The Padaung, a Mongolian tribe who have been assimilated into the Karen group, only number about 7,000 and they have attracted a great deal of interest because of their practice of neck-stretching. The custom is more than just a rare and strange expression of feminine beauty, the number and value of the rings confers status and respect on the wearer's family. In the past Padaung girls were fitted with the rings at the age of five or six. The process would continue with successive ring being added every two years. A Padaung women of marriageable age will probably have had her neck extended by about 25 cms. Unlike normal accessories, these rings are for life and may only be removed with the direst of results. Adultery among Padaung women has always been punished by the removal of the rings, a fate almost literally, worse than death. This is an unusually cruel punishment as the cervical vertebrae has become deformed after years of wearing the rings, and the neck muscles have atrophied.
© Ramdas Iyer Photography