Monday, 29 September 2014

Destination Punakha Dzong

If I had to choose my favorite structure, It would be the bridges without any hesitation. Bhutan renewed my fascination for bridges with their traditional cantilever bridge called the Bazam. Tintin's knowledge about architecture was limited. My questions on the location of  the toilets, kitchens inside the Dzong  or how the water supply/ drainage worked  and other queries must have driven him mad or made him think that the mountain air had made me go bonkers. So my hopes of understanding the bridge through Tintin was futile.

Punakha Dzong is undoubtedly one of the most elegant structures in Bhutan.  To get to the main building , one has to cross Mo chhu through one of the most beautiful bridges I have come across so far.

Most buildings in Bhutan are a replica of their ancient self. Due to natural calamities or fire, almost all the prominent sites in Bhutan have been rebuilt in the recent years. The Punakha bridge is no different. You can read more about it here.

Architecture dominated most popular sites but as mentioned earlier , it was the mythical stories that made it exotic. Now only if Tintin could spin stories! But lets start with the visuals of the Palace of great happiness.

Can you visualize a sleeping elephant's trunk at the confluence of Po Chhu and Mo chhu? I couldn't!

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built the Dzong in 1637

 The entrance to the Dzong

The 6 storey Utse or the central tower

The kuenrey or the assembly hall houses 35 feet high Buddha Shahkyamuni, 28 feet high Guru  Padmasambava(Rinpoche) and Shabdrung

Machey Lhakhang-the temple where the remains of the terton , Pema Lingpa, and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal are preserved.

Now the architect ( incarnate/divine carpenter) of the dzong was  Zowe Palep/Balep. Like with most clients, Mr Balep was given detailed instructions on how the dzong has to be designed leaving little scope for his own creativity. Unlike the long boring meetings architects go through to in this day and age, Zowe was ordered by Mr Shabdrung (This guy was the Sobha or DLF of his times) to fall asleep for 3 night. I know we fall asleep every night. But the architect was ordered to fall asleep in Shabdrung's presence.That made it magical!

Since the walk through concepts was a couple of centuries away, Truelpie Zowe's dreams became the 3D max presentation by Shabdrung. He was shown the visuals of the copper clad mountain , the palace of  Guru Rinpoche's and voila ...we have the most incredibly beautiful Dzong. But it was a build up of dreams, a slow and steady process. So the first night it was a dreamless snooze, the second night was a trip to the seat of Ralung ( Tibet), on the third night it was Zangdo pelri the palace of the Guru. Talk about  time travel!

One of the vendors for this mega project was  Tsochen/Tshomen, the queen of Nagas . Tintin told us she was a mermaid but Google proclaims she was the queen of spirit of snakes. So is she a half woman half snake or Half women half fish?  Tsochen supplied the stones mined from the river and some of it is enshrined in the temple dedicated to her. Other vendors not to be forgotten were Goendrap and Ap Kachep who supplied the cypress timber. Unfortunately though these guys are the local deities there is no shrine in the Dzong dedicated to them.I guess they were full human.

Like the queen, the women of Bhutan use ornaments made of silver,gold,turquoise , corals and the craft of making them is called Troe - Ko. I am sure it is the second most important craft for women considering the desire for jewelery is universal.

Punakha Dzong is a very important places for the royalty, the monks and the commoners. Here's wishing them the vase of treasure which symbolizes an endless rain of long life, wealth and all the benefits of this world and liberation

Punakha Dzong today and how it looked in 1905

Date : September 2014
Place : Punakha, Bhutan

Tip : look at the structure of the assembly hall to understand the concept of nail less construction
First : Wooden cantilever Bridge
The travel connection : Royalty

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