Punakha Festival

Day 1punakha fes

Arrive in Paro
Upon arrival at the airport, you will be greeted and welcomed by our company guide in the traditional Bhutanese way, and transferred to the capital city, Thimphu. En route Thimphu, we will make several stopovers. We will briefly visit the 15th century Tamchog Lhakhang. Drupthob Thangtong Gyalpo, a Tibetan spiritual adept, who is said to have spent 60 years in his mother’s womb, built the monastery. He is popular in Bhutan for building iron chain bridges. One such bridge is the approach bridge to the temple.
Day 2
Halt in Thimphu
Today, we undertake a sightseeing tour around Thimphu. We will visit the popular Memorial Choeten in the heart of the city built in the memory of the third King of Bhutan, the traditional weaving centre, the heritage museum, the Bhutanese paper factory, the National Library, and the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts.
In the afternoon, we can either take a stroll around Thimphu city or visit historically significant Semtokha Dzong. Built in 1629 by the founder of Bhutanese state, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, it is the oldest dzong in Bhutan.
Day 3
Thimphu to Punakha
Today, we start our journey early in the morning. The road to Punakha passes across Dochula Pass which is 3,150 m above sea level. We will stop on the pass for a while and enjoy the spectacular view of Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain ranges as we sip our coffee. The 108 stupas built on the crest add beauty to the already magnificent mountain pass.
From Dochula, we descend to Lobesa where we will have our lunch. After lunch, we visit Chimi Lhakhang, which is 25 minutes hike from the road point. Also known as the fertility monastery, this temple built by Tibetan Lama Ngawang Chogyal is today associated with his cousin, Lama Drukpa Kinley, popularly known as Divine Madman. This temple is believed to bless childless couples with fertility.
After the temple visit we will drive to Punakha.
Day 4
Punakha Drupchenpundom
The annual religious festival of Punakha Drupchen is held on the courtyard of the resplendent dzong. Punakha Dzong was built by the founder of Bhutanese state, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, in 1637. Built on the confluence of Pho Chhu (Male River) and Mo Chhu (Female River), this dzong was the winter capital of Bhutan in the past. The central monastic body still spends winter in Punakha Dzong following the age-old practice when Punakha was the capital.
The festival features numerous mask dances and dance drama that recreates spiritually poignant events and commemorates a primal, mythical state of ancient Bhutan. The dance drama recreates the battle scene in which Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal hoodwinked the Tibetan invaders into believing that he had thrown the most sacred relic into the river. People thus come face to face with the past during the festival.
When the Zhabdrung came to Bhutan fleeing Tibet, he brought along a precious relic called Rangjung Kharsapani, a self-emanated image of Avalokiteśvara from Ralung. After the Zhabdrung established himself in Bhutan, the Tibetan forces marched to Punakha to invade the dzong and seize the relic. However, the Zhabdrung enacted an elaborate procession and proceeded to Mo Chhu and pretended to throw the relic, the bone of contention, into the river. Tibetans thought it was a silly act and returned home, tricked.
The festival enacts this scene faithfully every year. Some 136 people dressed in medieval battle costume perform a dance, shouting and whistling as they climb down the front stairs of the dzong. The group proceeds to the river bank. On the bank of the river, Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) throws a handful of oranges representing Rangjung Kharsapani into the river.
Day 5
Punakha to Paro
Today we go back to the dzong to watch the festivities on the first day of the festival.
After lunch, we drive to Paro.
Day 6
Halt in Paro
Today, we visit the National Museum of Bhutan known as Taa Dzong or the Watch Tower, Rinpung Dzong, also built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, and some other places of historical importance.
After lunch, we drive north to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong (fortress of Drukpa victory), built to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644 and destroyed by fire in 1951.
Just a short trip north of Paro town is Kyichu Monastery built in the 7th century. This historic temple was built as part of construction of 108 temples by a Tibetan dharma king to subdue a demoness. Two such temples were constructed in Bhutan. The other one is Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang. Jampa Lhakhang is believed to have been built on the demoness’ left knee and Kyichu on its left foot. The temple is small but very historic. Our guide will explain to you the historical and religious importance of the temple.
Day 7
Hike to Taktshang
Today, we hike to Taktshang Monastery clinging on the face of a cliff 900 metre above Paro valley. Taktshang, also known to the outsiders as the Tiger’s Nest, is one of the most sacred places in Bhutan. This place is said to have been blessed by a large number of enlightened Buddhist masters, among them Guru Padmasambhava (popularly known as Guru Rinpoche in Bhutan). Guru Rinpoche is believed to have flown to this place riding a tigress.
We will have lunch at Taktshang cafeteria from where we will enjoy a great view of the monastery.
Day 8
Our guide will drive you to the airport on time to catch your flight back home. We will bid you farewell in a traditional Bhutanese way by offering you a white silk scarf.