Embrace Bhutan Cultural Tour
Punakha | Bhutan
09 Nov 2019 | Sat
Day 03 of 13
After our awesome lunch at Divine Cafeteria Punakha, it was time to talk a short walk/trek to our next destination – Chimi Lhakhang (Temple dedicated to the famous Buddhist master, Drukpa Kunley aka the “Divine Madman”).
Short Walk To Sopsakha Village
We started by walking out behind the restaurant into a vast area of terraced rice fields. Along the way was a mix of various agricultural fields (rice, vegetables), greenhouses, traditional Bhutanese homes, and a small prayer wheel house surrounded by numerous prayer flags. We walked by a few women tending their fields (with a couple of cows keeping them company). It was a beautiful sight to pass through on our way to Chimi Lhakhang.
Is That Phallus Symbols I See Everywhere?… Yes, It Is!
As you get closer to Chimi Lhakhang you will notice that many homes/structures will have colorful phallus symbols painted on them. This is done in the spirit of the Buddhist master, Drukpa Kunley aka the “Divine Madman” whose unorthodox methods of teaching Buddhism advocated the use of phallus symbols as paintings on walls and as flying carved wooden phalluses on house tops at four corners of the eaves.
Sopsakha Village – Walk To Chimi Lhakhang
Once you reach the base of the temple grounds, you will be entering the village of Sopsakha (aka the “Phallus Valley”). Here you walk through a mix of homes, small shops, and businesses all covered with paintings and artwork of colorful phalluses. Many of the shops sell a wide variety of phallic souvenirs that come in different shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, and even painted faces!
To a westerner, walking through and experiencing this area could be one of the more bazaar things to encounter, however, to the Bhutanese people, the phallus is looked upon as a symbol of good luck and is thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
Continuing through this area you will eventually reach the trail that goes up to Chimi Lhakhang. Along the trail, you still may encounter a few vendors selling phallic souvenirs. You also will pass through several areas of prayer flags.
Before reaching the top, you will pass by a large prayer wheel before you encounter a huge bodhi tree in the courtyard (believed to have been brought from Bodhgaya in India).
Inside Chimi Lhakhang
When we arrived outside the entrance of the temple we took our shoes off and found a place to store them. We were not allowed to take our pictures inside the temple. Once inside, we were very surprised by how small the visiting area was. It’s a busy temple with many people entering and exiting. We found a spot off to one side where we could watch monks performing fertility ceremonies.
As it was explained to us, hopeful parents who are trying to conceive would visit the temple to have a fertility ritual performed by monks. The steps performed in the ceremony/ritual were:
- A senior monk starts the fertility ceremony by reciting prayers and blessing the woman by softly hitting her head with a 10 inch phallus (made of wood and ivory)
- This blessing continues by softly hitting her head with a bow and arrow that supositly was used by Drukpa Kuenley himself, hundreds of years ago.
- The woman then carries a very large wooden phallus outside, barefoot, around the temple three times
- A 300 year old dice (made out of bone) is rolled. The resulting number will be discussed among attending monks to determine your odds of conceiving along with when it might take place.
- Monks also have a ritual to help determine the name of the future child along with giving blessings for any current children.
We found the fertility ritual (the parts we saw) to be very interesting. Looking at stories online, many couples have found success after visiting Chimi Lhakhang. Some may discount such a place or the ceremonies being performed but after visiting, we definitely thought there was something special about this place. I think it could be as simple as the power of believing in something so strong that it helps influence the outcome.
When we were leaving temple grounds (returning down the trail) we met and had a great conversation about a young Bhutanese couple who had traveled a great distance to visit the Chimi Lhakhang. They told us what a great honor it was to visit the temple. They were planning to have their first child and were hoping the fertility ritual performed at the temple would help increase their chances. They were such a nice, pleasant couple and you could feel the overwhelming happiness they had from being there that day. It really touched us.
Needless to say, we really enjoyed our visit to Chimi Lhakhang!