Punakha is situated among the Himalayan mountain range in north-western Bhutan. Due to the variance in altitude from 1200-4800 metres, the climatic conditions and the natural vegetation differs over here. At the highest elevations, barren land dominates and below can be seen green grasslands. Further down are conifers, covering about 30 percent of the total land area. At lower reaches, the hills are covered with thick deciduous trees. The temperature changes from about 35 degree Celsius in summers to below zero degree Celsius in winters. People here grow crops, such as wheat, rice, mustard and maize. Along with citrus fruits, plums, apples, peaches, pears, guavas, persimmon, chillies, cabbages, radish, leafy vegetables and tomatoes are cultivated. Travellers coming to the district of dzongkhag courtesy Bhutan holiday tour packages can visit the famous dzong and the hot water springs as well as Chimi Lhakhang.
Chimi Lhakhang: History, Legends and Customs
Chimi Lhakhang is a Buddhist temple or monastery situated near the village of Sopsokha, about 20 km from the district headquarters. It was established and blessed in 1499 by Drukpa Kunley. It is said that he tamed a demoness, named Dochu La and trapped her in a rock near the site. He is known to be quite unique owing to his unusual way of preaching through singing. The most unorthodox thing about his personality is perhaps his humour and the sexual undertones of his actions. He apparently encouraged the use of penis-symbols in paintings and house-construction.
A wooden-stick, representing a human phallus, was brought by him and now is fitted with a silver handle and treasured. The monks hit pilgrims with it, a practise, which is thought to cast demons out of them. Women, who desire children, but have trouble in conceiving are also blessed with this stick. Another legend, associated with the Lama is that he foretold the untimely death of the monks including that of his self. The prophecy came true, but he and his dog are believed to have gone to heaven.
Its main temple is built in the Dzong style of architecture, and is not too large and is square in shape. The roof of the structure is three-tiered with the topmost tier being a golden quadrangular pedestal, topped by a spire of the same colour. There are rows of typical Buddhist prayer wheels in front and its exterior walls are decorated with paintings, depicting various Bhutanese and Buddhist saints. Near the entrance of the main shrine is a small stupa, believed to be the place, where the demoness was trapped by the Lama. The prayer hall of the Lhakhang houses things, needed and used by monks for rituals, cloth-paintings, called thangkas, drums, horns and bells.
Among other things kept here is a dorji that is a representation of a vajra, the weapon of the Demigod Indra. In the centre of the hall is a statue of Drukpa Kunley, depicted as reclining near the idol of his dog. Its interior walls are painted with scenes from the life of the Lama. To visit this site during Bhutan holiday tours, travellers have to walk upwards from the village on foot for about 20 minutes through beautiful countryside and fields. On the way, they may see entire lengths of roads, lined with Buddhist prayer-flags.
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