Bhutanese Phallus

I found the article “The Anthropology of Manners” written by Edward T. Hall, well – known anthropologist and an expert on cultural differences in communication, manners, and perception of time, very interesting and useful. The article tends to make us wary about different manners practiced in different countries. Through this article I come to know that perceptions of time and proxemics differ from place to place or culture to culture, and it’s very essiantial for us to know about it in order to have a sociable conversation with foreigners.

In one of the paragraphs, Hall mentioned about  “evil eyes”. According to hall, in Iran, mothers spend money to remove “evil eyes” from their children. They do not appreciate Americans or other people patting their infants especially under the baby’s chin (248). This paragraph made me to think about our manners for removing “evil eyes”.

In Bhutan, mostly in village areas, you can see Phallus , a penis-shaped object,  paintings painted on the walls and doors of houses and buildings. Many foreigners or tourists usually get surprised or embarrassed  at their first sight. However, they appreciate it when they come to know that Bhutanese people draw Phallus on the walls and doors of their houses in order to drive away the “evil eyes” or bad lucks. You can not only see the paintings of phallus but also handmade wodden phallus hung either above the main entry doors or under rooftops at the four corners of their houses. It is also one of the most important tools for Atsaras (masked clowns) during Bhutanese special festivals such as Tshechu festival. People bow their head in front of clowns to get bless from phallus.                           

Though there are no tangible or legitimate evidences to prove that the history of phallus is related to Lama Drukpa Kinley, also known as Divine Madman who spread Buddhist teaching by subduing demons and evils using his penis, Bhutanese people believe that Drukpa Kinley came to Bhutan from Tibet before Buddhism was considered as the state religion, and he subdued a lot of demons in order to bring peace and happiness. Since phallus is related to Drukpa Kinley’s history, Bhutanese people pay respect to it and worship it. Making fun or thinking bad things about phallus while visiting Bhutanese houses or buildings is taken as a great insult not only to Drukpa Kinley but also to his followers.

Therefore, my dear friends remember my blog when you travel to Bhutan and visit Bhutanese traditional houses and buildings.



2 Responses to Bhutanese Phallus

  1. rstha says:

    Hi Dorji,
    It was really interesting to learn a part of Bhutanese culture and also of Iran. Indeed, the beliefs and practices differ from one culture to other. However, one should always respect others culture despite of its differences from one’s own. I want to share a part of my culture as well. In Newar culture, there also exists a practice to protect the houses from bad evils. Lemon, chilli and some bangles are piled in a thread and hung in infront of the house. This practice is believed to disable evil spirits enter the house. Hope you enjoyed learning the practice of my culture.

  2. It seems phallus has great connection with history in spite of lack of tangible proof. It is really interesting to know about Bhudhists culture. There are large number of Bhudhists in my country Nepal as well, but I never knew about this. I would like to know more information about it. Thank you for letting us know about your culture.

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