Call for Bhutan to grant its Citizens’ Right to Cultural Costumes

Filed under: English,Expression & Opinion,Yati Raj Ajnabee |


Yati Raj Ajnabee
Adelaide, Australia

His Majesty Jigme Keshar Namgyel Wangchuk
Honourable Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay
Honourable Ministers and
Honourable Members of the Parliament

His Majesty has just given an audience to the public in the palace on the auspicious day of Vijaya Dashami, one of the greatest festivals of Hindus around the world, on the 30th of September 2017 and blessed them by offering Tika on their foreheads. This move of His Majesty has not just become a talk of the town but indeed a global gossip.

A seemingly octogenarian grandmother receiving teeka from the HM. Picture courtesy: His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck FB page.

A seemingly octogenarian grandmother receiving teeka from the HM. Picture courtesy: His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck FB page.

His Majesty, Honourable Prime Minister, Ministers and Members are very well aware of the world getting constricted and countries shrinking and moulding to multicultural hubs. We feel a great relief and extend our huge and sincere gratitude to His Majesty for showing generosity and build connection with the Bhutanese people of Nepali origin by observing their festivals together with them. In a sense, it may look like a sarcasm but we are not bothered to mention His Majesty’s small step as a quantum leap however bantam it appears to the international eyes.

His Majesty and the Honourable Prime Minister are also very well aware of the fact that the majority of the people of southern Bhutan have language, culture, tradition, customs, costumes, beliefs, religion, foods, festivals, etc. different to yours and the people of eastern, western and northern Bhutan. We have also very high regards to His Majesty for making an attempt to reflect some leniency on them which is many times more than His Majesty’s last predecessor who had turned himself tyrant on them in the first years of the second half of his absolute regime by coining an infamously punitive policy of one nation one people and driving them out of the country. They have already become or are now in the process of becoming citizens of USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands after a spending a pathetic life in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal.

As the people in Bhutan don’t oppose the government’s imposition to wear national dress while they are at the official workplace as a public servant or a service provider or a client or a customer as a respect to the system so do they expect some clemency from the public figures like you on what they can wear to temples, rituals and cultural celebrations no matter where they are and/or are held. When they can wear the costumes of their choice to places and during such events in your presence which attracts public scrutiny you can see a candid smile on their faces that makes you a step closer to metamorphosing the rhetorical and allegorical hypothesis of Gross National Happiness the last predecessor of His Majesty has coined into a literal practice.

An Australian a Muslim woman can wear burqa wherever in Australia she wants to go even on Australia day. A Sheikh in the United States of America has a constitutional liberty to have a turban on his head whichever government departments he works for. These are just a few examples everyone knows. Why not in Bhutan can Bhutanese wear costumes of their choice on their festival day? We don’t ask you to wear Daura, Suruwal and a Dhaka Topi on Tshechu or Lhosar day but we gather the courage to just ask you whether you feel comfortable even thinking about wearing those attires to these celebrations.

Does everyone around the world receive Tika in their traditional or cultural costumes? The answer is “No” not everyone but they can if they want to. It’s their choice. We don’t need to go any farther than the next door neighbour, India, where people from every ethnic and linguistic community that celebrates Dashara rejoice in their own cultural outfits. Nobody can agree that the seemingly octogenarian woman in the photo above has agreed without being prompted and from within to wear the clothes which are not hers. She had been wearing different but her own costumes to fields, farms, feasts, fairs, functions, and what not that she felt comfortable with for the first 55 years of her life. Let her not die in the clothes she dislikes if not hates to breathe her last in. Let the constitution of Bhutan have a provision in it that allows the people to have a freedom of choice when it comes to cultural costumes at least during their festivals if not every day.

PujaLast year, we saw photos and videos, through Honourable Prime Minister’s Facebook page, of similar event happening in a Hindu temple in Samtse, one of the southern districts, where only the priests along with the one chanting verses from the Vedas were in religious robes and all the attendees had worn the national dress. The national dress is suitable for the weather conditions in the north only. Some of the priests’ half-naked bodies indicates that the weather during the religious performance was hot. There’s another video available in the PM’s page where people are singing and playing music for Deusi Bhailo during Tihar (Deepawali) which is another festival. We make standing ovation for the PM and others from communities other than Hindus and Nepali for gesturing their tolerance towards the people of Hindu and Nepali communities by mingling with them during their festivals. They always welcome you with a smile and never ask you wear their costumes in their festivals but we request you to allow them wear their own clothes in such performances. A question may arise why the people who are no more citizens of that country make hue and cry over the spilt milk when the loyal citizens within the country are calm and composed on the issue, however, we know the people in power or any public servant from within Bhutan don’t have confidence to raise the voice even if they feel uncomfortable to attend such ceremonies wearing the national dress because they fear they may lose a job or your favour which will impact and eventually impair their and their families’ financial wellbeing. As long as their economic situation is sounder than the peasants’ who consistently strive in the farms day and night just to make their ends meet, their representatives gag their own mouth. If the government of Bhutan don’t impose the national dress on the people to attend the events of their religious, cultural, traditional significance a large chunk of the penurious general public can save some money for not having to buy the national dress in addition to their daily expenditure to cover their living cost.

Watch the video below:

As Bhutanese people who’ve resettled abroad have been vigilantly watching Bhutan and as they can see light at the end of the tunnel, we would like to thank you all for this and request you to consider us as non-resident Bhutanese. If we, who have a passport that has Bhutan as a place of Birth, are allowed to visit and don’t have to pay the royalty as the foreigners do, Bhutan can prosper within a few decades. There are many individuals interested to invest in Bhutan so that they can create an investor’s portfolio for themselves and make some money and help their countrymen gain employment at the same time.

Yours Sincerely
Yati Raj Ajnabee
The Republic of Nauru

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