Zen and the Art of Wearing a Gho

The National dress of Bhutan
The National dress of Bhutan

A knee-length robe or the gho – tied at the waist by a hand woven cloth belt known as the kera – is the national dress for men in Bhutan. It was introduced in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and has ever since been a distinctive feature for the Bhutanese.

But, while it looks fantastic when worn correctly, for an outsider, to put it on can be quite a challenge. It helps to have a person assist you to wear it properly. But if you’re on your own, don’t sweat it. Just follow the instructions below and give it your best shot.

A gho is big enough to cover the wearer’s body. So, put it on like you’d do a bathrobe.

Now, put the right side of the gho inside the left one (right in the middle where the crease or seam is). That done, take the edge of the left side and bring it to adjoin the right seam, while still holding the other part. The two points of the gho that you’re now holding – pull it up evenly and take it to your behind so that the bottom of the fabric is just at level with your knees. Adjust your gho at the back and then tie it tight at the waist with your kera (belt). Remember, if you do not wrap the belt around tightly, your gho will not hang correctly.

Picture Courtesy: raonline
Picture Courtesy: online

Once that is done, fold the lagey – pinned to the sleeves to form cuffs. Usually, one wears long knee-length socks with a gho. The shoes may be of your preference. The pouch or the hemchu formed by the belt gives the gho a rather big pocket to hold a considerable amount of stuff including a wallet, a notebook, keys, mobile phones et al. After all, it is not called the world’s biggest pockets for nothing.

A group of Bhutanese boys in Gho
Bhutanese boys in Gho

Please note: in Bhutan, men wear long scarves or kabneys when visiting dzongs or other administrative centers. The scarves vary in color and signify the wearer’s status or rank. Below is a list of the different kabneys and their associated rank.

Rank Kabney/Scarf
King (Druk Gyalpo) Yellow
Je Khenpo (Head Abbot) Yellow
Minister (Lyonpo) Orange
Dasho Red
Judge Green
District Administrator Red with white Stripes
Common Folks White

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