Thimpu: For centuries, people in the tiny landlocked nation of Bhutan, have sworn spiritual allegiance to a divine human organ: the phallus, or as we know it, the “penis”. Anyone who’s been to Bhutan recounts sightings of “institutionalized” graffiti on the walls, commemorating a tradition that Buddhists solemnly swear by. Walls bear paintings of penises; some big, some small, some “terrifyingly huge”.
They come in various colour schemes as well; with some of them having ribbons tied around them like Christmas presents, while the most bizarre depictions of the ‘prick’ also have eyes! ….and yes, all of them are fully erect.
The image of a phallus dispels evil, acting as a protective shield from malice.
The “scandalous” painting of the human reproductive organ also aids in fertility.
It is symbolic of the teachings of Drukpa Kunley, an eccentric saint who travelled in Bhutan
He indulged in wine, women and debauchery and adopted blasphemous ways of teaching non-monastic Buddhism. His sexual exploits are now common folklore.
His anecdotes are fraught with references to over-indulgence in sex. “The best wine lies at the bottom of the pail,” he said, “and happiness lies below the navel.”
Devoid of social conventions, Kunley called himself, the “Madman from Kyishodruk”
Known as the “fertility saint”, he spent his days drinking with the women and deflowering virgins.
He propagated an unorthodox branch of Buddhism, which was based on enlightening the common folk, mostly women.
He urged followers to denounce the greed of the world and lead honest lives, firmly bound to spirituality and openness of sexuality. He was also notable for offering blessings in the form of sexual intercourse.
There is an animist ritual, pre-dating the arrival of Buddhism, that is still practiced in the western part of Bhutan.
As part of the ritual during the festival of “Lhabon” (or “calling the gods”), a community uses a ladder that has its edges curved in the shape of a penis. According to mythology, deities descend on a rope (tied to the ladder) and bless them with good health and prosperity.
Scores of childless couples make pilgrimages to Chimi Lhakhang, the “fertility temple” where a Buddhist monk blesses them (albeit, with a wooden phallus!)