Now don’t get any ideas here. I am talking about a country that worships Penises. As enigmatic as it sounds, it’s an every day scene in Bhutan, particularly in the Punakaha village of Bhutan, where I could see phallus (penis) symbols on doors, windows, shops and houses. Some of these penises are smiling, somewhere staring and some stand with wings.
The exteriors of the Phallus Temple
“Legend has it that, a monk by the name of Lama Drukpa Kunley, believed in all things good. But he was against the Buddhist orthodox abstinence of all things sex, lust or alcohol. He wanted to shake the people of their traditional thinking and urged them to enjoy all the pleasures of life, without guilt or embarrassment, as that is the only way to achieve god!”, declared Ditchu, my guide as we trudged along the lush rice paddy fields towards the Phallus (or Penis) temple.
Just the previous day, I had trekked up till Tiger’s Nest in Paro and my legs were throbbing out with pain. But excitement won the better of me, as I kept wondering about the weird tradition of worshiping a male organ! As I walked across the fields, the sun drifted behind the clouds. A swift movement of air and the colurful sways of trees, reminding of an autumn summer, calmed by nerves and soothed my skin. I was now beginning to forget the painful pleas of my legs, as I began to observe my surroundings with an utmost curiosity a newborn displayed when he would open his eyes.
Ditchu continued with uncontained excitement, obvious to the fact that I was trying to keep my embarrassment under wraps. “It’s ok. We Bhutanese people are very open. These images of Phalluses that you see are not meant to be erotic or provocative. They are here to ward off any evil in the village. See, that Penis is smiling at us!, chuckled Ditchu. According to the popular belief, hoards of childless couples who visit the temple are blessed with kids, thereafter.
Leaving behind all the ‘Penis talks’, we girls left the temple and made our ways hungrily to a local restaurant. We hurriedly gobbled the food and made our way to the Punakha Dzong, a great fortress, where usually the royal weddings take place. As I entered, the Dzong, on a narrow wooden bridge, I could see monks feeding pigeons. A couple of little monks, came running in my way, almost banging into my iPad, as I tried to photograph them. Once I entered the Dzong, I could see a stoic white coloured building, ornate with beautifully carved wooden doors and windows.
In Bhutan, there are 45 districts and each district has its own Dzong. A Dzong is an old time fortress, now turned into administrative buildings. As I continue looking at the huge gold murals and relics of Buddha, inside the temple, Ditchu tells me the life story of Buddha, his teachings, the history of the fort and how it has withered generations of love, war and faith.
Later, I decide to take a moment to myself and take photographs of various tourists, monks and happy kids walking in their own world, making the same journey as me, but perhaps with a different story, each of its own. I sat down for the sun to set, opening up my diary, wanting to pen my thoughts under a tree. Not remembering, the autumn’s gone, the winter is here. Next would be the Spring. The gentle shower of cherry blossoms on my head, gently remind me of what’s next.