Bhutan has Embraced the Phallus for Centuries

Tiny Bhutan is the world’s perennial leader in Gross National Happiness. Nestled high in the Himalayas and home to a population of three-quarters of a million people, the GNH is Bhutan’s answer to the outside world’s obsession with acquiring and measuring wealth. Forget about increasing the Gross National Product, they want to increase happiness. And every year, Bhutan is near the top of the list of happy countries. The question is…why? Is it Buddhist spirituality? Is it a rejection of Western materialism? Is it a function of their geography and isolation? Or is it penis power?

Religion News Service reports on the special relationship between the people of Bhutan and the phallus, which is ubiquitous in Bhutanese life:

A phallic painting on a building in Wangdue Phodrang, Bhutan. Photo by Tara Limbu

A phallic painting on a building in Wangdue Phodrang, Bhutan. Photo by Tara Limbu

For centuries, Buddhists in this tiny landlocked Himalayan kingdom have had a special devotion to the most unusual of objects: the phallus. Painted on the walls of their homes, hanging from the eaves of their houses and seen in vehicles and on rooftops, images of the phallus are an essential part of Bhutan’s traditional ceremonies. Bhutanese believe the “scandalous” yet integral image aids in fertility, offers protection from evil and dispels malicious gossip.

Their devotion to the phallus has a long tradition:

The popularity of phallic worship is attributed to the 15th-century Buddhist teacher, Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the “Divine Madman.” A 2011 study titled “Bhutan’s Pervasive Phallus” by French historian Francoise Pommaret and Bhutanese scholar Tashi Tobgay, says the belief in the phallus’ ability to ward off evil spirits and transform them into protective deities is traced to Drukpa Kunley, who subdued demonesses with his “thunderbolt.”

Although it is common for the young to reject the past, young Bhutanese are “embracing” the phallus:

Kinley Tshering, the general secretary of the Journalist Association of Bhutan, said instead of shunning the otherwise risque images of phalluses, a younger generation is embracing this symbol in new ways. “They are redefining the idea of phalluses,” Tshering said, “not just as an image or symbol of ritualism but as an idea in itself.”

Disneyland claims to be the happiest place on earth, but Bhutan seems to have a better grip on the source of happiness.

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2 Comments on "Bhutan has Embraced the Phallus for Centuries"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Mar 6, 2014 at 12:13 pm |

    worship of the Shiva lingam
    which predates the Buddha cock by centuries
    was/is a prevalent practice in SE Asia & India
    where eating a snake is the poor man’s Viagra

  2. Ted Heistman | Mar 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm |

    that is the origin of flipping people the bird. Showing the sign of the phallus to ward off the evil eye.

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