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Two young Mon boys wearing "Mon" coloured paso and gaung paungs

The Gaung paung (ခေါင်းပေါင်း) is a traditional Burmese turban and part of the traditional attire of many ethnic races inhabiting modern day Myanmar - it is found is most of the Buddhist-professing ethnic groups - the Bamar, Mon people, Rakhine and Shan. The design varies from region to region, but share basic similarities that makes the gaung baung unique from the turban.

Gaung Paung literally means head wrap in the Burmese language. It is more of a ceremonial attire than day to day wear, though in the Arakanese and Shan ethnic groups, it is more prevalent. The Gaung Paung is almost always a sign of rank, though no insignia or pattern exists to denote it.

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Design and style

The Gaung Paung is usually made of silk or cotton, depending on the rank or wealth of the owner. The older wrap versions were usually 4 to 5 feet long and 8 to 12 inches wide, depending on the race. It is put on the head in a clock wise manner, with the tongue on the left side. The tongue is the main distinguishing feature of the gaung paung, and is also different from race to race.

The Burmese and Mon gaung paung tongues tend to be sloping down and rounded, while the Arakanese (Rakhine) and Shan tongues are fanned out.

Nowadays, most do not wear the gaung paung, even to official functions. The gaung paung, along with most other articles of Burmese attire, have become stream-lined - thus, most wear ready-made / woven gaung paungs which are wrapped over a cane or wicker frame.

Material

Since the gaung paung is a ceremonial head gear, it is always for beautification. Depending on the wealth and or rank of the owner, the colour and material differ.

The Burmese and Mon wear yellow, white, grey or cream coloured gaung paungs, of either silk or cotton. The Rakhine wear pink coloured ones, while the Shan is either cream, skin or tan coloured. The Shan gaung paung is made out of rough cotton, called pin, the trademark garment of the Shans.

Contemporary usage

Usage of Gaung paung has declined dramatically during the British colonization. It is only worn in official ceremonies, and social functions such as weddings.

In the Northern Hill areas, the hill tribes, such as the Lahu, Akka and Palaung still wear similar gaung paungs, but for day to day wear, and they are usually made from towels.

See also

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