The legend behind Chimi Lhakhang is mythical and captivating.
Chimi Lhakhang Temple is located in the hamlet of Sopsokha village, at Punakha Valley. It is well-known as the “Fertility Temple,” and many childless couples from Punakha District frequent it. Moreover, visitors from all over the world travel here in droves to see the strange traditional and cultural rites conducted there, making it a famous tourist attraction.
It is believed that the temple holds power to bless couples with children and to cure infertility. Women who wished to conceive entered the temple and carried a wooden phallus around the temple three times as part of the fertility blessings.
Unbelievable? Chimi Lhakhang is magnificently constructed with traditional architecture, and the walls are covered with murals and phallic sculptures!
Hike up to the temple of fertility
Chimi Lhakhang is modest compared to other Lhakhangs across Bhutan. We took a short hike up a dusty path amidst lines of prayer flags flapping in the strong wind.
An enormous prayer wheel welcomes us as we approach the top of the round hillock.
After that, there is a black stupa, where it’s supposed that a Divine Madman once imprisoned the demon.
With prayer wheels around it, and a roof made of gold and brown medallions, the main temple stands beautifully in white. A massive statue of Guru Rinpoche is located inside the Lhakhang. Next to him is a figure of Lama Drukpa Kunley. (Unfortunately, photography is prohibited inside all temples in the kingdom of Bhutan).
Things we like at Chimi Lhakhang
- You will notice the giant prayer wheel when you climb up the incline.
- Chimi Lhakhang has exquisite brown and golden roofs and white walls decorated with gold medallions.
- At the heart of the temple stands an impressive statue of Guru Rinpoche, accompanied by a statue of the Divine Madman.
The souvenir shop
A souvenir store near the parking area of our tour bus offers a wide selection of phallic trinkets. They come in multi-color and range in size from a few inches to a few feet. They also offer other items, from keychains to postcards, keychains, and books related to Bhutan.
The story of Chimi Lhakhang
Chimi Lhakhang monastery was built in the 15th century by Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman or Mad Saint.” According to legend, the Divine Madman traveled to Dochula, a breathtaking mountain pass from Thimphu to Punakha, to drive away a demon. Instead, the devil took the form of a dog, which Kunley captured within the temple’s chorten (stupa), perched atop a mound like a woman’s breast.
The demon was killed when he hit it with his penis-based Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom. The thunderbolt of flaming wisdom, as Lama Kunley’s organ was opulently known, is said to have calmed both demons and demonesses, bringing them under control. The phallus and its creative force are thought to be uniquely associated with him.
As he was doing this, he said, “Chi Mi,” which translates to “no dog,” and that is how the temple got its name.
In 1499, Kunley sanctified the location. Then, his relative, the 14th Drukpa hierarch Ngawang Choegyel, erected the Buddhist monastery in his honor.
The ‘fertility temple’
The monastery is believed to be a place of fertility and blessings. Childless couples and those struggling to conceive pilgrimage to the temple to receive a blessing, known as a “wang,” from a Buddhist monk and his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom.”
Today, the monastery holds the original wooden phallus brought by Kunley from Tibet. This ten-inch wooden phallus, adorned with a silver handle, is used to tap the head of visitors, particularly women seeking to conceive, as a blessing. As a result, he is also known as the fertility saint.
Besides that, there are phallus paintings on buildings’ outside walls as the evil eye to fend off bad vibes and evil spirits.
The relation between Chimi Lhakhang and the Divine Madman
(Adapt from the information from the Tourism Council of Bhutan)
Lam Drukpa Kuenley (1455 – 1570 ) was an enlightened Buddhist lama who personified the true essence of the Vajrayana tradition, also known as ‘Crazy Wisdom.’
The maverick saint Drukpa Kunley is affectionately referred to by devotees as the “Divine Madman.” owing to his outlandish and unorthodox teaching methods. He depicted himself as a traveling wanderer who hunted and ate while doing so on purpose. It meant that he was above the standards and customs set by humans.
He was a social critic who taunted the hypocrisy of the established orders, including the monastic order. Thus the use of his phallus as a ‘flaming thunderbolt’ weapon illustrated the discomfort that society experiences when facing the truth.
Drukpa Kuenley’s most outrageous and sacred actions included taming several demons and demonesses tormenting the Bhutanese people. For example, he subjugated the infamous and much-feared demoness of Dochula. He buried her on the mound where Chime Lhakhang was built in the late 15th century by his cousin’s brother, Nyawang Choejey.