Pa Chamni


“Om sala mani, padme choela hung. Om sala mani padme choela hung. Om sala mani padme choela hung.” Does it sound familiar to you? Have you heard this? Well, our elder citizens might have sung also, and a few folks born before or in the mid 90s might have heard it sometimes. I have heard and saw quite a few folks in action singing the tune, in and around Thimphu in early 90s to mid 90s. Those people who lives away from Thimphu, mostly in the western part of  our country and some in the central Bhutan, might have heard them or still hear on some occasions.

Its  Patshig or songs sung while working, so as to make the bout fun and memorable. If you are wondering what kind of work that might be, then its the mud ramming or the Pachamni. It used to be the most common technique and tool used to build houses and even the majestic Dzongs, back then. They used to raise the walls by ramming  the mud with Satib or the pounding club as and when mud was put into a perfect Pashing the wooden frame. The Pashigs were built in desired shapes and sizes by the Tsizop who was responsible for preparing the mud and making frames, as per the desire of the building owner, and accordingly the Tsizop prepared them.

Every body would come together and pound the mud from morning till the dusk fell. Songs would be sung and not to forget the repartee between girls and boys. Works were all made fun and enjoyable that folks from different places came to work. And this mud ramming technique that was prevalent for hundreds of years, made some of the beautiful structures in our country. Most of them stood against the test of the time, that they are still standing, making our already lovely country into one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Those buildings failed to withstand the test or abandoned were left to disintegrate back to the mother Earth, by themselves, for they were built without using a single nail.

Some older folks say, Pachamni was done mostly in the Spring, since the season favored them with ample sun, to dry the freshly pounded  mud walls quickly and also they get to work longer as the sun set slowly. But, sadly with the touch of modernization they are already the forgotten practice, not even sparing in those places away from Thimphu.

As a boy in Olakha, although I could not remember everything, since it was already a dying practice in the early 90s itself, in Thimphu. I remember very vaguely participating in the Pachamni with elders. It is so vague, I cannot remember whose house or which side of Olakha it actually was. How I wish if I had a camera or cell phone, that I would have documented everything for my future reference, as well as for my future siblings and for everyone who wants to travel back in time.

But, the good news is, there is a retreat centre for nuns in Tshelumaphey, opposite to Babesa sewerage, still under construction  Its a Bhutan Nuns Foundation (BNF) project and they are doing it in a traditional way. Not to forget the Pachamni technique is used to raise walls. And they want volunteers to complete the centre on time.

So, if you are interested and want to relive our forgotten practice, them you may join me and my friends on Saturday, the 16th January 2016. We are volunteering to ram some mud and raise some walls there. You are free to join us. We will arrange some refreshments but, you may need to bring your own lunch. Bring in some thick gloves to save yourself from getting blisters, if you at all want to ram hard .(Laughs). Caps as well.

Its going to be fun, we will sing, “Om sala mani, padme choela hung. Om sala mani padme choela hung. Om sala mani padme choela hung,”  like they did in the olden days. Learn some lessons on the history of building houses in our traditional way. Make some new friends and then later we can have the “Pot Luck.” Oh, I am about to forget, we can take some beautiful pictures and document them for future reference.. ( 🙂 smiles and laughs!)

We will be gathering at Zimdra workshop in Babesa at 9 am sharp.

Looking forward to seeing you all la.

Volunteers ramming the walls of Nunnery in Tselumaphey opposite to Babesa
Pic courtesy: Google



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