Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan and it is the winter home of Chief Abbot of Bhutan, the Je Khenpo. Punakha played great importance in the history of Bhutan during the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 17th century. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal is known as the unifier of Bhutan as a nation state and he was the one who gave Bhutan and its people the cultural identity that identified Bhutan from the rest of the world.
In 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by the Tibetan force to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani during which Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal defeated the Tibetan army and to commemorate the victory he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen also known as Puna Drubchen became the annual festival of Punakha district. In addition to Punakha Drubchen in 2005 another festival known as Punakha Tshechu was introduced by the 70th Je Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra and the then Home Minister His Excellency Lyonpo Jigme Yoedzer Thinley on the request made by Punakha District Administration and people for upholding the Buddhist teachings and keeping alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpochhe.
Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival due to a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men, dressed in battle gear showcase a battle scene of this distant past recalling the days when in the absence of a standing army, men from the eight Tshogchens or great village blocks of Thimpu came forward and managed to expel the Tibetan forces out of the country ushering in a new-found internal peace and stability.
Punakha Drubchen and Tshechu not only play an important role in preserving Bhutan’s rich cultural and tradition but it also is also an event where devout Buddhists has a place and time for prayer and pilgrimage. These festivals also reflect the richness of everything that is Bhutanese and are very special in the eyes and hearts of tourists who visit Bhutan.