The world went gaga over their tattoos – Saif’s love tattoo, Sanjay Dutt’s colorful shoulder tattoo, the ink-stained torso of Arjun Rampal, not to forget Rakhi Sawant’s oh-so-conspicuous tattoo and the “kaanta-laga” girl, Shefali Zariwala and the arrow piercing her heart tattoo – the list is endless.
Tattoo amongst modern youth and their icons is yuppie, bold, fashionable, exorbitant, and worth extensive media glare. Or so, we think! There is nothing modern, chic or glamorous about the tattoo. The art of tattooing is ethnic and if you may, very rustic!
We often see the famous black Om or Swastik sign on the hands or wrist of men and woman from rural India, or their names tattooed on their forearm, or the tiny black dots that adorn the face of tribal girls. The art of tattoo is an ancient style of ornamentation, a tradition, and not as expensive as many of the tattoo artists may ensure.
In the rural areas of Madhya Pradesh, vegetable die and lamp-black or charcoal dust mixed with linseed oil is used as ink. In many tribal areas in India, for example, in Madhya Pradesh, tattoo is a mark of identification and a symbol of social importance as it marks membership to a group or clan. In Bundelkhand and Rajasthan, there is a beautiful saying that when all the ornaments of a woman are taken off when she dies, tattoo marks are the only fortune she carries to the next world. Even Indian divinities carried tattoos. According to the legend Vishnu drew a tattoo on the hand of his wife Laskhmi for protection.
And then there is the pain-free temporary mehendi or henna tattoo, which is very popular in the West. Interestingly, the western societies have played a significant role in popularizing the art of tattooing, but many may not be aware that with the growth of Christianity, tattooing was forbidden in Europe. No wonder, it was the rebellious and the truant who featured in the tattoo-revival culture – rock stars, hippies, vagabonds, junkies!
So, the next time you plan à la mode tattoo, instead of directly walking into an exuberant air-conditioned tattoo parlor, drive down to the nearest village and come back with traditional patterns, counted points, lines, moon like shapes, blossoms, animal shapes, leaves and tendrils!