Kishuthara – a winter alternative for Lhuentse

Photo Courtesy :Gretchen Legler and Ruth Hill
Photo Courtesy :Gretchen Legler and Ruth Hill

There is not much works around in winter and farmers of the country are a bit relaxed but it is not really the case for Lhuentse farmers who always kept themselves engaged in off-farm activities which mainly focus on weaving by women of all ages.

The principle source of the Kishuthara is Lhuentse Dzongkhag while Khoma gewog is the production hotspot of the intricately woven textile which is every Bhutanese woman’s desired choice for high-end wears.

Women in at least three other gewogs are involved in weaving Kishuthara.

The primary raw material for the textile is the brocades which are now available in retail markets. But it is from Samdrup Jongkhar that people mostly buy the threads in large quantities. Having the raw material at easy disposal, it takes all the experienced hands to finally bring the most prized kira (Bhutanese women’s dress) into shape.

The cheapest of the brand would at least cost Nu 30,000 at Thimphu, the capital city and the price don’t vary much even at its source – Lhuentse. The best design fetches more than Nu 0.1mn

“The clothes become considerably expensive due to huge investment of time and energy it demands,” said Kinzang Lhamo, a resident of Wangshing in Minjay. She said that the most intricate designs take on an average of six months to completion. One kira is the total of three pieces that would make the standard sized kira.

Weaving Kishuthara is a potential alternative source of incomes for people in Lhuentse. Women in Lhuentse have engaged the trade with enthusiasm from time immemorial.

There are no females in Lhuentse who aren’t introduced to the handling of loom. Girl students contribute immensely during winter vacations.

The income generated through such sources is considered as main finance for construction of new houses, procurement of agriculture machinery, household appliances and other items. Weaving is also a principle source for financing education for children. It is also an established fact that some students can make enough to finance their education solely from weaving.

“I was taught to weave since I was eight and I engage myself in weaving during winter holidays,” Keazang Deki from Nye village said.  She started weaving simple kira for few months and proceeded to weave complex patterns like the Kishuthara.

The weaving culture is finely integrated with agriculture farming in a sense that the trades are performed in a perfect arrangement not to contradict each other. The looms are hung up in the summers when the farming season picks up. Although weaving can still be practiced in summer, there is not enough labor to be spared. In winter, finally shaking the dust off, the looms are lowered and put to action. The female students on winter break help and add more hands for weaving.

The absence of a functioning weavers’ association is an impediment to sustainably maintain the weaving culture in the dzongkhag. The normal practice is that the job is given on a contract basis by the broker who may be claiming the lion’s share of the profit margin.

The people feel urgent need to institute a weavers’ group or association whereby the marketing aspect is properly handled. All these glitches aside, weaving in Lhuentse is one potential alternative source of income perfectly blended with the agriculture farming system.

Given the dzongkhag’s climatic condition much suitable for the farming practices of all cereals and people’s inclination to farming for generations Lhuentse dzongkhag is a major producer of rice in the country.

As one of the rice producing district Lhuentse contributes unprecedentedly toward realizing the food self-sufficiency goal of the country.


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