Akhas

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This article has been extracted from

THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.

OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.

Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.

Akhas

A hill tribe inhabeting the uplands of the Shan States of Kengtung, in the extreme east of Burma, and known to the Shans as Kaws. They are the most widely spread community in Kengtung, and in 1901 numbered 26,020 persons. Judged by their language, which possesses no Mon-Anam or Chinese characteristics, the Akhas are probably of Tibeto-Burman origin, and seem to be connected with the trans-Mekong Panna and Lote.

They have long been in contact with the Chinese, occasionally intermarry with them, know the Chinese language, and wear a modified pigtail, but are racially quite distinct. Compared with their neighbours they are tall and dark, and the cast of their features is less typically Mongolian than that of many of the surrounding races.

The men's dress differs but little from that of the Shans and Chinese ; the women have a dress of their own, which varies from clan to clan, but of which the most characteristic features are a very short coat, and equally short kilt, cloth leggings, and a head-dress of bamboo framework elaborately decorated. The Akhas cultivate cotton and the opium poppy. Their villages are built at a considerable elevation above the ground, though not at the height chosen by some of the neighbouring hill tribes.

Their houses are of small dimensions and squalid. They are great dog-eaters, and do not confine their attentions to any particular canine breed, as the majority of dog eating communities do.

The religion of the Akhas is spirit or ancestor worship, and offerings to the dead are made at their festivals. The dead are buried and buffaloes are slaughtered at funerals. Their marriage customs are primitive, and unions with persons of other than Akha stock are not unknown.

The Akos, a tribe inhabeting portions of Kengtung, differ somewhat in physical characteristics, in dress, and in language from the Akhas, but are probably connected with them racially. The Akos numbered 1,506 in 1901.

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