Arts and crafts of Bhutan

Dzongs comprises of traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. It also imposes monastic fortresses that appear throughout the landscape. Within their massive walls we can find items ranging from the most functional ones to those of enormous beauty. The eye catchy paintings and statues represents important religious figure of the country. Most of the intricate illustrations serve as symbols, symbolizing the events of good and evil did.

Bhutanese art and crafts are almost similar as they possess three major interrelated characteristics: Firstly, they are based on religion; secondly, they follow certain style which is uniform and thirdly, they are anonymous. As such, these items do not have any peculiar aesthetic and intrinsic function; instead they are interpretations of the holistic Buddhist religion. The differences between more artistic forms and more practical applications is thus, somewhat unclear. The craft works follow tight traditional conventions rather than their emphasis on innovation. Over the centuries Tibetan designs had significant influence over the Bhutanese style of arts and crafts besides developing its own definite forms and themes.

As the importance of the moon lies in the darkness, the importance of Bhutan’s traditional Buddhist culture lies in its arts and crafts. These items can be seen in both the ancient and modern patterns as well as structures. The most remarkable point of these items is its sense of regularity where there exists only superficial difference between old and modern ones.

To move forward in the field of arts and crafts, the Craftsmen do keep in mind the old-age techniques so that they can perpetuate a rich artistic tradition. In most of the places around the world, the work of arts and crafts are meant superficially for sale to the tourist where as in Bhutan it is widely used for religious purposes by the Bhutanese in their daily life.

When Bhutan is stepping into the age of modern world; like the polar bears are on threat with rise in world’s temperature, many traditional techniques are coming under a zone: the zone of danger: the zone of threat. Specifically when we talk about the items that we use in our daily life, most of these traditional items are being superimposed by the imported foreign stuffs. On top of that, the Bhutanese youth are becoming keenly interested in pursuing different career paths. With the intension of preserving and promoting the nation’s rich artistic traditions, the Government of Bhutan took and is taking various initiatives so that they can render a helping hand in promoting such methods which are one of the precious parts of country’s tradition and heritage.

Traditional handicrafts
In the land of Drukyul, all the series of traditional skills and crafts is basically defined as zorigchusum. (Zo stands for the ability to make, rig means the science or craft, and chusum is thirteen). Zorigchusum refers to those practices that came to picture as a result of its steady development through the centuries, often passed down from generations to generations with its long-standing relations to a particular craft. Even though these skills were existed from our grant grandparents’ time all over the country, Bhutanese believed that the zorigchusum was first formally categorized during the rule of the 4th Desi Tenzin Rabgye (1680-94). The following guidelines provide a glimpse of the thirteen traditional crafts:

DEZO – Paper art
The traditional Bhutanese paper commonly called as deysho are made mainly from a plant called Daphne and gum from a root of creeper.

DOZO – Masonry
Stone arts are widely used for the construction purposes. It is used in constructing stone pools and the outer walls of Dzongs, monasteries and some other buildings.

GARZO – Blacksmithing
This art stresses on the manufacture of iron goods like swords, farm tools, knives and other utensils.

JINZO – Sculpture
The basic function of this piece of art is to make objects used at the time of performing rituals and religious statues, pottery and is also essential in the construction of buildings using mortar, plaster and rammed earth.

LHAZO – Painting
This is one peculiar type of arts where it deals with the images on religious wall hangings (thangkas), statues and walls paintings and finally, to the decorations on window-frames and furniture.

LUGZO – Casting
Lungzo functions with the Production of bronze statues, ritual instruments and bells, in addition to household items using sand casting and jewelry.

PARZO – Carving
The carving is depicted on stone, wood or slate which is used for making items such as printing blocks for religious texts, masks, furniture, altars, and the slate images containing many shrines and altars.

SHAGZO – Woodturning
This technique of art is applied in making diverse of bowls, plates, cups and other containers. An example can be dapa and za-phob.

SHINGZO – Woodwork
The vital application of this form of art is in the construction of dzongs,temples, houses and some other household goods.

