Sunday, March 27, 2011

a prudish urban bhutan takes the phallus away

It was in the winter of 2001 during Daga Tshechu as I sat with hundreds of others waiting for blessings from an almighty phallus. My embarrassment escalated seeing my father sitting in a tent.

The practice of blessing-receiving, hanging of the wooden phallus on doors and the painting of it on walls still continue.

But, the divine phallus has slowly started disappearing from urban Bhutan.
With the display so openly and rampant in rural areas, it is not a shocking sight for our villagers. However, the sight sure is an embarrassment for few in the city.

“Driving pass a building which has a phallus painted on the wall is always the most embarrassing moment for me, especially when I am with my father. It is more embarrassing seeing a big wooden phallus when I visit my village,” said Karma Choden, a teenage student.

The phallus is said to protect us from malicious gossips and that it drives away evil.
But many urban buildings seem to avoid painting the phallus today. Taking a stroll across Thimphu, one can see only a few paintings. But it would be on old buildings.

Earlier, every corner had a sign of a phallus. The stair railings had it, and a locket with a phallus was a showpiece hanging on everyone’s neck.

But now even the wooden phalluses in fields are being replaced by scarecrows.

During the rabney of a new house, a ritual of hanging of phalluses takes place to purify the ground and ward off evil spirits. The phalluses are hung from the eaves of the house in each of the four directions. 
“It protects my home and my family from evil spirits, it takes away the sting,” said Angay Gyem, with a toothless smile while chanting her prayers.

The paintings are all associated with the famous Buddhist saint; Drukpa Kunley also called the Divine Madman.

It is said that he would ward off evil spirits and subdue them with his penis. Painters use their imagination to carve and paint the phallus. It comes in different sizes, shapes, carved in wood, metal, stone and cloth.

Now we see it mostly in handicraft shops or as a decoration piece.

The disappearing of the phallus from the city seems to have come with modern education.  Are we becoming too prudish?

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