It had been a balmy evening in Punakha. Somewhere along the way, our guide Sangay had pointed out that next morning our walk to ‘The Fertility Temple’ would begin from a particular place. He also mentioned that the temple was made in memory of ‘The Divine Madman’. It had sure aroused my curiosity; for a genteel country like Bhutan this description felt like a happening thing. A temple dedicated to an outrageous Lama, Drukpa Kunley – Chimi Lhakhang is located on a small hillock hardly 15 kms away from Punakha. (Lhakhang means monastery.)
Next morning, after a short drive through Lobesa we had reached a place called Sopsokha village. From here, it was a short walk through terraced rice fields and a path that led to the Buddhist Shrine. Considering our very own folklores in India, I knew what a fertility temple meant. Couples desirous of having a baby would seek their blessings at a place like this. In that sense, after having seen other Dzongs in Thimphu and Punakha, I wasn’t exactly excited to see the temple but the hike seemed nice and I started wandering through the narrow lanes of Sopsokha.
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What immediately captured my attention was murals and graffiti on the walls with giant phalluses. Kids were playing and life seemed to go on in the most normal manner possible. For a moment it felt awkward, but because the incidence of the murals was on almost every wall it became fun to look at. There were doors with phalluses on both sides and then there were shops with wooden imitations of the male sexual organ.
Note : This post contains graphic drawings of the male phallus/penis. Do not scroll down if you are uncomfortable with such images.
A Brief History of Chimi Lhakhang Temple :
Lama Drukpa Kunley (1455 – 1570) was an enlightened Buddhist master who practised the Vajrayana form of Buddhism. He followed a non conventional and outrageous style of teaching. Drukpa Kunley roamed around the countryside and indulged in song and dance, alcohol and women and basically seemed like a very cool Lama! In short, he meant to go beyond the norms and conventions set by the society.
Among Lama Drukpa Kunley’s most important achievements is taming the fierce demon of Dochu La pass. He imprisoned her and buried her in the main chorten where Chimi Lhakhang was built in the year 1499. Drukpa Kuenley’s cousin brother Ngawang constructed this monastery.
Lama Drukpa Kunley’s phallus is also known as the ‘flaming thunderbolt’ and is essentially worshipped here. Lamas inside the monastery distribute sacred threads among the pilgrims as a part of the offering.
Continuing the story in pictures…
The walk to Chimi Lhakhang passes through a path lined with trees after the mid-way point. It comes as a welcome respite from Punakha’s warm weather. Highly recommend carrying a bottle of water for the walk. It is best to do the hike after breakfast, so that one may complete the sightseeing in around 2-3 hours.
There are a few eateries and shops where one can eat local Bhutanese dishes, right at the start of the trail.
I literally skipped and ran on my way back to the place where our vehicle was parked. Also because I figured it may be a tad uncomfortable for my co-travellers when I was documenting these walls with phalluses. I mostly clicked all these pictures on my way back.
The drive from Thimphu to Punakha across Dochu La pass was pretty and became even better with the lush greenery in the rain.
This sure turned out to be a big surprise… Know of any quirky things around the world?Would love to check in the comments below.