THAGZO – Weaving and dyeing
The intrinsic pattern of our national dress is the fantastic outcome of this art. It includes all the process of weaving starting from the preparation of yarn, the dying and its final weaving to produce different patterns and designs of various forms.

TROKO – Ornament-making
This is basically dealt with shaping and processing ornaments. Its working requires gold, silver and copper to make jewelry and other essential items used for rituals and household purposes.

TSHAZO – Cane and bamboo working
The production of unbelievable instruments of numerous styles and patterns like baskets, bows and arrows, utensils, drinks containers, traditional fences and mats and some of the musical instruments are the achievements of this art.

TSHEMZO – Embroidery and stitching
Among the different forms of arts Tshemzo works with needle and thread to make and stitch various clothes, boots and thangkas.

PunakhaDzong reconstructed

Punakha Dzong situated in between Pho Chu and Mo Chu was once hampered by flood. Under the supervision of His Majesty the 4th king Jigme Singye Wangchuk the most memorable landmarks in Bhutanese history was renovated and the immense glory of Dewachenpoiphodrang which glisten in the sun and moon light was once more restored.

The restoration and reconstruction of the Punadewachenpoiphodrang is widely remarked as historical achievement in accomplishment of the preservation of Bhutan’s rich heritage and a vital spiritual legacy for all Bhutanese. It is also formally recognized throughout the nation as an architectural and construction feat that pays homage to the tradition of Bhutanese architecture and craftsmanship at their label the best.

The working on the renovation of Punakha Dzong embodies the highest qualities of all the crafts of zorigchusum. Disregard from the traditional Bhutanese work of arts and crafts, the treasures of various Lhakangs in the dzong comprises of more than 200 sacred images marvelously crafted of five different precious stones and it has also used modern blocks of elements like copper, brass and some other metals.

As time slipped on, the dzong had to face several natural catastrophes and man power. The challenges that it experienced over the centuries are the dzong was seldom on fire for several times in the years 1780, 1789,1802,1831,1849 and in 1986. Besides that there was a huge destructive earthquake (1897) followed by a devastating flood (1994) which nearly washed away the Dzongchhung which holds the images of Dupthob Nagi Rinchen (vanaratna) and Jhou (Lord Buddha).

The different monuments and sculptures had to fight against time and natural disasters. Since the Bhutanese dzongs and other temples were solely made up of wooden blocks, it had tough time to fight back both manmade and natural calamities. Thus, towards the end of 1980s many temples were on the threat of collapse as the wooden structures had decayed. Various manuscripts had been damaged and Bhutan had to bear estimated loss of millions of Ngultrums.

It was at this crucial moment that His Majesty announced the reconstruction of the dzong. With his personal guidance and supervision, hundreds and thousands of expert craftsmen of various fields came together; developed unity and worked on Punakha Dzong Renovation Project. Knowing the need of a best supervising team, His Majesty handed over the overall responsibility to Ministry of Home with the Tensolapon, Dasho Wangchuk as main site supervisor. To share a bit about TensoLapon Dasho Wangchuk, he is the recipient of the DrukThuksey for his outstanding contributions not only in the renovation of the PunakhaDzong but also in restoration of temples and monasteries. For an example, it was said that the Kuenrey had reached the floor level when the foundation was not up to the expectation of His Majesty. Hence, the entire work had to be repeated completely where the foundation was made more adequate to withstand various calamities. During the time of reconstruction mass of timber were extracted meant for different special features like for building up the pillars, beam, joist and roof posts. Large rocks were shaped into the desired structures by the mason. Copper, brass and irons are shaped by the metal workers into artistic forms and Sculptors molded several religious images of different sizes to be installed in the lhakangs. Sculptors molded great numbers of religious images of all sizes to be installed in the Lhakhangs.

The reconstruction of Punakha dzong contributed in advancing the 13 traditional arts of the zorigchusum. All the artists as well as craftsmen of the country were summoned there to exhibit their talents and moreover they were trained further under skilled craftsmen which gave rise to new generation of zorigchusum.

