Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Colour Kamni and Patang story.

I read the The Bhutanese article about clarifications from Chairman of Privy Council on Patang and colour Kamni.  I think we are still.studying for appropriate approach and acceptance of new arrangements.  

Encouraging people to discard " colour Kamni " like blue and orange scarfs is rather like telling former officials to forget their role and contribution in the service of the Tsawa Sum through those respective positions. I hope they do not feel as if  ousted from heaven.    

There is one complete change in the traditional culture conveyed in the clarifications provided.  Traditionally red scarf Officers did not wear patang after leaving their official posts. Same went for Royal Advisory Councillors. But they wore the red and blue Kamni even in retirement. Even Ministers once in retirement did not wear Patang but wore the orange Kamni.
Now it seems some can wear both and others none after retirement from active service. It all depends on which King granted the honour and on whom and under what circumstances. Confusion is quite agalore. And confusion in culture and practices brings about  obscurity which in turn cause  dilution to the essence and cultural impact of tradition that is no more traditional.

To my knowledge, there are recipients of red scarf honour by civilians unconnected with official positions. They have no retirement age and wore both red Kamni and patang unto death. All others who received red scarf during their official service be they in Royal Secretariat or Government Service, upon retirement wore the same colour Kamni but not the patang. This system was quite clearly established as the nation headed into democracy era.  

We are now discarding the much touted tradition. And making up rules as per mood swings or time demands. This trend does not give dignity nor preserve our culture which  supposedly were recorded  in writing since Zhabdrung time and established widely especially the colour Kamni and Patang practices by successive Wangchuck Kings till now.

I have no historical reference but it looks like the Dratsang had the Kamni culture including the kamni colours and entitled folds.  And patang was a weapon that lay officials already wore. So probably when Zhabdrung conferred ranks to lay officials after introducing the dual system, the lay officials continued wearing their patang also as long as he was in active service.

Prior to 2008 election, there was no indication that MPs would be given any colour kamni or patang. This was a afterthought royal decision. At first blue Kamnis were handed out to NA MPs and then later Patang was handed out or permission given to wear it ( I am not clear on this). But definitely the blue scarf and patang  were not handed out at the same time to the members of the first National Assembly of democratic governance. . 

During absolute Monarchy reigns, the Royal Advisory Councillors elected by the  people were granted Dhar with blue scarf and permission to wear patang from the Throne just like the present National Council MPs though for them patang was also provided. 

The pre- democracy National Assembly members elected by the people had a white kamni with blue stripe in the middle but no patang. They were not given Dhars from the Throne. Today's National Assembly Members are also not given Dhars from the Throne. But handed out blue scarf and patang by the Secretary of  National Assembly Secretariat during 2013. In 2008, blue scarf was simply left hung on the chairs. And patang distributed much later.  

However, the National Council Members led by the Chairperson and the Political Party selected Cabinet Ministers led by the Prime Minister were granted Dhar in the traditional manner from the Throne on both occassions in 2008 and 2013.

Now is there a difference in the honour granted with Dhar ceremony and blue Kamni left hung on the chair for the individual NA MPs to adorn. Many may feel that there must be a difference. However, traditionally there is no difference. Many years back, I read the book " Hero of thousand eyes " related by Dasho Shinkar Lam and written by Dasho Karma Ura. In there Dasho Shinkhar Lam relates that His Majesty the Third King simply  commanded that an official  can  wear the colour scarf ( red/ orange ) and from the next day it was so worn with a patang.

So full colour scarfs: blue, green,  red or orange till 2008 are associated with the Royal Court whether granted with Dhar ceremony or by way of command to wear. Both ways are of same value as honour is bestowed upon the recipient from the Throne in both cases. 

Henceforth, what we need to be sure about is under democracy system, do we adopt one more culture that is a patang and colour kamni ( blue for ordinary MPs and orange for MP Ministers ) as  adornment  for the position received  from the people through the ballot box or an honour bestowed upon those MPs and Ministers from the Throne in keeping with the constitutional position of the King as the Head of the nation and guardian of national security and peace.

If Bhutan goes for adopting a new culture then an Act from.the aparliament would be required. But if we consider it as part of royalty associated traditional culture, then a Kasho would suffice for the new system of patang and Kamni.

Personally,  I would prefer the age old traditional system because we still are a Kingdom under the same Wangchuck dynasty though the King is different. But I know that this is taboo to national thinking. So a new system is being unofficially enforced to quote the Privy Council Chairman , " encouraging them to voluntarily give up Kamnis". A royal edit would take care of whatever the Royal wishes.

The former MPs and Ministers under democracy system should sufficiently feel comfortably dignified that they once received the confidence of the people to lead the nation.  Maybe,  few may feel initially naked without the colour kamni. But given time, the sentimental attachment to such adornments would wear off. Afterall, even the white kamni at one time was a useful cloth wrapper for light loads slung over the shoulders. Not really a traditional decorum uniform wear. Culture evolves with time and with democracy kind of  changes cannot be predicted.   



  1. The lingering confusion regarding kabni and patang call for urgent ramification from Royal Privy Council and other relevant agencies just so that the rightfully conferred honor is not amalgamated.

    In line with it, I would appreciate if you could write an article about 'who, what and how' of the title Dasho. Who shall be addressed as such? What happens if he/she retire? What if he/she is a MP/NC/Minister/PM and is also bestowed the title i.e. how do we address such individuals?

    1. Ugyen Norbu regarding your grievance on the term "Dasho ", I have heard similar complaints. Whilst the title is often associated with colour scarf officials, it is also a term of respect for people who are capable or knowledgeable. " Draksho" in our language is someone above average ( superior quality). I do not have problem using the term for present or former officers. Also it is used for officers of Defence institutions.

  2. The true essence of democracy is equality. So a democratic Bhutan should do away with kabney colours. Maybe we can still keep few traditional colours like the red, khama, white and ofcourse the yellow. Kabney colours do uphold the hierarchial and feudalistic system. Other than that, it does not seem to be relevant in changing times

  3. Exactly and well said. Bhutan is caught in time warp as far as tradition is concerned. We are not moving forward; instead more divisions is inserted in small society of late with introduction of blue, kabney without fringes, red kabney with white stripe etc. The worst is awarding Patang to GYT chairman. Modernity with democracy symbolizes equality of people; but in Bhutan reverse is happening.

  4. There has been a deluge of kabni colors in Bhutan in the last 5 to 10 years. Other than distinguishing master from slave, haves from have nots, and influential people from ordinary beings, kabney colors do not contribute anything substantial to the society. It is time for Bhutan to think of moving towards an egalitarian society rather than being stagnant in a quagmire of never ending hierarchy which leads to needless confusions like the one highlighted here in this post.

  5. I beliive patang signifies the authority and suprimacy of owns position in olden days. The supreme source of protection from the external threat is patang and this tradition is carried down the line. Now in this day and age, people no longer take refuge in patang but people fear in guns. Think positioned post and people should wear guns instead of patang. AK47 would be good.

  6. As per our national flag colour it should be only yellow,orange and white