Jan 29, 2014

Bhutan: Land of the Penis

Bhutan a tiny, land-locked kingdom in the Himalayas between Tibet and India, hard to get to from the West (there's only one airport, with regular flights to Bangkok, Katmandu, and Delhi).

Buddhist, but not gay-friendly: same-sex activity is illegal, and according to a recent survey, 60% of the population thinks being gay is immoral.

Sounds about as homophobic as the U.S., where same-sex activity was illegal in many states until 2003, and 50% of the people you pass on the street think that you're evil.

Besides, there's a good reason for visiting (other than the scenery and the hunky men).

More public penises than Finland, Iceland,  and Prague put together.

The erect penis is a common artistic motif, painted onto houses for good luck and to keep away evil spirits.

They're combined with dragon or animal motifs, or with all-seeing eyes.  Sometimes their owner is displayed as well, usually a very happy monk.





Penises sculpted in wood fly from rooftops and and dangle from ceilings, sort of like the lucky horseshoes in the U.S.

When you move into a new house, you have to hoist a basketfull of penises to the ceiling and attach them to each of the four walls.

There are penis door handles and flagpoles, and people carry around pocket penises of various sizes and shapes.






This penis imagery is unique to Bhutan.  Scholars trace it to Bon, the Himalayan religion that predates Buddhism, and more directly to the teachings of the "crazy saint" Drukpa Kunley (1455-1529), who was sexually voracious, and apparently a big fan of the penis.

See also: The Penis Cemetery of Iran.