Evolution of Kamni and Rachu, the way I witnessed

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Wangcha Sangey

In the 1950s and 1960s, kamni and rachu were scarce possessions. In a village only a few had them. Rachu for most was actually ‘pangkhep’ used for carrying babies on the backs. Kamni was coarse or smooth cotton cloth that few could afford. People were, therefore, quite innovative. The piece of cotton cloth wrapped around kira in the lower body of the women (an apron in the Bhutanese style) was used as rachu when occasion demanded. And even one’s own tego was removed to serve as rachu. As for men the lush slender agile stems weeping from the willow tree branches were handily used as make-do kamni. And if you were on porterage duty carrying loads on one’s back into the dzong, you did not need a kamni/rachu. After depositing the burden of porterage, one walked out using the rope that was used to carry the load in kamni/rachu fashion. Those days kamni/rachu was representative symbolic reverence for the religious place and respected authority.

Now the meaning of national culture has changed. Ordinary kamni/rachu is demoted as stigma of the commoner. That’s why a uniform standard is being enforced. The authority that is said to be democratically elected has adopted a herd mentality towards the Bhutanese general populace. What could be the reason? Obedience through channel of degradation or discipline through culture whip. Respect takes time and good deeds to earn. But fear is easily spread through cultural discipline and detention or heavy monetary penalty. It seems five years of power must be exercised in any how/manner? Maybe, it is the Government’s answer to women’s cry for equality. Now this is an interesting angle for women who want to do everything like the men on equal terms.

A new posts of culture officer has been created in every Dzongkhag and it seems this is a prelude to snub out any sense of individuality of a Bhutanese citizen. At one time there was an official declaration “one nation one people”. That was during pre- democratic days. Now is it “One Master and one Slave category?” If you kill individual pride you also kill national pride. Culture is not material goods. It is part of freedom of expression and desire also.

Pride is not personal selfish ego. It is national progressive spirit that guided Bhutanese national journey as a sovereign Country and Kingdom.

Gho, kira, kamni and rachu are traditionally a culture of national identity. Color and pattern was secondary. In fact it was the great Triple Gem King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck who introduced the half kira and even two piece gho. The two piece gho faded away. The half kira caught on. In fact it caught the fascination of the young generation to such an extent that the National Assembly adopted it as formal dress like full kira. And half kira with styled tego and wonju beautified the already good looking Bhutanese fair sex. Kira, tego and wonju is here to stay for generations with joy and pride thanks to His Majesty ‘s innovative way. And gho, though still quite the same way, are worn in all imaginable colours and patterns.

The Bhutanese national traditional dress both gho and kira have become fashionable and yet traditionally national identity. These are not uniforms of the armed forces but a cherished culture of an ancient nation. Why is Bhutan importing the essence and political philosophy of the cultural revolution of Chairman Mao when in foreign policy we kowtow Hindustan?

It is necessary to preserve as exclusive the royal color and royal emblem as well as the Dratshang color and Dratshang emblem of the Kingdom of Bhutan. The Dratshang is our ancient heritage and the Monarchy our modern pride of leadership and salvation. The color for both is golden yellow and the twin facing dragons the Druk Khathap is the royal emblem and the two crossed thunder bolts the Dorji Chedrum the emblem of the Dratshang.

These are as symbolic and objects of reverence for a Bhutanese as the Wheel of Dharma for a Buddhist. On the other hand the eight auspicious symbols are of Dharma significance not limited to royal or Kagyu Teaching. These are auspicious to Buddhists of the whole world. And respectful display of affection and preference for these eight religious symbol is wonderfully appropriate. I always felt. It is an act of admiration and faith in the goodness of the Dharma. Not a democratic expression of equality. Why see ghost where there is no evil spirit ?