Even though I knew I would see them, the first time I saw a phallus on a wall it still made me stop and stare. The penis was as large as the door, and it was depicted with some interesting details, like sperm coming out of its top. During the rest of my visit, I would see so many I would grow accustomed to their sight, but I would still notice them. The Bhutanese themselves seemed totally cool about it. Children playing in a door opening with two giant penises on either side, women passing by a painting with a colourful depiction of the male organ: it seemed they did not even pay attention to them.
It is often thought that the penis cult started with Lama Drukpa Kinley, better known as the Divine Madman for his extraordinary ways of spreading the Buddhist teaching, warding off evil spirits, and subduing demons. Sex was a crucial part in this, and the Divine Madman was known to sleep with female demons in order to subdue them. Alternatively, he would subdue demons by hitting them on the head with his penis. Nowadays, wooden penises are being used - mostly to increase fertility, most famously in Chimi Lakhang monastery. But the depiction of the male organ can be found anywhere in the Himalayan kingdom.
It is often painted with some decorative elements around it, while there always are hairy balls under the penis; these sometimes look like wheels. In some cases, I even saw triple penises grouped together. I wondered if this would give even better protection against evil spirits? Apart from the paintings that cannot be missed by anyone, you can also see wooden penises, often hanging above doors or near windows. These are smaller in size, come without testicles, and often hang dangling down from white cloth. Apparently, evil spirits are also capable to enter the house through the window, and these need special protection. Watching the phallic symbols all over Bhutan, one wonders how much they contribute to the famous Gross National Happiness.
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