For a country locked in time and space, having a dress and behaviour code of conduct is nothing strange, so the people of Bhutan follow a prescribed code of conduct on how to dress and behave in public…the Driglam Namzha !
The history of Driglam Namzha dates back to the 17th century to a Tibetan priest and military leader who first introduced this practise to unify Bhutan both politically and culturally. Although initially these codes were written as building rules for the places or “dzongs” and the forts and for religious festivals, in recent times the same was intentionally codified to protect and preserve the distinct Bhutanese identity.
You may also like: It’s Bhutan beckoning this time for the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival
Initially the Driglam Namzha was recommended but in the year 1989 the same was made mandatory by the Royal Government of Bhutan by including the “dress and behaviour code.” With the passage of this dictate all Bhutanese citizens were required to wear the national dress of “gho” and “ Kira” during office hours and in public. The “gho” is a knee length robe tied with a belt and worn by the males while the “Kira” is an ankle length dress worn by the females.
Besides the dress and behaviour code, the initial Driglam Namzha code for building architecture is still practised widely and strictly in the kingdom of Bhutan. The rules are traditional and formed by a priest or “holy lama” and there are no building plans especially for the sacred forts and monasteries. However this use of traditional motifs and designs in everyday constructions have also been mandated by the government in the year 1998.
The royal parliament passed the resolutions for implementation of Driglam Namzha mainly for preservation of the Bhutanese culture and identity and to counteract the overt influences of western culture on the younger generation. However a quarter of the population viewed this as an imposition of authoritarianism which led to a volatile internal crisis and opposition from the Amnesty International as encroachment of human rights.
According to the Bhutanese people, Driglam Namzha in essence is inculcating an intrinsic value system and a way of maintaining decorum and decency in behaviour which they feel is the urgent need of the hour. This practise is preserved as a national heritage and each citizen of the country is proud of it.
While the entire world is racing towards modernism and technological strength here lies a country sandwiched between two emerging superpowers of India and China still telling its people that its the culture and identity of a state that makes it so!
Kudos to the Kingdom of Bhutan and its people!!