Punakha

Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu three hours drive to the west. Built in the 17th century, Punakha dzong is the most beautiful in the kingdom, situated at the confluence of the Mo and Pho Chu, the mother and father rivers, and is reached by a wooden cantilever bridge.

The dzong is the winter residence of Bhutan’s central monastic body and houses a number of Buddhist sacred relics. It is also decorated with some very fine wood carvings, some of them created in more recent years as the dzong has suffered damage over the centuries by fires, an earthquake and flash floods.
 
Nearby some of the best religious art works can be seen painted on the inner walls of the Khasum Yuley temple while a short walk across the fields brings you to Chhimi Lhakhang, a temple devoted to the ‘Divine Madman’. The saint Drukpa Kunley used a number of unorthodox methods to spread Buddhism that earned him some notoriety - and popularity. Kushwant Singh sums it up best:
 
Wherever he went he carried his 'divine thunderbolt of wisdom' (his penis) before him. It penetrated the mysteries of life as it did willing virgins. The bawdy tales of fornication and copious intake of chung wine are interspersed with words of wisdom, advice on how to square one's karma, escape the vicious circle of samsara (birth, death and rebirth) and attain nirvana. 
 
It helps to explain why there are so many phallic symbols painted on the exteriors of many of Bhutan's houses . . .
 
Situated at 1250m above sea level Punakha has a subtropical climate with warm summers and pleasant winters; the valley boasts two rice harvests a year and both bananas and mandarins also grow here. 
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