The Chimi Lhakhang is a Buddhist monastery in Bhutan. It is located near Sopsokha village in the Punakha District of Bhutan. Pilgrims and tourists have to trek for 20 minutes through the agricultural fields of rice and mustard to access the monastery. Popularly known as The Fertility Temple by westerners, the monastery idyllically stands on a round hillock surrounded by scenic views. Built over half a millennium ago, it’s one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan.
The Chimi Lhakhang was built in 1499 by NgawangChoegyel, the 14th Drukpa hierarch. This wasn’t the first structure on the site, though. It was Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529), the maverick saint (also known as the ‘Divine Madman’) who first built a chorten at this site after blessing it. Legends have it that Lama Kunley blessed the site for the Chimi Lhakhang after subduing the demoness of Dochu La at this particular location. Drukpa Kunley used the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’ to subdue the demon.
Close to the chorten that he built is giant rock, and below it is where the Dochu La demon is trapped. Drukpa Kunley is said to have brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The name ‘Divine Madman’ or ‘Mad Saint’ came from his methods of teaching ‘Buddhism,’ which many considered quite unorthodox. His methods of teaching the religion were marked by humour and many forms of outrageous behaviour. According to local legends, Drukpa Kunley had supernatural powers and could correctly predict the death of other Lamas.
Temple of Fertility
Drukpa Kunley’s ways of teaching were shocking and bizarre, with sexual overtones. The Lama is sometimes also referred to as ‘The Saint of 5,000 Women’ due to his truly bacchanal lifestyle full of women and wine. He used most of his time using active sex to spread enlightenment. That’s the origin of the monastery’s alleged fertility inducing powers. It is said that all those who wish to conceive will find guidance at the monastery.
The Fertility Temple flocks with thousands of pilgrims who hope to have a child. Others visit the temple seeking blessings or a wang from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom.’ Those with new-born children often visit the local Lama to get their children bestowed with resounding forenames. You can also visit the Lamas even if you are not looking for fertility or blessings of any kind − there’s a lot to learn about the culture and history of the Bhutanese at Chimi Lhakhang.
Chimi Lhakhang is the repository of the original wooden Phallus symbol brought by Drukpa Kunley from Tibet. The giant phallus (a symbol of an erect penis) is used to bless the people who visit the monastery, especially the women looking to conceive. The phallus is a common symbol throughout the country. In the village of Sopsokha near the monastery, all the houses bear paintings of phalluses on their exterior walls. The 25cm (10 inches) wooden phallus has a silver handle and is said to repel evil eye and malicious gossip.