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PADAUNG COLD-WEATHER COSTUME
 

 

 

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English: PADAUNG COLD-WEATHER COSTUME

The Padaung women, or Kèkawngdu, as they call themselves, are remarkable because of the extraordinary collars they wear, and are taken down to Mandalay to be gazed at by the Great King of Righteousness and the dwellers of the palace. They have also been on show at all viceregal and less notable durbars (see text, page 315).

BURNING ALONE SPRING-CLEANS A KAREN-NI HOUSE The fact that the houses are solid and last a long time is rather a disadvantage. One visit to a Karen-ni house usually satisfies the most curious. He makes for his tent afterward and scratches himself spaciously. If you travel in these hills, take a tent with you and pitch it outside the village. Burning is trie only satisfactory way of spring-cleaning a Karen-ni house. The people have feasts, which consist mainly in gorging on fowls and pigs, and much drinking of spirits. They have dances ; the most energetic is a sort of die-away Maypole figure. The latter-day Red Karen is a very listless person. Those who are not steal elephants and other people's property generally, and have to be suppressed. This apathy may be said to be born with them. When a Karen-ni child is born the mother takes the baby in her arms, as soon as she is able to walk down the sloping board with nicks in it which constitutes the staircase (see page 299), and gets a mattock from under the house. With this she hoes up a little ground. This is to impress upon the infant that it will have to work for its living. The children do not get a good start. They are fed with liquor from their earliest years. If a mother is too zealous at hoeing the fields to find time to suckle her infant, she takes a mouthful of liquor and feeds it from her own lips. The taking of photographs was by no means an easy matter in the earliest days of the British occupation. It was looked on as white magic, and the sight of the camera, and more particularly of the focussing cloth, was enough to send all the women scuttling off into the jungle or into the black darkness of their homes. Perhaps no one is altogether free from self-consciousness when being formally photographed, but of these tribes the Padaungs are the least affected and the least unwilling to have their likenesses taken. They are remarkable because of the extraordinary collar worn by the women. Even in Burmese days, Padaung women, or Kekawngdu, as they call themselves, were taken down to Manda-lay to be gazed at by the Great King of Righteousness and the dwellers in the palace. They have also been on show at all vice-regal and less notable durbars, and are quite as much accustomed to being snap-shotted as actresses or political leaders (see illustration, page 298). The women's neckband is of brass rod, as thick as the little finger, commencing with a wide base on the shoulder-blades and reaching up to the chin. Little girls begin with them as early as possible, and five rings are as much as most of them can manage, but the neck is kept constantly on the stretch, until the ordinary limit of twenty - one coils is reached. Twenty-five seems to be the record. At the back of the neck, fastened through the main coil, is a circlet of rings, about double the diameter of those used for curtains. The inevitable suggestion is that these are used for tying the ladies up when occasion seems to require it. Inquiry of the Kekawngdu has not so far resulted in a direct answer. They all grin. In the case of the men, this may mean the acceptance of a hint, or a tribute to the questioner's acuteness.

THE AVERAGE WOMAN WEARS 50 OR 60 POUNDS OE BRASS RODS In the case of the women, a glance at the arm appears to imply that they have on both arms a weight of brass, 'which would give a clout that would defy coercion, for they have similar coils of brass rod on the legs and the arms, and the length of these seems only limited by the space available or the ability of the household to pay for the rod, for brass is very expensive (see illustration, p. 308). The total weight carried by the average woman is fifty or sixty pounds, and here and there some manage as much as seventy or even eighty. Burdened with this weight, they hoe the fields, carry water for domestic use, and go long distances to village markets to sell liquor. They brew a great deal of very fiery stuff and sell it to most of their neighbors, carrying it in flagons made of woven strips of bamboo lacquered over with wood-oil, and dispensed in goblets of the same manufacture. The cups are of most generous size. They hold about half a pint, and those not trained to it usually become noisy after one. The brass-collar fashion does not seem to affect the women's health. There are plenty of active old crones among them and families of eight or ten are quite common. The only noticeable effect is that the women speak as if some one had them tight round the neck. They wear colored scarfs twisted into the hair, jumper coats which slip over the head, have a fashionable V-shaped front and back, and very short sleeves, with occasionally a little embroidery. The skirts are really kilts, stopping above the knee and striped red and blue. The necklaces are of the usual kind, with cornelians and other stones, coins, and beads. The men are not nearly so picturesque. Near main trade routes they wear the baggy trousers and short coats of the Shans. The remoter villagers wear shorts and cane leg-rings. An attempt at decoration is seen in the anklets made of shirt-buttons and kaleik seeds (the white seeds of a herbaceous plant), and every man carries a powder-and-shot case strapped to his belt. These are of wicker-work, neatly embroidered with brass bosses and raised scrollwork, and they glitter with wood-oil varnish.

GREAT SKILL SHOWN IN BUILDING IRRIGATED TERRACES The Kekawngdu occupy a tract covering, perhaps, 150 square miles. They are zealous agriculturists. Every available nook of the valleys is terraced for irrigation, which is carried out with great skill and eye for contour. They grow a good deal of cotton and make their clothes of it. The average height of their country is between three and four thousand feet, with peaks rising to five thousand. Their roads are well aligned, fairly broad, and much used, and are considered very good by those who have been traveling over other hill-roads, though a bicycle would have to be carried for three miles in every four. Pack bullocks are kept and caravans go down to Toungoo on the railway. On the whole, they may be said to be the best of the hill races in this neighborhood, and they have great game drives with trained dogs (see pages 296, 298, 302, and 307-9).

Some authorities have doubts as to whether they are Karens and want to place them in the Mon-hkmer group. Their language, however, has many similarities with Taungthu.
Date 1922(1922)
Source National Geographic; march 1922.
Author Sir George Scott
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