Bhutan’s finest architecture can be seen in dzongs perched on hilltops, monasteries on cliffs, temples and Stupas that are built across the country.
Dzongs were mostly built during the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel was in the process of unifying the country under one law.
Dzongs served as fortresses as it was strategically built on hilltops overlooking the valley. Dzongs became necessary to protect the country with several invasions from the north, mostly from the Tibetans and the Mongols.
Punakha dzong in western Bhutan is considered an architectural marvel and attracts many visitors every day. The dzong is built between two rivers that surround it and join together. The rivers served the purpose of a moat.
A traditional cantilever bridge connects the dzong with the road.
According to legend, Punakha dzong was built from the architect’s vision of Guru Padmasambhava’s palace in heaven. Zow Palep, the chief architect of the dzong is said to have had a vision of travelling to heaven and being instructed by Guru to build a dzong similar to his palace in heaven.
Monasteries such as the Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest/Den) in Paro draw equal number of tourists. The monastery is precariously located on the face of an almost vertical cliff. Guru Padmasambhava, according to legend is said to have flown on the back of a tigress from Tibet and landed in Taktshang.
He had meditated at the site and later a monastery was built. Today, Buddhist lamas from Tibet and all over the world visit Taktshang to meditate. Architecture in Bhutan has deep religious significance.
Dzongs serve as both centres for monastic and administrative affairs, a system of governance, described as the dual system of government. The system was promulgated by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel.
Traditional paintings drape the Bhutanese architecture including dzongs, monasteries and homes.