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Mesmerizing Costumes of Merak and Sakteng

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Do you want to learn more about Merak and Sakteng's distinctive dress traditions? Both of these Bhutanese tribes have a long-standing custom of dressing elaborately to showcase not only their rich cultural past but also their way of life and values. Enter the colorful world of Merak and Sakteng costumes now.

Photograph by Visit Bhutan saidpiece
Photograph by Visit Bhutan

Tucked away in the remote Trashigang district of Bhutan are two gewogs - Merak and Sakteng where the Brokpas, nomadic yak herders, showcase their unique culture and traditions. From the local dialect they speak to the traditional songs they sing and the dances they perform, the Brokpas are unlike any other Bhutanese. But what makes them stand out the most is their distinctive costumes.


It takes a two-day trek to reach Merak from Chaling, the nearest road head, and another two days to reach Sakteng from Phongmey, the nearest road head. However, the journey is well worth it to witness the Brokpas' unique dress.


Photograph by Actual Travel Bhutan
Photograph by Actual Travel Bhutan

The Merak and Sakteng tribe is well-known for their "Lugoi" costumes, which feature a red woolen skirt, a black woolen top with elaborate red and white embroidery, and a woven belt with protracted tassels. The "Kongmol" headgear is a conical hat covered in multicolored beads and the fur of animals like the Himalayan black bear. It is constructed of bamboo or cane. Also, the Merak and Sakteng people don jewelry including bracelets, earrings, and necklaces made of silver, coral, and turquoise. In the Merak culture, the Lugoi costume is a representation of grace and pride and is worn for festivals, weddings, and other important events.


On the other side, the Sakteng tribe is recognized for their distinctive "Sakteng Gho" dress. The Sakteng Gho is a knee-length garment with vivid, dramatic designs, frequently in red and yellow tones, made of handwoven cotton, silk, or raw silk. The traditional "Kera" belt, which is composed of woven cloth and has a complex pattern of threads, is worn with the Sakteng Gho. The "Khamar," a conical hat constructed of bamboo or cane and embellished with vibrant tassels and ribbons, is the headgear of the Sakteng people. Both men and women can wear the Sakteng Gho, which is a formal outfit in the Sakteng society.


Photograph by Overland Bhutan
Photograph by Overland Bhutan

The Merak and Sakteng and Sakteng cultures place great cultural value on their dress codes, which go beyond simple fashion. For instance, the Merak and Sakteng people have the belief that the Himalayan black bear's fur on their headdress shields them from evil spirits and that the "Buli," or heavenly chain connecting all living things, is represented by the tassels on their belt. Similar to this, the Sakteng people hold that wearing bright colors brings joy and happiness, and that their belt's pattern of threads symbolizes the "Jewe," or the five wisdoms in Buddhism.


In conclusion, Merak and Sakteng's outfits are a visual feast and a window into Bhutanese culture. These tribes' deeply ingrained beliefs and customs are reflected in the elaborate designs, vivid colors, and distinctive headdresses. It's intriguing to observe the Marak and Sakten people's traditions during festivals and other celebrations since they take tremendous delight in them. If you ever get the chance to travel to Bhutan, don't forget to look into the Marak and Sakten dress customs; you will not be disappointed!


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