Bhutan and the Ritual of Black Zambala

Men in Bhutan wear a robe called gho which is tied to the waist by a belt called the kera. Chicken, beef and fish are part of the staple diet. You will also find Chinese food and traditional dal, sabzi and rice for the Indian plate. Bhutanese enjoy beer and love walking. I guess these walks on the hilly slopes keeps them fit and their lungs fresh and reinvigorated. Bhutan is a land of bizarre and ancient rituals. All have the phallus as the central deity and is worshipped. In the ritual of the Black Zambala, an urn filled up with a tiny phallus is carefully sealed and kept in the altar. This is to evoke the deity of wealth.

There is a tradition of the naked dance called Terchhaam or the Secret Treasure Dance performed by the Barokpa community. It has its roots in ancient Tibet where Bon originated. Naked dancers from the age of 18 to 60 perform this dance once every three years on the 15th and 16th day of the 5th month of the Bhutanese calendar.

The famous procreation ceremony is when the head monk wearing a mask blesses all the women using a wooden phallus. He does this by touching their head with it. You can see the great phallic stone sculpture called the Tharpaling Giant. It is so big that you can sit on the erect penis stone structure.

The phallus symbol is dressed up as a scarecrow to ward away the evil that plagues the crop and to bless the harvest with divine powers. It is seen as the embodiment of the three protectors – the head of wisdom, the trunk of commission and the base signifying power.

Tiny phalluses are worn by children as a talisman to ward away evil and bad luck. Here, again, the phallus is the symbol of purity, birth and fertility. The Shiva Lingam as a black phallic symbol is carved on the roof of houses named as the Wangchuk Chhenpo and is associated with the Hindu God Shiva. The phallic paintings are the street art or graffiti of Bhutan and they are experts in it. These paintings are, however, off-limits to most temples and monasteries where celibate monks reside.

An important character is the Atsara who wields the phallic symbol in his hands. He speaks obscene words laced with sexual jokes to bring laughter to the people gathered in festivals. He waves the phallic symbol in his hand to remove shame and sexual taboos. He is seen as an enlightened master mixing religion with humour and jokes.

 

Refuge: A Poem

I take refuge in an old man’s chastened penis, withered at the root, fallen like a dead tree

I take refuge in an old woman’s flaccid vagina, collapsed, impenetrable and sponge-like

I take refuge in the verily young tiger’s thunderbolt, rising proudly, indifferent of death

I take refuge in the maiden’s lotus, filling her with rolling bliss waves, releasing her from shame and inhibition.

(Verses of initiation coined by Drukpa Kunley for Apa Gaypo Tenzin who attained nirvana by reciting it.)

Poem in Phallus by Karma Choden

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