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This is a personal blog. Views and opinions expressed here are of author's and not intended to disgrace any religion, institution or individual. The writer(author) also admits that his views may not be necessarily same as those of others.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

They go beyond their shape(s)

Did you ever wonder why colourful painting of penises adorn the white walls of our buildings? Did you ever question why?

(image from google)
As a small child, I was always attracted by those paintings; wanted to know why,because, at one hand we have been inculcated the taboo associated if we speak a word related to it but on the other hand these symbols are just everywhere. The only thing I knew then was : They(phallic symbols) protect us from evil. That's it, no more.

We can see the phallic symbols during Tshechus, in some monasteries and even when a farmer has his cow ready to give birth to a calf or when his building is ready for inauguration. The symbols seem to serve different purposes: help us to remind the problems of male ego; protect us from evils; balance the illusions(of desires) and wisdom; and to bring fertility and prosperity.

During Tshechus, Atsharas (clowns) wear a cloth phallus as a head gear on the forehead of the mask. They also carry the phallus in their hands and try to publicise it to the audience. If the family members happen to be together at that moment, it must be embarrassing experience too. But they all understand it after all. This embarrassment is believed to remove some sins. Think rationally-it simply reminds us the problems of our male ego. Isn't it?

Four phallic symbols are hanged from the eaves of the building facing four directions, during inauguration. Attached to these are four Reldri (daggers) symbolising different manifestations of Lord Jambay Yang: White reldri in the east represents peace, purity and harmony; red in the west for wealth and power; yellow in the south  symbolises prosperity; and green dagger in the north represents protection. The fifth one which is blue in colour placed inside the house represents the wisdom.

Monastery like Chimi Lhakhang is said to have the longest, a brown wooden phallus with a silver handle. It is considered as the most important, a religious relic used for blessing the devout. And people believe that the blessing gives them fertility in case they need a child.

Thus, phallic symbols on walls, in monasteries, and during tshechus are not exactly what it should be literally. The penis symbols on the walls (of building) protect those who live inside and is believed that there will be no quarrels among the family members. They also remind the problems created out of worldly illusions of desires. Phallus is not exactly a penis in this sense of Bhutanese context of tradition and beliefs. These symbols represent beyond their shapes. 


  1. Nice one....i believe often one should try to uncover reasons and secrets behind such things with which we have grown up.
    Yeah, i read in a book that its hung or painted, because its to protect from the evil, and the point that i could add more to it is that evil here is considered to be feminine..:)(

  2. Thank you Soyal. I did not read the book but heard from elders. Oh yes! i read somewhere online.