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Divine Madness of Chimi Lhakhang: A Unique Bhutanese Monastery


Nestled in the lush and serene hills of Punakha District in Bhutan lies the Chimi Lhakhang, a quirky and enchanting Buddhist temple that is steeped in both history and mythology. This 500-year-old temple, built by the revered saint Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529), also known as the "Divine Madman," is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.


Chimi Lhakhang is a place where the traditional and the unconventional merge in perfect harmony. The temple built as a chorten on the site after Kunley's blessing, was later made into a temple by 14th Drukpa hierarch, Ngawang Choegyelin 1499. The temple is famous for its wooden phallus, which is said to have been brought from Tibet by Lama Kunley and is used to bless people who visit the temple on pilgrimage, particularly women seeking blessings to beget children. The tradition of blessing involves the temple priest striking pilgrims on the head with the phallus, which has been decorated with a silver handle.


The story of Chimi Lhakhang begins with the arrival of the "Divine Madman" in Bhutan. Drukpa Kunley was a maverick saint who traveled across the Himalayas spreading his teachings of Buddhism in a unique and often outrageous manner. His unorthodox methods and humorous approach to spirituality made him a beloved figure in Bhutan, and his legacy continues to this day.


Lama Kunley was said to have subdued a demon at the site where Chimi Lhakhang now stands, using his "magic thunderbolt of wisdom." The temple is located on a hillock that is said to resemble the breast of a woman, and the site is blessed with prayer flags that line the road from the tiny village of Yowakha to the temple. All houses in the village have paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls, making Chimi Lhakhang a truly unique destination for tourists and pilgrims alike.


Visitors to Chimi Lhakhang can experience the true essence of Bhutanese culture and spirituality. A 20-minute walk through the lush agricultural fields of mustard and rice leads to the hillock where the temple is situated, offering visitors a chance to connect with nature and soak in the tranquil surroundings. The temple is also home to intricate wall paintings, colorful frescoes, and Buddhist artifacts that offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.


In conclusion, Chimi Lhakhang is a must-visit destination for anyone who wants to experience the unique blend of Bhutanese culture, history, and spirituality. The temple is a testament to the unconventional and often humorous approach of the "Divine Madman" to spirituality and serves as a reminder that there are many paths to enlightenment. So, if you're in Bhutan, be sure to take a pilgrimage to Chimi Lhakhang and embrace the divine madness for yourself!

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