With all the mishaps that I faced the first two days, I woke up on the third day feeling a tad wobbly at the knees, but determined to grit it out. I was after all in the Land of the Dragon. We geared up for a long day-trip to Phunaka, where we were to explore the Phunaka dzong (fortress) and the fertility temple.
I put on my Batman tee and after forcing myself to eat a big bowl of extra sweet cereal, felt ready to face the day ahead. We drove out of the capital and onto smaller and more winding roads, only to be stopped by a long line of automobiles. Some sort of construction work was going on, and everyone was out on the road, lounging on the rocks, drinking tea and gossiping, not in the least bit worried about the delay caused. Hailing from a country where people are always on the edge and where delays on the road are usually accompanied by cussing and shouting, this sort of laidback lifestyle was a complete shocker! We spent the time collecting pine cones and eves-dropping on various conversations, and were back on the road within the hour. After a long winding ride, listening to soft Bhutanese tones on the radio, we reached Phunaka for lunch.
The first glimpse of the Phunaka dzong was completely worth the long drive. Situated on an island at the intersection of two rivers- the male river and the female river, this is the most famous dzong in Bhutan and is the icon for tourism in the country. A dzong in Bhutan has two sections- an administrative section, and the monastery which is the religious section. The administrative section is still in use for official work, and the monastery is as always, a beautiful haven for meditation. After spending an hour or so there, gazing at the beautifully built and maintained structures and frescos on the walls, we headed for the fertility temple.
The Chimi Lhakhang, or the fertility temple, blessed by the maverick saint Drukpa Kunley who is also known as the ‘Divine Madman’, is a place of its own kind. History has it that the monk was widely known for his powers of driving away the evil spirits which often inhabited women, by hitting these women with his phallus on their heads as a symbol of his blessing. Devotees still come in throngs to be blessed, now by the 10-inch wooden and ivory phallus. The houses around the monastery are adorned with wooden replicas of the phallus, and a variety of graphic paintings of the same adorn their walls. Our guide told us that this was one of the most powerful monasteries in the world, and that anything we were to wish for would come true.
As I lowered my head to receive the blessing from the presiding monk by the wooden phallus, I prayed with all my heart for something that had been bothering me ever since I fell sick. And guess what, my guide was right. My wish did come true. I more than recovered the next day, and was able to hike all the way to the Tiger’s nest monastery…