Myanmar has various ethnic groups that will make you stunning when you visit them. One of that kind of minority groups is the Kayan people who are known for their extraordinary long-necked women. The Kayan people belong to a part of Karenni people and their historical reference showed that they settled in the Demawso area of Kayah State from 739 AD. The Kyan miniority has different groups such as the Kayan Lahwi, the Kayan Lahta, Kayan Ka Ngan, Kayan Gebar, Kayan Kakhi and the Bwe people (or Kayaw) and a few more. The region where they live is rich in mineral resources like tungsten and it is situated in Eastern Myanmar, the shared border of Thailand.
The most striking culture of the Kayan women (Kayan Lahwi) is brass rings worn around their necks. Most of them feel proud to wear these brass coils. At the age of five, girls usually start wearing the neck rings in the purpose of protecting them from the attack of the beasts and some say that the culture was used to disfigure the good look of women in order to prevent from abducting against their wishes by other tribes. An adult Kayan lady has about 35 rings around their neck.
The most widely celebrated festival by the Kayan people is called Kay Htein Bo Festival,a three-day religious festival which is intended to worship the Creator of the world. The festival is held in the hope of giving thanks to the God for the past year, praying for the rain and seeking forgiveness for the sins. They celebrate the festival with long ceremonial poles capped with traditional ornaments. The festival can be taken part in every year around late March or early April. During this period, you can witness the solidarity of the Kayan tribes from different villages at one place.
It is purported that the Kayan’s traditional religion, Kan Khwan, has existed since the Bronze Age. The Kyan society always use a kind of divination form such as breaking of thatch or reading of chicken bones before they make important decisions. The chicken bones are used for the fortune telling of the year ahead.
Although people in some Kayan villages practice Kan Khwan , most of them are now practicing Roman Catholicism, propagated by Italian missionaries in the 19th century.
Despite they got their names as long-necked women, they don’t really have a long neck . Actually, the impression of their long neck is made by the prolonged use of brass coils that push down the collar bones and compress the rib cage. However, they rarely remove their rings except to add or replace them with the longer ones because they feel as if the coils were parts of their body.
If you are considering visiting a region of Myanmar, please be sure to use a responsible tour operator and I recommend you to travel with a certified local guide. Please follow cultural etiquette which will lead you to a welcoming atmosphere by the locals. Before taking photographs, please be sure to ask their permission first. There is nothing wrong with interacting with people from minority groups in Myanmar as they are so warm towards tourists and they love to share their tradition with them. Nature Link Travel and Tours Company in Myanmar is always welcome you as our valued partner whenever you need our services.
The Kayans are a rare tribe that has kept their ethnicity in spite of strong external influence. On the other hand, there is only a very small group who follow this practice. Nowadays, these people also stay in Thailand apart from Myanmar. To sum up, their unique custom and hearty welcoming smile will surely make your trip more meaningful.
Ms.Nyein Chan Htwe