After the monsoon rains, the terraced fields around Chimi Lhakhang turn a vivid shade of green as rice grows and ripens in the warmth of the Punakha Valley. A short walk through the fields takes visitors from the roadside at Sopsokha through two tiny villages and up the stony path to Chimi Lhakhang, which stands beside an ancient banyan tree on a hilltop overlooking the valley.
Built in 1499, Chimi Lhakhang is dedicated to the “Divine Madman,” Drukpa Kunley, a sage revered in Bhutan for his unorthodox teachings and his use of a “flaming thunderbolt” to fight evil.
While Chimi Lhakhang marks the spot where Drukpa Kunley defeated and buried a much-feared demoness, today the hilltop lhakhang is visited by expectant mothers and families with newborns to pray for their children’s health. A blessing from the lhakhang’s wooden phallus is also believed to help childless couples conceive; the number of Bhutanese children named Chimi may be testament to this method’s success rate!