One of the main attractions to Bhutan are the many fortresses (Dzong), temples (Lhakhang), and monasteries. Lhakhang means temple, and Dzong means fortress.

Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan. Almost 1/3 of the population of Bhutan lives in Thimphu. There is a lot of construction in and around Thimphu, it is expanding rapidly.

There are a lot of temples and fortresses in the Thimphu area. Changangkha Lhakhang, build in 1622, is the oldest temple in the valley. Tashichho Dzong, a fortress built in 1641, is now the seat of the government. Near it is the palace of the king. It is a small, unpretentious building. The kings of Bhutan live very modestly.

I also visited the Zilikha Nunnery. Apparently there are quite a few nunneries in Bhutan.

One very visible landmark is the Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 to honor the third king of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (1928-1972)

One of the most impressive pieces of architecture is the huge Buddha statue on the mountain over Thimphu. It is 51.5 m (169.0 ft) high, made of bronze and gilded. It is supposedly the highest statue of a sitting Buddha.

Near Pajo, south of Punakha, is a small village, and close by the Temple of the Divine Madman, also called Temple of Fertility, Chimi Lhakhang. Drukpa Kunley, also known as the Divine Madman came from Tibet in the late 15th century. Legend has it that he was quite excessive with wine and women, but also with praying. He also was a renowned poet. He founded the Chimi Lhakhang in 1499. Most houses in the area are decorated with phallus symbols as a dedication to the Divine Madman Drukpa Kunley.

Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan till 1955. The Punakha Dzong is a fortress that was used in defense against Tibet. It was build in 1637. Now, half of the fortress is for the government, the other half is a monastery. The first king of Bhutan was crowned here, the fifth king was married here recently in 2011.

Near Punakha is a Stupa that is dedicated to Nepal. It is very similar in shape (but not in size) to the great Stupa in Kathmandu.

North of Paro is the Takstang (Tiger's Lair) Monastery. This iconic monastery is built into a 900 m (2,950 ft) high cliff. It is a spectacular sight, a must-see, even though it is somewhat difficult to reach.

A little further up the valley is the ruin of Drukgyal Dzong, a fortress and Buddhist monastery. Unfortunately, I was not aware of how important it is, so I didn't walk there. I just looked at it from the distance.

Lines with colored prayer flags are everywhere. The colors of the flags are white, yellow, green, red, and blue. The prayer flags are for good luck, prosperity, and happiness. Around all the temples and monasteries are small and large prayer drums. People rotate the drums as part of their worship. The large prayer drums have a bell that rings on every rotation. On many of the small mountain streams they build small buildings that contain a large prayer drum that is driven by the water. These prayer drums continuously sound their bells, day and night.

On many of the hills you can see clusters of large white flags. People put up 108 white flags to honor their deceased relatives. 108 is a sacred number in Buddhism. Sometimes they put 108 small clay pagodas in rock caves, again in order to honor the dead.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn, unless otherwise noted.

Cities and villages

View Thimphu
View of Thimphu. (833k)
Welcome Sign Way Into
Welcome sign on the way into Thimphu. (926k)
Main Square Thimphu
Main square in Thimphu. (769k)
Prayer Drums Main Square
Prayer drums in the main square in Thimphu. (864k)
Quite Bit Construction Going
There was quite a bit of construction going on in Thimphu. (860k)
Small Monastery Mountain Valley
Small monastery in a mountain valley. (721k)
Houses Typical Bhutanese Style
Houses in typical Bhutanese style with white flags, honoring the deceased. (961k)
House Typical Bhutanese Style
House in typical Bhutanese style. (1200k)
House Typical Bhutanese Style
House in typical Bhutanese style. (1036k)
Ruin Drukgyal Dzong Fortress
The ruin of Drukgyal Dzong, a fortress and Buddhist monastery. (934k)
Village Chimi Lhakhang
Village near the Chimi Lhakhang. (838k)
House Chimi Lhakhang Houses
House near Chimi Lhakhang. Most houses in this area are decorated with phallus pictures. (960k)
House Chimi Lhakhang
House near Chimi Lhakhang. (705k)
House Thimphu
House in Thimphu. (690k)
Decorated Wood Trim House
Decorated wood trim on a house. (822k)
Decorated Wood Trim House
Decorated wood trim on a house in Thimphu. (925k)
Decorated Wood Trim House
Decorated wood trim on a house in Thimphu. (876k)
House Poorer Farmers
House of poorer farmers. (939k)
Bridge Thimphu
Bridge in Thimphu. (1174k)
Bridge Over Mountain Stream
Bridge over a mountain stream near Thimphu. (1058k)