There were a lot number of important sections of the dzongs. From them, the most important one was MacheLhakang. The very importance of the MacheLhakang is that it contains sacred relics of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal resting in thudam (permanent retreat). Others include the Kuenrey, the Tsen Chhorten which houses the eight sandal chortens, the Zimchung and monks’ living areas. Majority of the effort was put on central tower and Kuenreys. With regard to the surrounding environment it was modified and the banks of the rivers protected the dzong against major floods in future.

The most important three-storied MachenLhakhang was built with Cyprus wood with four entrance pillars marvelously carved with religious symbols in gold and silver. When we step inside the lhakang, it is miraculously decorated with frescos and murals displaying the teachings of Lord Buddha. Also there is a presence of images of seven incarnations of Zhabdrung in the lhakang.

The 15-foot Kudung chorten which is made of sandalwood, encased in silver along with gold and decorated with jewels like pearls, corals and other precious stones was also installed. It was noted that this Kudung chorten was a work of 20 craftsmen which took more than four years. The Kuenrey, which was about to take its last breathe was reconstructed with modification on a grand scale. This great hall comprises of 12 30-foot Cyprus pillars adorned in gilded brass plates and curved with religious sculpture.

The Kuenrey is presided by a 35-foot image of Buddha Shakyamuni which is crafted out of a mixture of five precious stones and medicinal clay. The images of the 16 arhats were depicted on the back walls of the Kuenrey. On its right side there is Buddha accompanied by a 28-foot image of Guru Padmasambava and on left there is a 28-foot image of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyall. The 48 three-foot images of the spiritual masters of the ther lineages and the 48 three-foot images of dongyuzinpa(lineage holders) lies along the left and right walls of the Kuenrey respectively.. At the same time new sacred images (NetenChudrung, Goenkhang, Lhamo, RigsumGompo and PhurpaiLhakang) were installed in the five Lhakhangs situated above the Kuenrey which were all re-built. Moreover, 10-foot Guru DorjiDroley image was also installed in the DroleyLhakang facing the confluence of the Phochu and Mochu. With regard to the TsenChhorten, it was reconstructed as a two-storey building along with the Je Khenpo’s residence, which expanded into a four-room apartment with a choekhang, attached.

On the process, the woodwork of massive beams, joists, pillars, floors, doors and windows in the five floors of the Utse and the wooden structures on the roof of the dukhang was altered with modification with timber imported from different Dzongkhags. To reduce the risk of fire, new restrooms and kitchen were built outside the dzong. In the year 1994, the destructive flood damaged the Dzongchung. The Dzongchung which was originally built by the great sage Dupthop Ngagi Rinchen in 1374 was restored in 1996, consecrated by the 69th Je Khenpo His Holiness, Geshe Gueden Rinchen.Previously, the plinth area was 590 square feet and latter its area was enlarged to 1500 square feet. Besides that a large retaining wall (25-35 feet in height) was constructed around the Dzongchung with the help of stone masonry and cement mortar. The skills of the Bhutanese craftsmen were clearly shown by the 200 new images crafted for the Dzong. The outcome such as the Shakyamuni Buddha, Guru Rimpochey, and ShabdrungNgawangNamgyal in the Kuenrey, the life-size gilded images of Mahakala and PeldenLhamo in the goenkhang, and dozens of larger-than-life images are unique works of art achieved as a result of meditative focus and concentration.

Since His Majesty, the royal family and his people were very much devoted to dharma, everyone paid their humble contributions which resulted in numerous treasures of the lhakangs and chortens besides the images inside the dzong.

One of the remarkable achievements in the history of Bhutan is the reconstruction and renovation of Punakha dzong.A sum of Nu 495 million was spent for the restoration of the dzong from which approximately Nu 240 million was covered by our Bhutanese government and the remaining sum of Nu 255 million was funded by our neighboring country India Along with the reconstruction of the dzong side by side, the project had succeeded in the renovation of Talo dzong, Phochu an Mochu bridges, landscaping and land filling in the surrounding of the dzong ,and also the reconstruction of the Dzongchung was a success.

