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Timings : 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

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Chimi Lhakhang, Punakha Overview

Located an hour outside Punakha village, Chimi Lhakhang, (also known as Chime Lhakhang) is a Buddhist monastery best known for its worship of the phallus. It stands on a round hillock said to resemble breasts and is decorated with phallic symbols all along its walls. It was built in honour of Drukpa Kunley, the “Divine Madman” who preaches Buddhism through humour and sexual tones.

Chimi Lhakhang is known as a fertility temple for blessing couples with a 10-inch wooden penis that is tapped on their shoulders. Visitors come from all around the world to visit the monastery, obtain blessings, and get a glimpse of a unique side of Buddhism. Visiting sites like Chimi Lhakhang in Punakha does require a permit to enter the district.

These are usually pre-arranged through tour operators once one submits an online application to the Tourism Council of Bhutan in Thimphu. This is charged at approximately INR 2,800. Keep this permit handy when travelling in case it needs to be shown at checkpoints.

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Architecture of Chimi Lhakhang Temple

The Lhakhang is moderately sized and is smaller than other monasteries in the country. It is square in shape with a black and golden roof. There are rows of prayer wheels, walls carved with images of saints, and a golden spire at its centre. Before entering the monastery, one will cross the black, white, and red chorten (stupa) that is said to hold the demon defeated by Lama Kunley.

Chimi Lhakhang
Chimi Lhakhang

The prayer hall is decorated with phallic symbols, bells, drums, and horns. It holds a statue of Kunley in a monk’s robe in a reclining position, flanked by a ceramic statue of his faithful dog Sachi. Near this statue is a statue of Guru Padmasambhava at the altar. The images on the walls depict scenes from the lives of Chenresig, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Zhabdrung and the battle between the Dochula demon and Lama Kunley. There is also a Bodhi tree here that are believed to have come from Bodhgaya.

Popular as a fertility temple, the monastery sees hundreds of visitors annually. They go to the prayer wheel and are then blessed with a 10-inch wooden phallus with a silver handle that is touched on their shoulders and/or head. This is the “wang” (blessing) to be received. Some couples come here with their new-born children to receive a name – they do this by picking up a slip from the altar that carries names, typically Kunley or Chimi. It’s customary to re-visit the temple if one has been blessed with a child.

Chimi Lhakhang

Legend of Chimi Lhakhang

The Chimi Lhakhang temple is dedicated to the “Mad Saint” Lama Kunley. According to local legends, he came to Punakha to save the people from a demon who had arrived in the valley from Dochula Pass. The demon had taken the form of a dog and was subdued by Lama Kunley with the use of a ‘flaming thunderbolt of wisdom’ which was the saint’s phallus. On defeating the demon, he uttered: “chi mi” meaning “no dog” and trapped the demon in a chorten (stupa) that stands outside the monastery. He is credited with bringing Buddhism to Bhutan.
Lama Kunley, Chimi Lhakhang
Lama Kunley, Chimi Lhakhang (Source)

Lama Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman” or “The Saint of 5,000 Women” was known for his unconventional teachings. He preached Buddhism through humour and singing with overtly sexual tones. Lama Kunley was said to have lived a lifestyle of wine, women, and poetry - he was the saint who advocated the use of phallic symbols in the country which are used today to drive away from the evil eye and gossip. Interestingly, he was also believed to have supernatural powers and could correctly predict the deaths of other lamas.

Tips for Visitors

1. Cameras and tripods aren’t allowed inside the monastery.
2. As Chimi Lhakhang is a place of worship, it’s ideal to wear full pants that cover the legs and shoulders while visiting.
3. Although there is a road halfway to the temple, the scenic route is by walking through Sopsakha village’s fields. It’s a good idea to wear flat shoes or sneakers for this trip.

How To Reach Chimi Lhakhang

Chimi Lhakhang is located 27 kilometres outside Punakha valley. It is near the village of Sopsakha which means the 20-minute walk up the dusty path through fields to reach the monastery. Along the way, prayer flags flutter along the road and houses with paintings of phalluses are lined on both sides. 

To reach the monastery, hire a car or taxi to Sopsakha village. From Punakha, the drive will take around one hour. From Paro, the drive is 107 kilometres and will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes. From Thimphu, the drive is 65 kilometres and will take around one hour and 30 minutes.

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