The Khyengs observe some traditional laws during their wedding ceremonies. Generally, marriages do not take place within the same lineage and are strictly prohibited between cousins. If it happened by any chance, the persons involved were ostracised. If a love affair developed between a boy and a girl in any village, their parents and guardians would negotiate and fix a date for their marriage.
In line with the social traditions, in the past the bridegroom’s party had to pay some Tk 50/55 as a dowry to the bride’s party if the marriage was arranged socially. The Khyengs call the amount ‘dafa.’ If a boy and a girl fled first and then got married, the bride’s parents were allowed to increase the amount of the ‘dafa’ as per their will. Sometimes this amount would rise to Tk 500.
If the father of the bridegroom failed to meet the demand, the bride’s parents could take their daughter back. The parents were allowed to keep their daughter with them as long as the payment was not made. If a timeframe was set in this regard, the groom’s relatives would go to the bride’s house on a given date to pay the amount. Previously, a bride’s mother would get a two-taka silver coin for the cost of breast milk. The Khyengs call it ‘Chih ai,’ meaning price of breastfeeding. Sometimes, a groom would have to present a lungi (a kind of loincloth that covers the lower part of the body), a brassiere and a shirt to his mother-in-law. The bridegroom’s side would organise the wedding party by slaughtering a pig. The guests were allowed to join the party even in a drunken stupor.
An expert in local customs and laws would conduct the marriage ceremony. First the villagers came to the party when the hosts remained busy with cooking. The slaughtered a chicken to cook after cleaning it, and the cooked chicken was served on a plate. After taking opinions of the bride and the groom for the marriage, the expert took some morsels of rice from the plate, and reciting mantras plucked out two parts from the chicken’s jaws. He uncovered veins near the jaws and read out good and evil marks. The cooked chicken with its head was kept on a plate and the bride and the groom were seated face to face placing the plate between them. Once the bride and the groom responded positively for their marriage, the expert would announce the legality of the marriage as they held each other’s hands.
Their language originates from the Kuki-Chin of the Tibet-Brahma, a branch of the Chino-Tibetan family. The Khyengs, who live in different districts of Myanmar, speak different dialects. They have no alphabet of theirown. A word, based on pronunciation, may have several meanings. As for example, the word, ‘Chee’ means ‘elder sister’. Again when it is ‘chi,’ it means ‘to filter something’ or ‘salt.’
The Khyengs are generally of sound health. The girls are well-known for their beauty. Even the Burmese, mesmerized by their beauty, often would abduct them in the past. Hence the Khyang girls would have their bodies tattooed in a way, so, none could be attracted. It is said that the beautiful girls used to wear tattoos on their face too tohide their beauty. Men wear a tiny piece of cloth to cover their private parts and a shirt made by their own hands. Lads wear silver bracelet on the wrist and earrings on the lobe. Like girls, they also have long hair and use hairpin to dress hair in a bun.
The Khyang women’s dresses appear to be the same as those of the Rakhain women’s, but they are quite different. The Khyang women wear a long variety of ornaments. When the Khyang males go to markets, they put on a white shirt made in handlooms Girl in dress Khyang males and a dhooti (a loincloth for men to cover their lower parts). The tiny piece of cloth the men put on is called ‘ukh’ in their language. They call the dhooti ‘khe’. They wear turban on their head. The girls make colourful and black dresses with what they can cover their both sides. They wear clothes made by their own hands. They call the brassiere ‘langkanh’ and the turban ‘bong.’
Opel: It takes place soon after a baby is born. The programme is held on the fifth day for a female baby and on the seventh day for a male baby. The guests join the party with a chicken, one seer (Bengali measure of weight) of rice and a bottle of wine. The host arranges a feast. The pork and the chicken are served for the guests. At the time, father is asked whether the new born is named. If not, the guests themselves choose a suitable name. During this festival, all eat, drink and rejoice throughout the day.
Henay: Several families in a body organise this festival. It usually takes place when the farmers plant paddy and harvest. They celebrate it at least three times in a year. This is also called ‘Nabanya’ (the festival of eating newly grown rice). The people of the village gather together beside a stream at a suitable time, and slaughter a cow or a buffalo. Then, they offer worship to a deity and take part in the feast. Some people also engage themselves in drinking liquor during this festival.
The Khyang women wear a variety of jewelleries to decorate them. All the ornaments they wear are made of silver. They employ the goldsmiths from other ethnic groups to manufacture such ornaments. Names of the jewelleries they wear are given below:
Besides, Khyang males wear silver bracelets in their left hands and earrings in pierced ears. They use hairpin in the plaits of their long hair.
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