take a leisurely walk down through the village center. The concept of the Village Walk is to facilitate an authentic ’underfoot’ experience and provide a ’snapshot’ of rural life in the Himalayan Mountains of Bhutan. As an honored guest, the locals are keen to share their way of life with you.
The Monastery of Chorten Nebu, was built in the eighteenth century and is a little known about. It holds a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and fine images of the great lamas of the Drukpa Lineage. According to legend, this magical spot was once a dense forest inhabited by evil spirits.
In 2005 the Monastery started housing poor orphans from the nearby village and founded a small Buddhist educational institution for these little monks, a place where the children can study both traditional Buddhist scriptures and texts, and also learning Western subjects such as English, math and science in order to be equipped to survive in the modern world, whether as a monk or a lay person.
The walk to Chorten Ningpo passes through several villages. Many visitors love this walk in summer and in autumn. For adventure loving hard core walkers we recommend a detour to Hokotso, a lowland lake that holds many legends.
A half an hour walk across a local village and rice fields from the road head, Chimi Lhakhang was built in 1499 and is located on a hillock in the center of the valley. Chimi Lhakhang was dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley, who in the late 15th century used humor, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings and hence is also known as the “Divine MadMan. Do not miss the master’s deeds painted on the walls.
Nalanda Buddhist College
On your way back from Talo village to Punakha you have a choice to pay a visit to Nalanda Buddhist College. Chat up with monks in English; the monks here are dying to practice the new language they learn. Meet the reincarnated Tulku (if in residence) to talk about meditation, the processes of meditation and its importance in daily Buddhist practice.
Sangchen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery
While in recess at Mesina on his journey to Thimphu from Punakha, the late Je Khenpo Geshe Gueden Rinchen was said to have looked at a hilltop facing him, and predicted a monastery would be built there one day. That was a decade or so ago. Today, perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking the valleys of Toebesa, Punakha and Wangduephodrang, gleams the magnificent structures of Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup lhakhang.
The nunnery complex, consisting of 70 rooms, started with 41 nuns in October 2010. The complex is a model nunnery. The nunnery compound houses a permanent higher learning and meditation center for nuns where, apart from religious training, it provides life skill training such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making and thangka painting.