Miscellaneous religious buildings

Prayer Flags Dochula Pass
Prayer flags on the Dochula Pass. These lines with prayer flags were everywhere. (1224k)
Close-up Prayer Flags
Close-up of one of the prayer flags. (925k)
Small Clay Pagodas Dedicated
Small clay pagodas, dedicated to a deceased. (945k)
White Flags Dedicated Deceased
White flags, dedicated to a deceased. (912k)
Small Shrine Field Chimi
Small shrine in a field near Chimi Lhakhang. (682k)
Small Pagoda Next Road
Small pagoda next to the road from Thimphu to Punakha. (1044k)
Water Driven Prayer Drum
Water driven prayer drum, sending out a rhythmic ding ... ding ... ding. (939k)
View Paro Rinphung Dzong
View of Paro Rinphung Dzong from the plane on short final, just before landing. (785k)
Paro Rinphung Dzong
Paro Rinphung Dzong. (841k)
Nalanda Buddhist Institute High
Nalanda Buddhist Institute, high above the valley on the way down from the Dochula Pass to Chimi Lhakhang. (921k)
Close-up Nalanda Buddhist Institute
Close-up of the Nalanda Buddhist Institute. (959k)
Semtokha Dzong Thimphu 1629
Semtokha Dzong near Thimphu (from 1629). (901k)
Stupa Dedicated Nepal Very
Stupa dedicated to Nepal. It is very similar in shape (although not in size) to the large stupa in Kathmandu. (1067k)
108 Stupas Summit Dochula
108 stupas on the summit of Dochula Pass. They were erected in 2003 in memory of soldiers that were killed in fights with Indian rebels. In the background you can see the High Himalayas. (894k)
Temple Dochula Pass
Temple on the Dochula Pass. (889k)
Votive Burner Dochula Pass
Votive burner on the Dochula Pass. (920k)
Inside Zilikha Nunnery
Inside the Zilikha Nunnery. (788k)
Small Prayer Drums Changangkha
Small prayer drums in the Changangkha Lhakhang. (847k)
Large Man-size Prayer Drums
Large, man-size prayer drums in the Changangkha Lhakhang. (666k)
Bell Rings Each Revolution
The bell that rings for each revolution of the prayer drum. (669k)
Tashichho Dzong Thimphu Seat
Tashichho Dzong in Thimphu, now the seat of the government. (1115k)
Palace Royal Couple Live
The palace of the royal couple. They live quite modestly. (1178k)

Memorial Chorten

View Memorial Chorten
View of the Memorial Chorten. (706k)
View Memorial Chorten
View of the Memorial Chorten. (696k)
Close-up View Memorial Chorten
Close-up view of the Memorial Chorten. (924k)
Part Memorial Chorten
Part of the Memorial Chorten. (720k)
Statue Front Memorial Chorten
Statue in front of the Memorial Chorten. (831k)
Large Prayer Drums Memorial
Large prayer drums at the Memorial Chorten. (806k)
Worshiper Memorial Chorten
Worshiper at the Memorial Chorten. (902k)

Temple of Fertility, Chimi Lhakhang

View Chimi Lhakhang
View of Chimi Lhakhang. (936k)
Chimi Lhakhang
Chimi Lhakhang. (783k)
Chimi Lhakhang
Chimi Lhakhang. (843k)
Large Prayer Drum Attending
Large prayer drum with attending monk at Chimi Lhakhang. (829k)
Roof Decoration Chimi Lhakhang
Roof decoration at Chimi Lhakhang. (530k)
Bamboo Poles Used Hold
Bamboo poles. These are used to hold the white flags that are dedicated to the deceased. (1155k)

