by ARIANA ROBERTS
If we are going to be married I think it's only fair you know a little bit about the marriage customs of my people. They involve pigs and beer. And by my people I don't mean Koreans and I don't mean Americans, I mean the Bhutanese, because I'm the David Hasselhoff of their country.
In Bhutan, in every village the matchmaker comes to the girls' houses unannounced so they don't have time to escape. And if they tell the parents, the parents lock the girl up.
Matchmaker is an elected position, and the title is derived from when the Tibetan minister Gar Tongtsen traveled to China to find a bride for the king. Many ministers represented their countries, rulers who the sought the princess’s hand, so the Emperor devised a test to determine she should marry. These included threading spiral turquoise, identifying the root end of a tree cut into a hundred logs, and drinking 100 hundred pitchers of distilled whiskey before identifying the princess among 100 beautiful maidens. Gar Tongsten won, and the princess, terrified at the idea of leaving her home country, composed a song, Lyonpo-garwa-tongthrab, from which the title is derived.
Incidentally, when he was 16 years old, the king of Bhutan (her groom) saw two rays of light beam from his heart towards Nepal and China. The light shone on two prospective brides, the daughter of the Nepalese King and the daughter of the Chinese Emperor.
It's an interesting country, glued together by Buddhism, the purest form of that religion you'll ever find in the world, not pacifistic or ascetic in the least. In fact, the national sport is practiced in tandem with phallocentric festivals. According to legend, the 15th century Buddhist saint Drukpa Kunley shot an arrow from Tibet, praying that his progeny would prosper where it landed. That arrow landed in a house in Bhutan, where he entered and seduced the owner's wife. Now all over Bhutan, giant phalluses (phalli?) are painted on buildings, houses, and trees, purporting to ward off evil spirits. Archery teams even employ tsips, or astrologers believed to possess mystical powers, to engage in black magic, constructing effigies of competitors and smearing them with menstrual blood before festivals.
The triratna, the prayer beads, the ritual chanting and hellfire woodcuts...I wonder if Buddhists and Catholics realize they are the same religion. The Dalai Lama knows he is the same as the pope, the order of monks know they're the clergy, but I doubt the reverse is true.
Anyway, in Bhutan the Buddhist women are happy when their husbands beat them. They don't complain about anything! And therein lies the key difference between Buddhist women and me, because I would tie any man who ever laid a hand on me to a dzong and set him on fire with a butter lamp.
Ariana Roberts is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Cleveland. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.
"Dinner for Two" - Love This Giant (mp3)
"Weekend In The Dust" - Love This Giant (mp3)