We were informed that it would take us two and half hours to reach Punakha Dzong from Taj Tashi Bhutan. In between, we would also visit Dochula Pass but who cares about the distance and time when you have great panoramic views giving you company.
There are many tourist activities in Thimpu. There is shopping, especially at the weekend markets, visiting the dzong, Buddha point, local food, Post office, handicrafts and many more but a visit to Punakha and Dochula is mandatory.
We started at 8 AM and within half an hour, navigating through the hairpin bends through some of the best greenery and landscape views that I have seen, we reached Dochula Pass. The temperature dropped as we scaled up and we were finally welcomed with clouds and a light drizzle at Dochula Pass.
History of Dochula pass
Dochula is a very popular tourist spot in this part of Thimpu and there is a reason why. It provides you a 360 degree view of the Himalayan Range and the strikingly captivating stupas around. Dochula pass was built by Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo – wife of the 4th king. 108 stupas in memory of 11 soldiers who had died in the war in 2003 were erected. A conical structure construction with the main large stupa at the top, the 107 stupas are placed in 3 layers . The outer circle has 45 stupas, the middle one has 36 and then 27 and then 1. One has to take circular rounds along the different layers to experience the place in entirety. Each stupa is identical in nature, pristine white in colour with red border at the top and golden coloured circles in between the red band.
The stupas, also known as Druk Wangyal Khang zhang chortens, had an interesting construction process which went hand in hand with the Bhutanese tradition and rituals. It involved offerings of grains and bronze utensils filled with butter. Later towards the completion, Buddha effigies with prayers written on papers were also inserted. This is not yet the end. For any chorten, which establishes the life between heaven and earth, it is necessary that a sokshing or a long wooden pole made from Juniper tree is inserted inside the chorten. The sokshing is normally painted in red, inscribed with sacred hymns and on an auspicious day, it is wrapped in silk before going into the chorten.
There was zero visibility when we reached. I couldn’t take much pictures then. I started strolling around the chortens at the base. It was deserted and I had to struggle a lot to get good pictures. Some other day, some other time; I told myself.
The chortens are all placed very symmetrically and as you look at them closely, you notice a small Budhha sitting in between the two white cirlces in every red band on every chorten. Green valley and cobbled stairs in between takes you through the various levels and if you feel tired, just perch yourself on the edge of any stair, look at the chortens and simply soak in the positive enegry of the place.
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Other places to see around Dochula Pass
The other main attraction in Dochula Pass is Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (pronounced as Hakhang). This monastery was also built in 2008 and the construction process completed in 2009. This was built by Queen Mother for the 4th king and late 3rd king for their services to the nation. The Annual Druk Wangyal Festival takes place here on every December 13th. We couldnt see this as the light conditions were too bad.
Not only for tourists but this place is a great weekend destination for locals too. This is also an important stop on the way to Punakha Dzong and as we started our journey towards Punakha Dzong, I thought it won’t be a bad idea to come back here once again.
Coming up – Punakha Dzong – One of the most important Dzongs in Bhutan