The sum total of Nu 609.03 million out of which the Indian government supported with Nu 347 million and the rest of Nu 261 million which was funded by our government was spent on the overall restoration work of the dzong.

The successful completion of the dzong brought smiles on the face and happiness in the heart of every Bhutanese citizen. Like the blooming flowers enjoy the shower of rainfall, all the Bhutanese people had a wonderful time celebrating the auspicious occasion. The dzong not only signifies art and architecture of the country but it also carries deep memories of many important events that were depicted in the history of Bhutan. During the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal; he unified the country, strengthened the teaching of Dharma, introduced Bhutanese identity and safeguarded the country from the invasion of foreign countries by presiding there at PunakhaDzong.

It was there in Punakha Dzong that the representatives of monk body along with the Poenlops and Dzongpoens signed the historic genja and unanimously elected Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk as the first hereditary monarch of Bhutan on 17th December, 19907.

The then restored dzong has been loaded with religious treasures and images and like the clear blue sky reflecting the rays of the sun, it shows the beauty of Bhutanese art and architecture. The DewachenpoiPhodrang is, today, the sacred impregnable monument that was prophesied by Guru Rimpochey and established by ShabdrungNgawang Namgyal.

Thangkas are important part of Bhutanese painting. Among the religious painting the wheel of life is one of the dramatic paintings. The wheel of life is very much rich in symbolism, it captures key aspects of the Buddha’s teaching, including rebirth, karma and dependent origination.

In specific, the wheel of Life Thangka exhibits the cycle of Karma showing the six realms of existence into which a living creature is continually reborn after they attain nirvana (the end of craving, suffering and the cycle of existence). But there is more to the Wheel of Life Thangka than that.

Yama The wheel of life Thangka shows a large circle which comprises of three more concentric circles inside and six segments. This large circle is kept in position and rotated accordingly by a fierce-looking figure Yama, the Lord of Death. His head can be seen above the circle and his feet below. His skull adorns his head and it symbolize his association with death.

The Innermost Circle The innermost circle of the Wheel of Life contains three animals – a pig which represents delusion, a rooster representing greed and a snake which indicates hatred. In general these are referred to as ‘the three fires’ or ‘the three poisons’. They are located in the center of the Wheel of Life to indicate their importance in maintaining the cycle of birth and death.

The Inner Circle The circular line which surrounds the center of the Wheel shows living beings dealt according to law of karma. Those who performed good deeds in their live ascend whereas those who performed evil deeds in their live descend. The background is for those who ascends and is dark for those who descend.

The Six Realms As we move outward, the Wheel is split into six segments and each segment depicts one of the six realms of samsara (the cycle of birth and death). When we move at the top in clockwise direction we can see realm of the gods. In this realm we can see figures playing musical instruments indicating pleasure and happiness. But, once their stored good deeds are finished, these gods and goddesses will have rebirth in the lower realm. Hence, this realm is not the place where peace and happiness is evergreen.

When the realm of gods subsides, we step into the realm of demi-gods (titans), the second segment. Even though the titans were powerful, they did not live a peaceful live due to their inborn jealousy, which enable them to compete with each other.
The third segment portrays the realm of the hungry ghosts or pretas. These are portrayed with large bellies. Despite eating and drinking, they are always thirsty and hungry.

The bottom segment shows the hell realm. Here, the beings have to suffer extreme heat and cold. It’s said that the beings having born in this realm cannot escape from this suffering, as they don’t have the opportunity to perform good deeds.

The animal realm occupies the fifth realm. These animals in this realm do not have the rights to own their world. Rather, they are under the control of human beings and they have to suffer different sorts of sufferings like killing, beating and many more.

The final sixth realm belongs to that of humans – a place like a soup, which is a mixture of both pleasant and unpleasant aspects. Among the six realms, Buddhism finds this realm the most suitable one. Here, the human beings have the right to perform their good acts-a step to enlightenment. Thus, it’s considered that life of human being is very precious and we must not misuse this life.

In almost all the Wheel of Life Thangkas, we can see a bodhisattva being depicted in each of the six realms, which indirectly suggests that compassionate beings are always born in each of the realms to help the other beings.

