Bhutan, Phallic Art

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Bhutan and the Bhutanese have a thing about the phallus. They are penis obsessed and you’ll see large, lurid, male members artistically depicted on houses throughout Bhutan. One village, in particular, Sopsoka, near Punakha town and adjacent to Chimi Lhakhang, is famous for its penis art along with the fertility temple. This temple is also called the “no dog” monastery, although it was packed with dogs, and the whole Bhutan phallus story revolves around The Divine Madman. Of course, we visited. Let me tell you a little about Bhutan’s phallic art and the penis.

Bhutan wall painting phallus
Wall murals like this are very common in Bhutan. You’ll see them on houses, but in this village, Sopsoka, there are a lot!

I hope I got everything below correct, this post is based on the information given to us by our Bhutanese guide and notices at the site.

Bhutanese flying phallus or penis
Phallic souvenirs and trinkets are also common in Bhutan.

Below you can see a typical Bhutanese-style house or building, with the sacred phallic wall murals.

Bhutan wall art Phallus
Photos of sacred Bhutanese wall art, and the story of why these fertility murals are common in Bhutan

This post isn’t for shock value, this is a sacred part of Bhutanese life. Read why!

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The sacred phalic wall art of Bhutan

Thanks for sharing.

The Bhutan Phallus

bhutan penis art mural bhutanese house
A very typical Bhutanese house with some outstanding phallic art work. Murals like this are common.

All over Bhutan, you will see phallus wall paintings and occasionally flying carved wooden phalluses, often with teeth or eyes, on housetops at corners of the eaves.

Traditionally these symbols of an erect penis keep the evil eye and malicious gossip at bay.

bhutanese fertility handicraft
Bhutanese fertility handicraft shop

They are particularly numerous in the Punakha valley near the fertility temple of Chime or Chimi Lhakhang.

Bhutanese Penis Art Video

I have so many photos of penis and phallus arts and crafts, traditional and tourist-orientated, that I can’t possibly put them all on this page.

They’re in the video below, because I know you want to see them, right?

Bhutanese Penis Souvenirs

wooden bhutanese phallus souvenir
Phalluses made of wood and brightly painted with eyes, teeth, and …footballs.

I have a Bhutanese phallus fridge magnet right here, at home.

We don’t shop much on our travels but we did see this fascinating book right across Bhutan, if you’d like to learn more about Bhutan and phalluses. If you’re in a shopping mood, every shape and size of member is available, usually wooden.

You can find penis masks with lude detail that will look lovely on your wall and raise the odd eyebrow.

The Divine Madman

Traditional Bhutan Costume and bhutanese penis mask
Near Chimi Lhakang, a man in traditional Bhutanese dress wears a penis mask.

Lham Drukpa Kuenlay (1455 to 1570) was an enlightened Buddhist master who personified Vayrayana, “Crazy Wisdom”. A profound wisdom that transcends the mundane religious cultures. Lham Drukpay Kuenlay is affectionately known as “The Divine Madman”

The non-conventional , bizarre, and outrageous characterised the Divine Madman’s life and teachings.

He toured the country as a vagrant partaking in dance, women, hunting, and alcohol, human pleasures not normally associated with the holy.

This practice demonstrated that he was beyond the norms and expectations of conventional society and taunted monastic society.

His phallus, his “flaming thunderbolt” or “magic thunderbolt of wisdom” weapon was a symbol of society’s discomfort around reality.

Chime Lhakhang – No Dog Monastery

chimi lhakang monastery temple bhutan
Chime Lhakang temple monastery lies on the top of a small hill not far from the village of Sopsoka, about 10 Km from Punakha town. It is also known as “no dog” monastery thanks to The Divine Madman. Buddhist pilgrims visit for fertility and child blessings and for the naming of children. Devotees are touched on the head by a monk with a wood and ivory phallus.

“No Dog Monastery” is where The Divine Madman killed and buried a particular demon (Dochu La) in dog form as one of his miraculous acts. Obviously, he used his “flaming thunderbolt” to do so.

Lama Kuenlay (also spelled Kunley) freed the Bhutanese people of the tyranny of many demons and the temple and monastery at Chime Lhakang is where the mad saint’s original phallus, bought from Tibet, is housed.

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Phallic art in Bhutan

The temple af Chime Lhakang was built in the 15th century by The Divine Madman’s cousin brother Ngawang Choegyel,. and is a pleasant walk through fields and village houses from the main road at Punakha.

D and I managed to get lost here, we were leading the group, speeding ahead on experienced trekking legs.

We walked up and down some quite steep hills more times than necessary, but we saw a little more than the rest of the group in the process.

Still to this day, pilgrims visit this place to pray for children to come and to receive blessings for their child’s life.

walking to chime lhakang bhutan
The short walk to Chime Lhakhang passes through fields and very traditional Bhutanese houses. The whole of Bhutan reminded me more of the mountains of Europe than the high Himalayas, to me, the houses looked like they could be in Switzerland or Romania even.

I visited Bhutan with my then 15-year-old teenager. Was this a good travel-with-teens destination? Yes, he loved it. It was fascinating, we were with a group, we did some trekking and there was plenty of food.

All of those things made Bhutan a great trip for a teenager.

Would this Bhutan trip be good with kids? Probably not. There was a lot of time in buses and a lot of waiting for group members while they shopped or did things that didn’t interest us.

Bhutan is expensive, $250 per day is the typical fee, this is lower for kids. Bhutan would be a very expensive family vacation destination.

Bhutan was my top bucket-list destination, my dream trip of a lifetime.

Did Bhutan live up to expectations and was it worth the cost? What sort of value did we get for this extreme price? You’ll have to read that blog post. We loved Bhutan, but it was very expensive.

If I were to pick one Himalayan destination as the best, I’d pick Nepal.

If I could add one more, I’d pick Tibet. Bhutan vs Nepal vs Tibet is an easy pick for me. Nepal is my choice as the best destination in the Himalayas for many reasons. Maybe that’s a post I need to write.

Bhutan was fascinating, it was a dream destination, and this phallic art was just one more interesting quirk of Bhutan. The buildings were beautiful, the art, culture and traditions were incredible and the landscapes so unspoiled. We enjoyed near faultless hospitality and always felt safe in modern hotels and on good roads. If you dream of Bhutan, then yes, you should go. Be certain your Bhutan itinerary includes Sopsoka for Bhutan’s unique phallic art.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

2 thoughts on “Bhutan, Phallic Art”

  1. My husband and I are currently arranging to take a private tour in Bhutan. I’m hoping that it goes better than your group tour! I found your comments useful and fascinating and I’m starting to lower my expectations a bit. Thank you for the advice.

    • Glad to be helpful. Hope you love it. We did, it was just a bit too organised and controlled for us. We’re free spirits!


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