The Divine Madman

Pages: 18 pages

Published: Thimphu Comics



Chhimi Dema

Known for his sublime powers and outrageous behaviours, Lam Drukpa Kunley is considered a legendary saint in Bhutan.

Many, young and old, have grown up listening to the stories of the saint’s unconventional ways of liberating people from samsara.

No body, however, has clear picture of how the saint really looked like. We have only some wall paintings to go to—a scantily clad monk with a bow and arrow in one hand and humour that is manifestly absent from his profusely bearded face.

And there is a lot left for one to imagine. Crazy stories have given birth to even crazier picture of the wayward yogi. Often, Drukpa Kunley is just a funny man with queer stories. But he is much more than a mere crazy yogi from Ralung in Tibet.

This is what The Divine Madman- Drukpa Kunley, a comic by Thimphu Comics Studio, tries to capture in a richly rendered sketches and colours.

The 14-page comic, however, shows only a slice of the saint’s journey arrival and antics in Bhutan circa the 15th century.


Picture from the book

The saint stands overlooking a lush valley with a river gliding down. It’s the present-day Toebi Rongchhu in Punakha. He is lying on the ground whistling to the tunes of the wind when a man calls for him.

The bereaved family ask him to conduct their late mother’s funeral rites. He agrees.

But the lam is already sufficiently drunk.

The family requests the lam to carry their mother’s body to the cementation ground. He bursts into a rage, but agrees nonetheless.

“Don’t sleep, old woman! Get up! Get up!” hollers the drunk lam. “Arise from this mess of misery!”

Suddenly, the dead comes alive and begins walking itself to the cremation ground.

The family members, stunned by the lam’s antics, offer a meal of pig head. But the lam also sends the soul of the unfortunate pig flying promptly into the heavens.

Though short, the comic captures the expressions of the characters right to the bones. It offers the readers glimpses of how the saint walked with his divine powers, sometime in the form of fire-spitting thunderbolt and unconventional ways to subdue the evil and liberate the sentient beings from the circle of the samsara.

The comic is a treat not just by way of imaginative stories and artistic presentations, but also by way of understanding our deep cultural and religious history.

Thimphu Comics referred to Keith Dowman’s book on translation of the namthar of Lam Drukpa Kunley.

The Department of Information and Media, the Ministry of Information and Communications supported its production.

Thimphu Comics is the first comic book studio in Bhutan founded to bring artists, illustrators and designers.