Few facts about « Krama »
We could say that the krama is to Cambodian people what the sombrero is to Mexican people, a very strong visual symbol of the country.
This typical checked scarf is part of the Cambodian history and a legacy that passed through generations.
History is not very documented and precise about its origin, but kramas [pronounce it « kroh’mah » in Khmer] are said to date back to Angkor times (around the 13th century).
Originally what we called the krama was the fabric that Khmer women used to traditionally make, from collecting the cotton, soaking it in rice for few days, and partly tinting it before weaving it on the wooden weaving loom. In the past, little people would use cotton scarves when healthy family would prefer silk kramas (usually referred to as “kan’saèng sotr”).
Traditionally weaved in red and white or blue and white checks, it is nowadays available in many colors. Patterns and colors vary depending on the province the krama comes from.
Khmer people of all ages still wear it a lot and upon many occasions and use it for many different functions: sun or cold protection, belts, or even shorts or swimwear; they could use it as bags for carrying goods or even as a baby carrier or hammocks for babies… Kids also use it rolled and curled to play a local dodge ball game (Cha-ol Choong). Some people even repair their bicycle tires by filling them with their (karma) krama, how clever! Finally, L’Bokator fighters still traditionally wrap the krama around their waists.
So many different uses for one scarf is quite fascinating.
The krama is a very strong representation of the Khmer spirit strength: it managed to stand still without wobbling and without losing its courage and dignity despite the extremely difficult times it went through in the past.
That is why nowadays, young Khmer people are proud to wear this very traditional scarf, and the trend is spreading throughout the world with the Khmer diaspora community abroad !
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