phalluses warn off evil
the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, it is not only the stunning
scenery that surprises the eye.
from the country's only airport in Paro to the capital city of
Thimphu, graphic and colourful paintings of penises adorn the
white-washed walls of homes, shops and eateries.
places, pictures of dragons and soft drink advertisements showing a
actress jostle for space on the walls with phallic drawings.
The origin of these drawings can be traced to a Buddhist monastery
near Bhutan's former capital, Punakha.
Chimi Lhakhang, the monastery is dedicated to Bhutan's maverick
saint Lama Drupka Kinley.
Known for his unconventional and often outrageous teaching methods,
Drupka Kinley is fondly called the Divine Madman. Stories about his
drinking and womanising abound in the kingdom and his shrine draws
visitors from across the country.
to Chimi Lhakhang monastery takes about three hours from Thimphu.
Constructed in 1499, Chimi Lhakhang is a square building with a
pointed golden roof. It squats on a hillock, about 20 minutes' trek
from the nearest road.
Outside, nearly 100 tall prayer flags, mostly white but some
coloured, flutter in the strong breeze.
people believe that when the wind passes through these flags, it
carries the prayers along with it, to bless every person and object
Legend has it that Drupka Kinley would hit errant demons over the
head with his penis to subdue them and turn them into protective
several wooden penises are kept in the monastery.
The longest, a brown wooden one with a silver handle, is the most
important - it is considered a religious relic and is used for
blessing the devout.
presiding monk tells me Drupka Kinley brought it with him when he
arrived in Bhutan from Tibet about 500 years ago.
The monk hits three young women devotees who come to pray at the
monastery on the head with it.
It is believed that praying at the monastery can bless a childless
woman with children.
to the shrine, one has to walk through Yowakha village and several
houses on the way are decorated with phallic paintings.
"The penis protects those who live inside the house. It also
means that there will be no quarrels among the family members"
the traditionally painted wooden windows of the 80-year-old farmer,
Dema's, house is a bright red painting of a penis.
Dema tells me she hired a professional artist to do it.
to protect those who live inside the house," she says.
"It also means that there will be no quarrels among the family
members." Her son, Yeshey, and niece, Dorji Zam, nod in
houses away lives 42-year-old Kinley.
drawing of a phallus adorns his wall. He tells me he painted it last
year when he renovated his house.
"It's to ward off the evil eye. When people envy me or say bad
things about me or my family, it takes away the sting," Kinley
"When people envy me or say bad things about me or my
family, it takes away the sting"
resident of Yowakha
to wipe it off and paint a new one.
"It's not nice. I did it in a hurry," he explains, as he
calls his wife and children to pose for a picture with his art.
not everyone's comfortable with the paintings.
Misina village I come across a house where an obvious attempt is
being made to wipe off the painting by coating it with mud.
Meena is 21 and she's clearly embarrassed about the huge painting
standing on testicles that look like wheels.
"It's very disgusting," says Meena. "It's a male
thing. I feel embarrassed when my father and brother are around. I
want to get rid of it."
importance of the symbol among many south Asian societies is strong.
Hindus in India and Nepal worship the lingam in temples
dedicated to Lord Shiva.