Buddha statue over Thimphu

View Buddha Statue Across
View of the Buddha statue from across the valley. You can visualize the size. (698k)
View Buddha Statue Across
View of the Buddha statue from across the valley. (691k)
Sitting Buddha Statue Bhumisparsha
Sitting Buddha statue with the Bhumisparsha Mudra. (651k)
Close-up Buddha Statue Bhumisparsha
Close-up of the Buddha statue with the Bhumisparsha Mudra. (657k)
Alms Bowl Buddha's Left
The alms bowl in the Buddha's left hand. (588k)
Thunderbolt Symbol Male Power
The Thunderbolt, symbol of male power. (668k)
Beautiful Head Statue
The beautiful head of the statue. (623k)

Punakha Dzong

Overview Punakha Dzong Across
Overview of Punakha Dzong from across the river. On the left is the bridge that you use to get to the fortress. (834k)
Closer View Punakha Dzong
Closer view of Punakha Dzong. (874k)
Monk Walking Over Bridge
Monk walking over the bridge to Punakha Dzong. (649k)
Entrance Stairs Punakha Dzong
Entrance stairs of Punakha Dzong. (901k)
Interior Court Yard Punakha
Interior court yard of Punakha Dzong. (867k)
Building Punakha Dzong
Building in Punakha Dzong. (671k)
Building Punakha Dzong
Building in Punakha Dzong. (833k)
Tallest Building Punakha Dzong
Tallest building in Punakha Dzong. (852k)
Painted Carved Wood Construction
Painted and carved wood construction in Punakha Dzong. (893k)
Closeup Painted Carved Wood
Closeup of the painted and carved wood construction in Punakha Dzong. (836k)
Building Punakha Dzong
Building in Punakha Dzong. (737k)
Painted Carved Wood Construction
Painted and carved wood construction in Punakha Dzong. (815k)
Shrine Punakha Dzong
Shrine in Punakha Dzong. (779k)
Monks Punakha Dzong
Monks in Punakha Dzong. (623k)
Wall Decoration Punakha Dzong
Wall decoration in Punakha Dzong showing a musician. (785k)
Wall Decoration Punakha Dzong
Wall decoration in Punakha Dzong showing a Zodiac Calendar. (902k)
Wheel Life
Wheel of Life. (983k)
Top Part Wheel Life
Top part of the Wheel of Life with depiction of heaven. (898k)
Bottom Part Wheel Life
Bottom part of the Wheel of Life with depiction of hell. (997k)
Four Animals Working Together
Four animals working together for the common good. (838k)
Elements Longevity
Elements of longevity. (883k)
Titan
Titan. (956k)

Takstang (Tiger's Lair) Monastery.

Horse Would Carry Way
The horse that would carry my up most of the way to the monastery. (999k)
Guide Leading Horse
My guide leading the horse. (958k)
Horses Returning Top
Horses returning from the top. (1149k)
People Walked Mountain Tough
Some people walked up the mountain. It is tough going. (756k)
Monks Carry Supplies Monastery
The monks carry supplies to the monastery. (732k)
Try Keep Area Clean
They try to keep the area clean. (1020k)
Horses Carrying Goods Cafeteria
Horses carrying goods to the cafeteria. (801k)
Water Driven Prayer Drums
Water driven prayer drums on the mountain. (1213k)
View Takstang Sheer Vertical
View of Takstang on the sheer, vertical cliff. (1103k)
Stairs Monastery
Stairs to the monastery. (1323k)
Small Temple Hermits Lived
This is a small temple where some of the hermits lived. (1010k)
Takstang
Takstang. (1079k)
Takstang
Takstang. (871k)
Takstang
Takstang. (876k)
Takstang
Takstang. (836k)
Takstang
Takstang. (894k)
View Valley Below Takstang
View of the valley below Takstang with rice terraces. (851k)

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Bhutan
Main page for འབྲུག་ཡུལ་ (Bhutan)

Page last updated on Mon Jan 20 16:47:00 2020 (Mountain Standard Time)


Architecture in Bhutan on guenther-eichhorn.com


© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
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