Sithar Lhamo: The Enduring Threads of Tradition in Khoma

In the picturesque village of Khoma in Lhuentse, Bhutan, where the art of weaving is as embedded in the landscape as the majestic Singye Dzong, an extraordinary woman stands as a living testament to the enduring threads of tradition. At the remarkable age of 89, Sithar Lhamo continues to weave her legacy, securing her position as the oldest weaver in Khoma.

Embarking on her weaving journey at the tender age of 13, Sithar has not merely mastered a skill but embraced a way of life. For the past 76 years, she has intricately woven her days with threads of tradition, dedication, and economic sustenance. The rhythmic clatter of her loom, echoing from 9 am to 5 pm daily, weaves not just fabrics but a narrative of resilience and commitment.

Despite her age and diminishing eyesight, Sithar remains an unwavering force at the loom, focusing now on crafting simpler items like rachu and keyra. These items, though less intricate than the renowned Kishuthara, hold cultural significance and contribute to Sithar’s sustenance.

Sithar’s commitment is mirrored in the support of her community, whose consistent demand for her products ensures the sustainability of her craft. Expressing gratitude, Sithar acknowledges the role of weaving not only as an art form but as a means to enhance the quality of life in Khoma.

Having witnessed the evolution of Kishuthara over the decades, Sithar is delighted to see the vibrant culture flourishing. She credits parents in the village for instilling the art of weaving in their daughters from an early age, ensuring the continuity of this rich tradition. Sithar firmly believes that, in the face of limited income sources, weaving has significantly elevated the village’s standard of living.

Reflecting on the challenges of the past, Sithar recalls the arduous month-long journeys villagers once undertook to Samdrupjongkhar to purchase yarn. Today, residing alone after the loss of her daughter, Sithar champions self-reliance and encourages others to minimize dependency on external support.

Yet, Sithar’s concern for her well-being during illness looms large, as her relatives reside in distant places. Despite this, she remains a beacon of determination and hard work, admired by young weavers in the village and beyond.

Sithar perceives positive transformations in the quality and patterns of Kishuthara today, attributing these changes to improved raw materials and heightened creativity. Approximately 40 Kishuthara weavers now contribute to Khoma’s weaving tradition, with each girl and woman engrossed in the craft during what they consider the peak season.

Situated on the route to the sacred Singye Dzong, Khoma welcomes a constant influx of customers, including Bhutanese nationals and tourists. The cost of a Kishuthara, standing at a minimum of Nu 120,000 and requiring a minimum of five months to complete, not only sustains traditions but also bolsters the economic vitality of Khoma.

In Sithar Lhamo’s tireless dedication to weaving, Khoma finds not just a weaver but a guardian of tradition, an inspiration for future generations, and a living testament to the enduring threads that bind the village together.

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