Facts about Kayan

12 Kayan facts

Famous for their golden hoops

The Kayan are an ethnic minority of Myanmar, although they came to this area from Mongolia thousands of years ago. As a result of the conflict with the Myanmar regime in the 1980s and 1990s, a large part of the tribe emigrated to areas bordering Thailand where they live in refugee camps or special villages. Due to the characteristic brass rings adorning the necks of Kayan women, they are a considerable and profitable tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the money not always goes directly to tribesmen, because various Thai businessmen operating at the borders exploit refugees who have no one to turn to.

The Kayan are an ethnic subgroup of the Red Karen, the people of Myanmar.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is an Asian country in the southeastern part of the continent, with a population of approximately 54 million, of which Kayan is estimated at 60,000. There are about 130,000 of the all over the world.
The Kayan are divided into groups.
There are Kayan Lahwi (Padaung), Kayan Ka Khaung (Gekho), Kauan Lahta, and Kayan Ka Ngan.
A distinctive tribal feature of the Kayan Lahwi are brass rings worn by women.
They are put on girls’ necks around the age of five, and their length increases as they grow. While it may seem like it lengthens the neck, it actually lowers the collarbones and compresses the chest. The length of the neck remains unchanged, but the optical illusion means that women from this tribe are often referred to as "women with a giraffe's neck".
The reason for introducing the custom of wearing neck rings has not been fully understood.
Anthropologists speculate that they may have acted as a protection against enslavement by other tribes. Some speculate that neck rings were supposed to make women resemble dragons, which are an essential part of Kayan culture and religion. They could also protect the neck from attack by tigers or simply increase attractiveness by visibly emphasizing sexual dimorphism. Tribeswomen claim they wear rings to cultivate tradition and beauty.
Kayan women have deformed necks and very weak muscles as a result of wearing rings.
Many of them refuse to remove them, treating them as an integral part of the body. The few who decided to take this step described a feeling of severe discomfort that disappeared after about three days.
The Myanmar government officially discourages women from wearing metal rings.
Each year there are more cases of removal of ornaments by women who have left their homeland and gone to refugee camps. The trend is also visible among women who want to receive an education.
Marriages in the Kayan culture are most often concluded between relatives.
First cousins ​​are the most common choice, but intergenerational weddings are not encouraged. In the past, the parents chose spouses. Now, when a man chooses his future wife, his parents go to the girl's parents with a gift. If the daughter agrees to marry, the couple is officially engaged.
Marriages between feuding clans are forbidden.
According to superstition, families who swore not to marry for several generations and break this oath will be affected by a misfortune that befalls all relatives.
Kayan's official religion is Kan Khwan.
Its roots go back to the Bronze Age when the ancestors of contemporary Kayan came to Myanmar from Mongolia. Beliefs assume that the Kayan people arose as a result of a pact between a dragon and a man-angel.
The Kayan profess divine auspices and rarely make decisions without consulting the deities.
These are most often done by looking for answers in broken grass blades or chicken bones.
The biggest festival of Kan Khwan is the Kay Htein Bo, which takes place at the end of March or the beginning of April.
The three-day festival is devoted to rituals of cleansing and consulting with spirits. Consultation requires chicken bones, which are to predict the fortune for the upcoming year.
Most of the Kayans are Catholic.
It is thanks to the Italian monks who carried out missionary activities in these areas in the 19th century.
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