Kabney is a silk scarf worn by men on gho. It runs from the left shoulder to the right knee. It is normally of 90 by 300 centimeters in size. Except for the white kabney, which is worn by ordinary men, other scarves in color have no fringes.
Rachu is a red scarf with different patterns are worn by women over left shoulder and it goes till the hip. Ordinary rachus have fringes but rachus of other colors worn in accordance with post have no fringes. It is normally of 15 by 180 centimeters.
Wearing of kabney (large sash) began during the time of Buddha as a symbol of respect but this applied only to monks and nuns.
In Bhutan, in the 17th Century, as more and more people gathered to receive teaching from Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, Tenzin Drugye, ordered all laymen to come wearing something-like-kabney as a sign of respect to the master.
Some people came covered with raw cloth-piece and some with kira. Some gathered with rope on the left shoulder running through the waist. The ropes were made from the white tail of yak. Some women came with colorful belt hanging around their neck.
The white rope made from yak tail was considered auspicious and thus, the idea of white kabney conceived. Then on, people were asked to wear white kabney. The white kabney signifies the Drukpa Kaju sect of Buddhism. Likewise, woman’s belt inspired the design of rachu.
In 1638, during the consecration of Wangdiohodrang Dzong, all men wore white kabney and women hanged rachu over their left shoulder. Zhabdrung blessed kabney and rachu during the ceremony.
Fringes on kabney and rachu symbolize offering-scarf that was offered to people with higher authority. It was designed for people were not able to bring scarf (tashi khhadar) with them.
Tenzin Drugye, the first Desi wrote an Act on Kabney but was lost when the Punakha Dzong was razed by fire. No acts were re-written on kabney and rachu till date but today, the rank of the bearer determines the color of kabney and rachu.
- Yellow: His Majesty The King and His Holiness The Jekhenpo
- Orange: Ministers and Lopens of Central Monastic Body
- Red: Knighthood conferred by HM the King
- White without fringes: Secretaries and Chamberlain to HM the King
- Green: Judges
- Blue: Members of Parliament
- Red with white stripe in the middle: Dzongda (Governer)
- White with red stripes: Dzongrab (Deputy Governer) and Drungpa (Head of sub-district)
- White with green stripes: Ramjam (judges of the sub-district court)
- Khamar (with red and white stripes): Gups (local leaders)
- White: ordinary men
The principle of the color of kabney applies to rachu except for the red with different patterns which is worn by ordinary women.
Military personnel, both serving and retired, wear sash regardless of gender if they are in gho and kira. The color of sash, like kabney, depends on the rank of the bearer and the organization.
- Yellow: His Majesty the King (as Supreme Commander)
- Blue: Royal Bhutan Police and Royal Body Guard
- Green: Royal Bhutan Army
Male staff of Dzongs who are required to perform intensive manual work also wear white sash.