Kuensel published an article titled “only ada rachu for women” on 27th April, which explicitly stated: “Women across the country will now have to wear only ada rachu on all occasions, according to a circular from the home ministry.”
Since then, many (both men and women) have expressed their utter dislike and criticism for this new regulation.
Here, I would like to take the opportunity to express my personal opinion on this subject, but first let’s break down all the points stated in the article – i.e. to say points made by dzongkhag cultural officers supporting this new regulation.
- Women are mandated to drape only ada rachus and not patterned rachus for uniformity and to preserve the tradition.
- As the eight lucky sign patterns was entitled only for Royal Family members, women should wear only ada rachu.
- In the past, common women wore ada rachus while only Royal Family members wore different patterned rachus that were more elegant.
- Many women prefer different patterned rachus as they are not aware of the type of rachu they are entitled.”
Firstly, culture and traditions are not static; they change through time. Throughout human history, we have witnessed drastic changes in our culture from the oldest human civilization to the modern human civilization of today. In the past, traditions such as Caste system, Dowry system, Eunich (castrated man), Concubinage, Human sacrifice (Mayans and Aztecs), Footbinding, Sati (widow would throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre to commit suicide), etc., were practiced in different parts of the world. Most of these traditions are now part of history but some of them still exist in rural parts of many countries. These traditions and rituals were extremely barbaric in nature and many are shun by present societies.
If the argument is to be based solely on “preserving the tradition,” imagine what the implications would be on reviving these traditions by different countries. Some traditions are naturally bad and very conservative in nature. These traditions have ceased to exist for good reasons. They have been forgotten by mankind for good. Why would somebody want it back?
The Law of Nature is: the old gives way to new changes. And it is exactly what has happened in our country too. Many old traditions of Bhutan have changed, many have ceased to exist and some are dwindling on last stage. These have resulted in misunderstanding between people who have accepted the fact that change is inevitable and people who persist on resisting changes.
I also believe that the topic of “ada rachu” has direct relationship with this change.
A century ago, Bhutan was geographically isolated from outside world due to rugged mountains, dense forests, fast flowing rivers and extremely difficult weather conditions. All these factors made it almost impossible for outsiders to step foot into our landlocked country, and insiders to go outside. As a result, a large number of people were unaware of changes happening in outside world. When other countries were exchanging information, goods, arts, culture, architecture, and so on, we were basically cutoff from all these, but we found solace in our own culture, traditions and creative works. We did not depend on others and continued to practice what we already had. We were proud of what we could achieve in our own.
Be it rachu, gho, kira, or any other items, at the time everything was very simple. The patterns on rachu, gho, kira, and traditional boots were all simple. Reasons being: people preferred to make simple designs because it kept production cost low. In those days, people had to travel on foot for several days to get the materials, which made it expensive. Only elite could afford the cost. So the average people confined to their cheap and simple designs.
Also the patterns were not as intricate as it is today. They didn’t have many choices as you see in today’s markets. Remember, most regions in Bhutan were literally cutoff from each other? The eastern parts of Bhutan had their own unique style compared to west, and vice versa. The southern parts of Bhutan had their own unique style compared to north, and vice versa. How could they have exchanged these designs and ideas? It was impossible.
If someone were to say that common women wore only ada rachus in the past, it is highly likely that they had no options but to wear only ada rachus. If the material’s costs were low and all the regions were connected with each other, I doubt that women would be wearing only ada rachus.
To break down the points:
- Culture is not static, it changes through time.
- The argument cannot be based solely on “preserving the tradition.”
- The Law of Nature: the old gives way to new changes.
- Be it rachu, gho, kira, or any other items, at the time everything was very simple.
- Intricate patterns demand more work, more money, and more materials – which many did not have.
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