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Punakha

Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It continues to remain the winter seat of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot. The city enjoys a temperate climate and is fed by the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers. The valley of Punakha is considered to be the most fertile agricultural terrain in the country. It offers spectacular views from the Dochu-la pass which is 3,088 m/10,130 ft above sea level on the Thimphu - Punakha highway.

Punakha Dzong

Punakha Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as both the religious and administrative center of the entire region. The dzong is located at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers at a strategic point. The Punakha Dzong has experienced extensive damage over the centuries owing to four catastrophic fires and a major earthquake. The dzong has been completely restored in recent years by the present reigning monarch. The dzong is open for visitors during the Punakha festival which is held during early spring and summer each year after the monks return to Thimphu.

ChimeLhakhang

ChimeLhakhang is a small 15th century temple. It is located on a hillock. Today, it is one of the most revered and visited temples in Bhutan. Devotees from all over the world and from as far as Japan throng the temple. The couples who visit the Lhakhang are blessed by a replication of the iron bow and arrows of Drukpa Kuenley, his scriptures and the phallus, which is the symbolic representation of fertility. It is said that during his life, the saint often used his phallus as a tool to impart his teachings. As part of the blessing, the temple monks also select names for the unborn children randomly from the list of existing names at the temple. If it is a female name, the couples expect a girl and if the name drawn is that of a male, then a boy can be expected to arrive. The main temple houses the statue of Drukpa Kuenley and his sacred relics. The statues of Lam Ngawang Chhoegyal and Choekim, and other prominent Buddhist saints and masters are also present at the temple.

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