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May 10th 2012
Published: May 30th 2012
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Giggles and questions marks must pop into every visitor to Bhutan’s head, as it did to mine, as one sees the happy-and-funny looking ribbon penis painted on the walls of houses and businesses.

I hope you won't take offense on focus of this blog, as you read the title. It's not just about the "object", but most importantly, what's behind it. I write about what catches my attention, and this is one of the things in Bhutan which is truly interesting and curious. I'd be writing also if tons of houses had happy cats with ribbons were painted on the walls of most homes, with the intention to mean more than just an interesting animal painting.

Only a Divine Madman in Bhutan could be behind it.

Here is how the story of THE DIVINE MADMAN goes:


The story goes that the saint who inspired the flying phalluses’ painted on walls and hang from the roof top corners of houses was the Tibetan Lama Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529). He drunk lots of wine and seduced
Dressed up and popping everywhere...Dressed up and popping everywhere...Dressed up and popping everywhere...

To ward off bad spirits.
all sorts of women, from young girls to guests’ wives, perhaps even his own mother, with the pretence that he was conveying the teachings of the Buddha. How convenient is that? This clever and twisted Lama must have been quite charming and gifted at seduction as he sang songs and used “humor and outrageous behavior to provoke people to discard their own preconceptions”. He wondered from place to place in the Himalaya, and got attention and respect, through the years, and up to today.

Well, if he lived today, in most societies he would be behind bars and whoever painted a single penis on an outside house wall, would probably be called a pervert. But this is Bhutan, and to understand this land and its Bhudhist fiber, one has to accept extraordinary accounts and supernatural beings. It’s believed that saints can appear in as many as 8 different forms, and we are not talking about reincarnation and fantastic stories, like the one of the Madman, are considered secrate. But, in order to fully appreciate the wonders of Bhutan, there is no point in rationalizing fantastical events involving reincarnated Lamas, consorts, and spirits believed by the Bhutanese as historical facts. So, I chose to accept the accounts of the early Bhutan as they are presented by the Bhuthamese and I enjoyed listening to the many stories told by my guide Chimi, and also the ones depicted on so many bright colored murals painted on the wall of monasteries, Dzongs and homes.

I have read writers calling the Bhutanese believes "folklore", but I find this insulting to the believers. It may sound like pure mythology to most, but anyone’s believes should be respected, as long as they are benign. For me, the accounts seem interesting, with an innocent tone to them, except, of course, for the Divine Madman story which is hard to comprehend as acceptable by most.


We hiked to the temple to the Divine Madman, passing through rice and wheat fields.

School kids, women pulling cows, man working the land, and kids playing made the fields come alive.

There was a small chorten and a collection of vertical prayer flags completing the scenic landscape. But nothing was more curious in the area than the paintings of gigantic flying penises decorated with ribbons the wall of most houses. Ah. There were wooden phalluses hanging from the corners of the roofs also. Even more fascinating was to learn that the penises “are modeled” on the one of a saint and that they have the power to ward off bad spirits and give good luck to the household. How curious is that? Penis not associated with fertility or sex, and having special powers!

On the monastery’s ground, novice monks played with a ball against a beautiful background filled with prayer flags gracefully blown by the wind, spreading mantras into the sky. The collection of prayer flags, some tall vertical ones, and some colorfull horizontally lined, was beautiful!

Inside the small chapple, the walls are covered with colorful murals telling many of the stories of the Divine Madman. My guide enthusiastically pointed them out, as a true believer.

A Monk who was praying at the chapple, stood up, grabbed two antigue wooden penises and "blessed" us by touching our heads with them. I was blessed... by penisus!!! What was I blessed for? Good luck? Keep the bad spirits away? I am not sure, but it sure was weird being blessed in a Bhuddist chapple by two penises, that's for sure!!!

As we hiked back, the sun was setting. The prayer flags fluttering against the orange sky, felt softer. The fields felt gentler. The air cooler.

It was the end of another day in the land of the Thunder Dragon and Flying Phalluses.

Til next time.


Additional photos below
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31st May 2012

Plural of penis?
Ha ha. I loved your entry. One of the best things about travelling are these unusual occurences. Your blog made me wonder at the plural of penis though. A quick google search yielded penises, penes, and peni. As many possibilities as photo opportunies?
31st May 2012

plural of p....
ahahah Thanks. I had already corrected it. jet-legged...

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