Chimi Lhakhang: Bhutan
I kid you not. After being subjected to a session with a dominatrix, I was offered a trip to Bhutan for my ‘good’ work. Oh, my first foreign trip. A trip to the happiest country in the world. What else could I have asked for! But there too, all I could see were dicks all over the place. Was it my karma that was coming after me? Or were the dicks really real? Let’s start from the beginning though! Upon reaching the land of happiness, we landed down at Paro international airport and reached Thimphu. But it was the next destination on our itinerary that excited me the most. A 3-hour drive from Thimphu, Punakha is about 77 kms away from the capital city. With serene surrounding, a hint of snow and Dochu La welcoming us, our guide, Tshering Dorji, told us a lot about Punakha on how it used to be the capital city earlier and still has the largest Dzong in Bhutan. But never did he mention the love of the people for phallus. It’s a symbol that is everywhere in the city. Like everywhere. From the window panes to the doors, walls, keyrings, signboards and where not. They were seen in all shapes and sizes. From vertical ones to the horizontal ones. While some even had eyes, some were popping the white fire. So where does this love come from? Are they some kind of sexoholics, I thought. It was way more than that. It isn’t a taboo to talk and look at the dicks. Oh, leave that, they pray it. Yes, they do! The fascination has a spiritual origin. It is a temple that makes them do all this. Pray the phallus and get fertilised. Oh, yes. It’s a fertility temple of a local god.
It all started in the 15th century when Drukpa Kuenley decided to expound his teachings and shot an arrow from Tibet which landed at chime Lhakhang (where the temple is located).
Drukpa came to Bhutan in search of his arrow and came across a demoness called Loro Deum. She terrorised all who crossed the path and was the cause of misery for the people living in Punakha. Upon seeing this, guess how did Drukpa subdue the demoness – with his magic thunderbolt of wisdom – his penis. The demoness ran down the valley and upon reaching the plains of Lobesa, she transformed herself into a dog to avoid detection. But Lama Drukpa recognised the demoness dog, killed it and buried it under the mound of a hill which he said resembled the breast of a woman. He then said ‘Chi-med’ (no dog) and built a black Chorten (tomb) on top of this mound. Before killing and burying the demoness, he made her pledge service to the Buddha and become a protector of the dharma. She is now the local deity called Chhoekim, who is the guardian deity of Chime Lhakhang.
Drukpa met a girl named Pelsang Guti at chime Lhakhang and pleased with her devotion, he blessed her with his offspring He was known as the Mad Saint or Divine Madman for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism by singing, outrageous behaviour, wit and poetry. He advocated an audacious life of wine and women as the way to wisdom. He slept with an uncountable number of women in his lifetime and popularised phallus as the protector against evil. I asked Tshering one of the anecdotes about Drukpa and it came as a surprise that once he was given a sacred thread to put around his neck, but Drukpa exclaimed that he would rather put it around his penis as it would bring him luck with the ladies. Oh, that’s the reason for all the wall paintings in the city have a string around the phallus. And now we know the reason behind phalluses everywhere! After his heroics, Drukpa’s cousin Lam Ngawang Choegyal later built a Lhakhang in honour of his illustrious relative and named it Chime Lhakhang.
Now was the time to go and see the legend himself as chime Lhakhang (the temple of fertility) is a 20-minute walk across fields through the village of Sopsokha from the roadside to the small temple located on a hillock in the centre of the valley below Metshina. And the hilltop is actually breast-shaped! Lamas can never be wrong.
After a meal at the local restaurant, we started the mild hike and walking down the alley, the symbol of manhood, all over the cafes, buildings and handicraft shops, was hard to ignore. As we reached there, long white prayer flags fluttering in a cluster of 108 flagpoles, made a perfect backdrop for gold-plated mani Khor (prayer wheel) which stood below the shrine. A row of prayer wheels lined the long wall niche of the temple, and the ominous black Chorten (stupa of the demoness) stood aloof like a punished offender. The yellow-roofed temple had exquisitely carved hand-painted windows, while the dark interior burst with colourful wall frescos, thangkas and tantric kit surrounding a reclining image of monk Kuenley, with his dog Sachi and other statues.
Our timing was perfect as butter lamps were lit and offerings of all kinds, including ara, the local alcohol, lay at the altar of Drukpa Kuenley. The three-tier building was an architectural genius and artwork was something that you could feel only when you see it.
So, how do they bless for a child is what I was thinking while taking a round of the grand structure? Bamm, and you have a monk blessing you with the holy phallus – made of bone, ivory and wood. They also tell you that the blessing is not over till you bow down to the bow and arrow, supposedly used by Drukpa himself hundreds of years ago.
Thousands of pilgrims visit the Lhakhang either to pray from their children or by those who are seeking children. So, when you meet a local who is named Kinley, you know whose blessings have worked here!
A newly married girl from our troop bowed near the sacred bow-and-arrow before turning towards the chief lama. She bent her head in dedication for a gentle drubbing by the powerful holy weapon. I asked him to give 11 strikes as a potential blessing for a whole cricket team!
But I took off from there fearing its potency and the possibility of a devastating change in my life, which was not designed for parenthood.