Blessing For Thousands
Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
144Trip End Oct 06, 2013
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After the mountain goat adventure, we visited the Punakha Dzong which served as an old capital of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress has survived many floods and fires (as we were finding out, pretty much everything in Bhutan has been burned to the ground at least once). Placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers, the Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to repel numerous Tibetan invasions. The Dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch and displays the some of the best works of Bhutanese arts and crafts.
While we were in town a massive Buddhist blessing was taking place on the grounds adjacent to the Dzong and this was a sight to behold (although getting across to the grounds involved crossing a crowded old wooden bridge- apparently the pilgrims were very anxious to get to the prayer sessions and we've now discovered that DH has seen one too many news reports of trampling deaths on pilgrimage bridges). Amid the 100,000 devotees seated for the Chakramsamvara blessings were people from all over Bhutan and neighbouring Buddhist countries. There wasn't a tremendous amount to hold our interest with this massive group of people sitting quietly and listening carefully, trying to follow what was being transmitted by His Holiness the Je Khenpo in Dzongkha (as a concession to the modern world, digital screens were placed around the field to ensure that no one missed any of the 'action')
One hundred thousand people in a park chanting was eye-catching but so was the abundance of male private parts painted on walls and doors throughout the countryside. As a typically reserved Canadian prude, I wasn't going to document this but Jen N (from San Francisco- need I say more?)was very insistent that I make some mention of it. Bhutan is a place where people believe in magic and mysticism. When a couple cannot conceive, they pray at the temple of fertility, blessed by the 'Divine Madman', in the 1500s. The Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hilltop in the centre of the valley, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who, in the late 15th century used humour, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatise his teachings and, due to this, was also known as "Divine Madman". It is widely believed that if a couple pray at this temple, they will soon be blessed (?) with a child but it was still an odd sight to see a monk anointing the pair with a large wooden penis. To expedite the process, phallic symbols and pretty graphic representations of manhood are painted on homes and places of business. Hopefully the pictures I've included are enough to satisfy the somewhat curious fascination of Jen N??