Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kabney & Patang

The triviality to which the Kabney and Patang have been subjected to by some people in the aftermath of the dissolution of the first Parliament of Bhutan is most unfortunate. The donning of the Kabney and the Patang is governed by a rigid set of rules that is a part of our living culture and tradition. Other than as an act of affront, no person who has been awarded the Patang and Kabney may disrobe himself of the Kabney or the Patang as and when he pleases.

The Patang symbolizes authority and the Kabney denotes honour. Only the Druk Gyalpo bestows both these symbols of authority and honour upon the wearer. Thus, other than the King himself, no authority or institution has the power to order the disrobing of a legitimate recipient of these regalia. Since an honour conferred by the King is for life, the recipient wears the Kabney until the end of his life. However, since the Patang symbolizes authority, the wearer is required to relinquish it upon retirement from active official duty - when his authority ceases.

One of the seventeen Committee Members who authored the manual titled “DRIGLAM NAMZHAG” said that the Kabney and the Patang is so important that in the past, the death of every Nyi-Kyelma had to be reported to the King. Along with the report, the following items - known as ZHIDOE - belonging to the deceased had to be submitted to the King:

..   Bura Namza (Kabney)
..   Patang
..   Gho
..   Ptitala
..   Jandom
..   Phechung
..   Zhecha: Set of 2

The Dress Code

The wearing of the Gho, Namza (Kabney), Patang, Tshoglham and the Losil are all explicitly defined - for each rank: Minister, Deputy Minister, Nyi-Kyelma and the Royal Advisory Councilor. The manual titled “Driglam Namzhag” defines the following dress code for officials of the rank of Nyi-Kyelma and above:

The Minister’s Gho should be drawn up just below the knees. His Lagyen should be folded up one Tho and his Tego collar folded down two fingers width. The color of the Tshogyug can be any color. The Tshonglham Kor must be either light red or orange in color. The Kabney must be orange in color and should be twenty one Tho in length and six Tho in breadth. The left end of the Kabney must be folded into seven folds and drawn over the left shoulder. The end of the Patang must protrude a little below the Kabney. During an audience with the King, it is not permitted to place the hand on the Patang or over its handle.

Deputy Minister
A Deputy Minister must wear his Gho at knee length and the Lagyen should be folded up one Chatho. The Tego collar must be folded one Sor. The Tshogyug can be any color. The Tshoglham Kor must be light red. The sword must be worn on the right and the Losil on the left. The Kabney must be twenty one Tho in length and five Tho in breadth. A Deputy Minister is not entitled to the fold in the front of his Kabney like that of a Minister.

Nyi-Kyelma and Royal Advisory Councilors
The rights and privileges of the Nyi-Kyelma and the Royal Advisory Councilors are the same as those of the Deputy Minister but a Nyi-Kyelma will wear red Kabney while the Royal Advisory Councilors will wear blue Kabney. The color of their Tshoglham Kor will be red.

All the three Illustrations above were reproduced from the manual titled "DRIGLAM NAMZHAG"
Written Rule/Oral-Historical Record
In the absence of a written rule concerning the Kabney and the Patang, every one seems to want to put out a theory - most often, one that fits in with their own agenda. Because it suites their purpose, they chose to ignore the oral traditions and the historical records that should provide them with pointers on how to behave like cultured members of the Bhutanese society.

It is not entirely true that there are no written rules governing the Kabey and the Patang.

In its DRAFT version, "The Parliamentary Entitlements Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan, 2008" attempted to rationalize the issues surrounding the Kabney and the Patang but was excluded from the final version on the grounds that a separate discussion on the matter was needed. More likely, the item (proposed as Article 24 in the Draft Act) was removed from the final Act because the proposed Article undermined certain provisions contained in the Constitution.

The “Rules & Regulations of the Royal Advisory Council, 1993” which came into effect as of 1st August, 1993 has the following Provision:


5.6   On retirement or resignation, a Councillor is allowed to

        wear blue kabney without patang.

The above rule clearly proves that since the Kabney and the Patang was granted by His Majesty the King, in keeping with the custom and tradition, a retired Councilor was allowed to continue to wear his Kabney even after his term of office was over.

A Resolution of the 81st Session of the National Assembly states as follows:

3. Driglam Namzhag, National Dress and Culture

The National Assembly resolved that any civil servant who has been awarded Patang and Kabney by observing Phuensum Tshogpai Tendrel prior to the 81st session of the National Assembly can continue wearing Patang and Kabney even after their transfer to any other government organizations.

The National Assembly resolved that henceforth Patang and Kabney awarded other than by the His Majesty the King, specially designed to identify the position of the officers of the Dzongkhag Administrations, Judicial Courts and Dungkhags could be worn only during the occupation of such posts and should not wear if they were transferred to different ministries, departments and organizations.

There is absolutely no ambiguity in the above National Assembly Resolution. The Kabney and the Patang NOT awarded by His Majesty the King but were worn to distinguish different positions of the officers serving in the Dzongkhag Administrations, Judicial Courts and Dungkhags should be relinquished once they move out of these organizations.

In my understanding, there is no confusion - all those who received their Kabney and Patang from His Majesty the King should be honoured to continue to wear the Kabney - sans the Patang.


  1. Lots of information. Great stuff for the history books too! This is a sensitive issue in so many ways. I guess it's about time some kind of regulations were in place to keep up with the changing times especially with the onset of democracy with elections and all in 2008. May be anyone who receives or has received the coloured kabney outside of politics should wear it for all times even if the person joins politics after having received a kabney. And if a person receives a kabney after joining politics, then I guess they should give it up irrespective of the colour (rank)since they had earned it by due election for the period of their election.

  2. How many type of different color of kabney in bhutan to identify the rank. share some information please.