The Outer Circle – The Twelve Links As we scroll clockwise through the twelve images, we get to understand the symbolism of the outer circle in depth. It’s also through these images that we get to know about the Buddha’s explanation of the process by which beings follow the law of karma (life, death and are rebirth).
1. A blind man – this image clearly shows ignorance/delusion. The reason of our existence in this samsaric cycle is because we are all not enlightened.
2. A potter – the potter represents action, the deeds that arose from ignorance and which have several impacts whether for good or ill.
3. A monkey – the monkey moves from one object to another symbolizing unconsciousness.
4. People in a boat – As we can see two people in the boat, it signifies body and mind revolving through samsara.
5. A house-it is enriched with five windows, which symbolize the five senses and a door, which symbolizes the mind. Note: In Buddhism, the mind is considered to be an additional sense to the rest five senses.
6. Two lovers- is a significance of the senses and sensory data that gradually comes together. Example: the eye coming into contact with a color or shape.
7. A man with an arrow piercing his eye – man is ruined with mixed emotions and this clearly represents our feelings that will partially blind us whether it is pleasant or unpleasant.
8. A man having a drink – this signifies craving, the unlimited desire to have and possess.
9. A man plucking fruit from a tree – here, it shows craving leading to grasping and clinging.
10. A pregnant woman/Sometimes a couple in bed – it demonstrates ‘becoming’; from clinging new life is about to be born.
11. A birth scene- symbolizes birth as well as rebirth.
12. An old man or corpse – signifies old age and death, which are the inevitable consequence.

Therefore, to convey the message to the illiterate ones, this sort of Buddhist Thangkas was used as teaching aids.

The art of weaving
The art of weaving is most common in the eastern side of our country. Usually, women are the most common weavers. Women in the eastern mountain villages weave in the open-air with their back strap looms. These women enjoy weaving by singing as they rock back and forth.

In order to weave yarns and thread into gho and kira, they are firstly dyed (using vegetable dye) and dried for weeks. These dresses are commonly known as our national dress. The art of weaving is most commonly practiced in Lhuentse, Kuri Chu and Radhi areas. The weavers in this locality produce raw silk, silk on cotton, and silk on silk textiles.

People in the eastern side grow crops just enough to feed themselves and thus, this art of weaving adds to earning their livings. A complete kira (three pieces sewn together to form a large rectangular piece) requires sometime in weaving and its duration depends mainly upon its pattern. For instance the time required to weave a Kishuthara may extend to one year depending upon the fastness of a weaver. The prizes of the kiras are also based on its pattern and type of thread used. For an example, a Kishuthara may costs Nu.80000 and it may go up to more than one lakh.

In the far east of Bhutan, we come across teams of women seated on valley slopes with a heavy leather belt strapped fast to their waists. These women will be heaving a wooden slat across recently dyed fabric, which results in creation of vivid patterns, designs and of course the colors.

The products of this art are sold all over the country. Lengths of woven cloth pieces hang from rafters making colorful displays. In Doksum, near to GomKora, almost every houses display their products by hanging from rafters and we can find women weaving in their balconies.

The art of weaving is very unique and hence, the United States ‘Peabody Museum at Salem, Massachusetts’, organized a worldwide exhibition based on this subject.

The Phallus: an arcane symbol
It’s said that TshongpaSonam of Rangkhar stuck pictures of elaborately drawn phalluses on the number plates when he bought his first truck.

A small phallus was curved on a wooden piece by farmer Dorji Gyeltshen when he noticed that his Ba-min had given birth to a calf.

The inauguration of Singay of Paro’s new house was done by hanging four phalluses on the eaves of his house (see box for the ritual). Also, in eastern Bhutan farmers hang a wooden phallus in the field when the crops begin to sprout and at the time of Tshechus, the Atsara wear a cloth phallus as part of their headgear.

The phallic symbol was, is and will be as popular as it has ever been.

