Object: Burmese turban

Burmese turban or Maung Kyetthayay
20th Century
Materials: silk and wood

This Burmese turban, or Maung Kyetthayay (also sometimes known as a Gaung Baung or Khaung Paung), is from the Asian country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). It is worn by men throughout Myanmar at formal events and ceremonial gatherings. This type of turban is especially common among the Rakhine and Shan cultures. The color of this turban suggests that it might have belonged to a Rakhine man, as pink is a common color for Rakhine turbans.

Here is a video of a traditional Myanmar orchestra performance in which the musicians are wearing this type of turban.

The Rakhine (formerly Arakanese) people are mostly Buddhist and live primarily in India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. A strongly independent people, they ruled their own kingdom at Mrauk-U until 1748. Today in Myanmar most Rakhine people live in the Rakhine State, located along the northern-most section of the western coast of Myanmar. The Shan people are the second largest ethnic group in Myanmar, living mostly in the Shan State on the eastern side of Myanmar. Historically Shan people have lived in southern China, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Turbans have been in use in Myanmar since before the colonial period but this particular variation was developed in the 20th century. Based on earlier wrapped style turbans, this type has evolved into a piece of silk or cotton which is stretched over a woven rattan frame, allowing it to be worn like a hat.

The example at the Sam Noble Museum as an inscription on the interior written in Burmese, or Myanmar, script. At this time the museum has no translation for the text…can you help us read the inscription? [Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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