Chimi Lhakhang

Western Bhutan

The famous Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley, the 15th-century Tibetan magician, saint and exponent of 'crazy wisdom'. It is for him that every house and shop in the nearby village is decorated with protective phallus symbols. The temple is one of Bhutan's most popular sights, for both foreign tourists and Bhutanese pilgrims.

Inside the lhakhang you'll see the central statue of the lama and his dog Sachi, as well as statues of the Zhabdrung, Sakyamuni and a 1001-armed Chenresig. To the right is a statue of Kunley's cousin, the founder of the temple. Make a small offering and you'll be rewarded with a blessing from the lama's wooden and bone phalluses and his iron archery set. Childless women come to receive a wang (blessing or empowerment) from the saint, while mothers-to-be select their future baby's name from a collection of bamboo slips, leaving with either Chimi or Kunley as one of their child's two names. Other women carry a large wooden phallus around the building perimeter in order to boost their chances of conception.

Murals to the right of the chapel depict events from Kunley's colourful life; the section above the window portray the three demons of the Dochu La. Local protectors depicted in the chapel include Dochula Dom, the demon who Drukpa Kunley subdued at a spot just outside the lhakhang, marked by a black, white and red chorten. The nearby bodhi tree is believed to have been brought from Bodhgaya in India (where Buddha achieved enlightenment under a bodhi tree).

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