As apples in a basket vary in size and shape, the phallus also comes in different shapes and sizes carved either in wood, metal, stone or cloth. Most often, it is painted on walls, hung at the eaves of houses and displayed in various forms during some traditional ceremonies. In Bhutan the phallus plays a vital role, as it is an integral part of ceremonies observed by communities, commonly used to drive away evil spirits and counter evil.

When inauguration ceremony of a new house is done, a sort of phallic ritual is performed whereby the house owner consecrates the house. The ritual is an elaborate form of phallic ritual. At the time of ritual, phalluses are placed on the four eaves of the house facing the four directions and one inside the house. The five giant phalluses carved out from pieces of wood are tied together in a bundle and then put in a bamboo basket. Then a young and virgin girl well dressed; leading a dancing and singing troupe carries the basket and makes three rounds around the house.

After that groups of men and women are formed. The male group climbs up on the roof while the women’s group stands under the eave of the house facing towards the east direction. The basket is tied on the middle of the rope and a tug of war begins. Here, men pull the basket roof-ward whereas the women pretend to pull it to the ground. Still then we should know that a common understanding is made between the groups that finally the basket will have to reach the roof so that the phalluses can be hung from the eaves. The typical phallic songs are sung as the tug of war starts and proceeds. After every verse of the song the common people watching the ritual repeats the word laso.

At the middle of the game, the men’s group pretend to lose the battle and the basket is pulled down. At this moment, the owner of the house energizes the men by serving them with ara (home brewed spirit) so that they can win the game.

The game continues until the basket reaches the roof and the men place the phalluses on the eaves. These special phalluses are tied with a dagger (redi) each that are painted in five different colors.

It’s believed that the five daggers signify the five different manifestations of Lord Jambayang. According to Dasho Lam Sanga, “The white dagger placed on the east eave symbolizes peace, purity, and harmony; a red colored dagger on the west represents wealth and power; the yellow dagger situated on the south signifies prosperity and the green dagger placed in north represents protection. The final fifth dagger placed inside the house symbolizes wisdom and is usually blue in colour.” Moreover it’s sometimes called Kharamshing or Mikha(a piece of wood to counter the evil tongue and eye), Gulang or WangchuChenpo(reference to Lord Shiva) and WangchuChenpo pho tag(the male symbol of Lord Shiva), or simply Zurshing(a piece of wood that hangs from the eaves). Aside from its popular perception, the phallus has a significant meaning beyond its obvious symbolism to drive away evil dominations.

According to Kuensel, a Bhutanese scholar shared that the true significance of the phallus has been perverted by popular belief.

He said that the phallus is an artistic folk device to suppress the human male issue of ego or in one line; it is an attempt to kick out the male ego since the phallus in its warped form reminds of problems of male ego. He detailed that the phallus, in particular represents a Centre of male ego, and is not to symbolize celebration of sex.

He also said, “The idea of a phallus as a symbol is an elemental driving force in a society; if this force is harnessed judiciously and diverted to productivity and creativity it can result in wonders.”

“If incase, this force is not utilized properly, it leads to accumulation of lust and makes a man to act like an animal in undesirable way. Therefore, the phallus reminds men to control that force and act desirably in a civilized manner.”

This explanation given by one of the Bhutanese scholars coincides with the Hindu belief that Shivalingam (representation of Lord Shiva’s phallus) denotes the primeval energy of the creator and that the lingam (a representation of the infinite cosmic column of fire); whose origins, Vishnu (sustainer) and Bhrama (creator) were unable to explain.

It’s a Hindu myth that if the mundane desires are controlled, even the most bestial of beings can rise and rule the world. On the other hand, if this thinking power is misused, it can allow one to corrupt actions, which leads to entire degeneration in the thinking process.

With regard to a researcher at the Center of Bhutan Studies (CBS) the Bhutanese phallic symbol is not a symbol to denote domination of womanhood by man. Rather it symbolizes a worldly illusion of desires.

For an example, the phallus hung from the eaves has a dagger tied to it representing two opposite impulses. “The phallus denotes an illusion and the dagger represents wisdom to suppress the above consequences thus leading to the sublimation of human mind,” he said.

