BHUTAN – Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery, is the most famous temple in Bhutan, perched atop a round hill in a village named Punakha. It is known as the “Fertility Temple” and is visited by numerous childless couples from within and around the Punakha District.
It has become a popular tourist destination, with travelers from all around the world coming to witness the traditional rituals and the unusual culture practiced here.
The monastery is intricately designed with ancient architecture featuring a Thai-inspired theme with paintings and carvings of phallus symbols adorning its walls.
Learn more: Bhutan travel guide
Introduction to Chimi Lhakhang Monastery
This temple or monastery was built by Ngawang Chogyel, known as the 14th Drukpa hierarch. The meditation hall or stupa of this monastery was constructed by an eccentric yogi known as the “Divine Madman.”
It is renowned throughout Bhutan as a place that bestows fertility upon all visitors who seek to have children. Some pilgrims, including childless couples, come here to seek the blessings of the saint believed to possess Divine Thunderbolt wisdom.
History of Chimi Lhakhang
The history of Chimi Lhakhang temple in Bhutan dates back to the time of Drukpa Kunley, one of the monks who brought Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet to visit this place.
He was a renowned figure with unconventional teaching methods and his wild, humorous, and sexually suggestive songs. Therefore, he eventually became known as the “Divine Madman.”
The story of Chimi Lhakhang goes that Drukpa Kunley descended upon Punakha with the purpose of exorcising a demon from Dochula. The Divine Madman created a “Thunderbolt of Wisdom” storm and defeated the demon in the form of a dog.
Later, the Divine Madman caught the demon in the shape of a dog in a black stupa and exclaimed, “Chi Mi,” which means “No Dog.”
These phallus symbols are believed to bring luck and prosperity, ward off evil spirits, and are consequently carved and painted on most of the buildings and structures in this village.
How to Reach Chimi Lhakhang
The temple is nestled atop a round hill in the bustling village of Punakha. To reach Chimi Lhakhang in Punakha, Bhutan, one must first arrive at Sopsakha, which is easily accessible by road.
In Sopsakha, the temple is within walking distance through vast, sprawling rice fields.
The long walk through these fields is one of the incredible experiences offered at this location, with the cool breeze in the air and breathtaking scenery of lush greenery and towering mountains.
After a short walk through these fields, you will arrive at another village named Lobena, known for its beautiful Thangka Art and Stone Mani. The entrance to Chimi Lhakhang Monastery can be found in this village.
The village of Punakha appears splendid amidst the terraced rice fields. Countless colorful prayer flags can be seen fluttering in the wind along the way. You can find the entrance to Chimi Lhakhang Monastery in this village.
Chimi Lhakhang Opening Hours and Entry Fee
Chimi Lhakhang is open from 9 AM to 5 PM, and there is no entry fee.
Highlights of Chimi Lhakhang Monastery
There are several distinctive features of this sacred temple in Bhutan that make it popular among locals and tourists alike. Here are some of them:
Giant Prayer Wheel
The first thing that catches a traveler’s eye as they ascend the inclined plane of Chimi Lhakhang is a giant prayer wheel. Just outside the main temple, you will find a black stupa believed to be where the demon in the form of a dog was captured by the Divine Madman.
This is certainly one of the most visually striking aspects of the temple that draws people here!
Chimi Lhakhang Monastery in Bhutan is elegantly designed with brown and golden roofs along with white walls adorned with golden ornaments. The architecture and design of the temple depict a perfect blend of beauty and simplicity.
The temple is relatively small compared to other Bhutanese monasteries, but it exudes a sense of tranquility and serenity.
Statue of Guru Padmasambhava
In the central shrine, one can witness an exquisite statue of Guru Padmasambhava along with a reclining statue of the Divine Madman. Many childless couples come here to seek blessings.
These couples are then given wooden phalluses on a silver rod. It is said that when they have a child, they return to name their child, and the name is then engraved on a bamboo slate placed on the shrine.
Recommendations When Visiting Chimi Lhakhang
- Cameras and tripods are not allowed inside the temple, so be sure not to carry them outside within the temple premises.
- One should avoid mocking the unusual culture of this place because, no matter how quirky it may seem, it is still a sacred part of their history and should be respected in every way.
- Visitors should make sure to cover their legs adequately within the temple premises.
- Adventure enthusiasts should definitely experience the long walk to Chimi Lhakhang, as the trek offers spectacular views.
- Remember to explore the unique Bhutanese Thangka Art along the way.
- Plan to stay overnight at one of the homestays in the village of Chimi Lhakhang to experience the hospitality of the locals and immerse yourself in their way of life.