But the authentic question in the minds and speeches of Bhutanese scholars is how did this almost-universal phallic culture exist into Bhutanese society?

According to the former principal of the Institute of Language and Culture Studies (ILCS) Dasho Lam Sanga, he said that as such there are no written documents on it. But it’s said that the worship of the phallus existed in the country before the arrival of Guru Rimpoche and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. He also expressed that our forefathers narrated all what we know today. Some of the Bhutanese scholars say that the phallus was a part of Bon tradition.

A researcher at the CBS said, “The phallus is an integral part of Bon tradition”. “Before Buddhism flourished into the land of Drukyul, majority of the Bhutanese people practiced Bonism. At that time, phallus occupied the central position in all Bon rituals. So there is a possibility that what we have today might be a remnant of Bonism.” Almost all Bhutanese people believe that the phallic symbolism has a connection to the legacies of the popular Bhutanese saint, Lam DrukpaKinley (commonly called the Divine Madman for his unrestrained sexual practices and rebellion against the dogmatic religious institutions). However, Bhutanese scholars strongly disagree with this ‘common misconception’. Sonam Kinga of the CBS said, “No phallic symbol was ever directly ascribed to the saint, though there were some associations.” “Although the association enriches and enhances the fascination of the phallus, DrukpaKinley used the phallus as a ‘medium’ to the subdue demons and demonesses and other evil spirits, and in fact he make use of it in his sexual practices to overcome the social inhibitions set by the socially established values.” Nevertheless, there is a popular story, which illustrates how the saint tamed a demoness in Helela. It’s believed that DrukpaKinley have copulated with the demoness and tamed her with his sizeable organ. Today ChimmiLhakhang in Lobesa, Thimphu, is dedicated to the saint and the people visiting the temple are blessed with a phallus, therwise g fertility. The saint subdued and tamed evil spirits by means of his phallus and thus, the popular Bhutanese belief that phallic symbols ward-off evil spirits has a link with it.

An ILCS lecturer KinzangDorji said, “Human prosperity is supposed to ride of ill feelings.” “People’s method of defense was to strike back through a human agency represented by the phallus. Thus the belief of protection against the evil eye.” On addition to the above fact, Dasho Lam Sanga also said that the phallus rituals are conducted in some parts of eastern Bhutan to protect themselves from evil spirits. People of these communities make offerings of mainly flowers, milk and ara to please the phallus. In fact the color of the ara is made red corresponding to the natural color of human organ. Some other sort of phallic ritual is being performed in central Bhutan where they dip a wooden phallus in the cups before giving drinks to their guests.

A resident of Thimphu had shared a vivid experience when he was a teacher at Yallang community school in Trashigang. He said that he had been invited to a village ritual where he saw a mop of naked men who had come out of nowhere and started chasing women around the house. They then caught hold of the women and amazingly they rubbed their organs on them signifying that they are chasing away the evil spirits. Though Bhutanese people celebrate the symbols of male organ, there is less celebration comprising of female organ (the pudenda or yoni or baga, the Latin, Hindu, and Tibetan names) in the country.

Nonetheless, there are some representations of the female organ like symbols on rocks, which are usually pudenda. Among them; one can be seen in SingyeDzong area, one in Aja Nye, and one on the rocky cliff opposite to Jamkhar village in Trashigang, popularly referred to as Jamkharamabaga (literally meaning Jamkhar Mother’s pudenda). The Jamkharamabaga is believed to pour water that people considered as Drupchu (holy water), just before the GomkoraTshechu that celebrates fertility.

Despite its significance, phallus symbolism is losing its vibrancies in the urban area. For an example, a house owner in Thimphu who had a giant phallus painted on the wall of his building erased it after getting lots of compliments from people that it looked offensive and indecent. Moreover, drawing of Phallus symbols on the buildings in urban areas are discouraged by the concerned authorities. A resident in Thimphu expressed to Kuensel that as time goes on what will matter is whether people will accept the symbol or not. He even asked, “What is the representation of phallus in the modern Bhutanese society?”

Contact Signatures of Himalayas

Would you like us to contact you through phone?