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Tattoo trail

Common patterns and celeb-inspired tattoos are giving way to motifs rooted in India's tribal art and classical mythology. Srishti Jha reports.

art and culture Updated: Jul 16, 2012 12:51 IST
Srishti Jha
Srishti Jha
Hindustan Times
Srishti Jha,tattoos,Beckham

Beckhams's seven tattoos including 'Victoria' misspelt in Devanagari on his arm, Rihanna's recent 'Thug Life' inked in pink on her knuckles, Saif's Kareena marking and Deepika Padukone's reworked Ranbir tattoo on the nape of her neck have imprinted themselves on the country's popular culture. As a result, for a while, everyone was tattooing themselves with the names of their significant others… and then, in many unfortunate cases, paying a fortune to have them removed! Thankfully, that trend seems to have outlived its popularity.

These days, hipsters seem determined to avoid aping celebrities or opting for alien Celtic or Oriental patterns. This would explain the resurgence of motifs rooted in India's vast body of tribal art and Hindu myth. "I chose to get a tattoo of Surya, the sun god, as depicted in the Madhubani art form. It felt like a rooted symbol," says actor Swara Bhaskar.

Tattooing and piercing, especially, have always been popular in India though they fell out of favour in the years immediately after Independence when the new country's socialistic fervour pushed the practices to the margins, and the less prosperous socio-economic groups. Some time in the 1990s, Indians, suddenly exposed to international trends, rediscovered the appeal of body art. "Though it appears to be a modern-day rage, tattooing has been a tradition among many cultures," says cultural historian Shonaleeka Kaul.

Indeed, the fad for tattoos in 18th century Europe was set off when sailors came in contact with the Maoris of New Zealand. Closer home, the Ramnami sect, whose members weren't allowed to enter temples, showed their defiance by tattooing Lord Ram's name all over their bodies. Today, tattoos are largely ornamental. "Tattoos can be regarded as body-blogging," says Kaul. Roughly two decades after liberalisation, tattooing has gone mainstream in India. Everyone from Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt to the neighbourhood chemist now sports body art. 3D motifs and those with different shades of grey and black are currently popular as are abstract designs. Artist Rohit Kant, who flaunts 14 tattoos, says, "If you want to get a tattoo and have already thought about how you will post it on Facebook, think twice. It should be more of an inspiration than just a design Googled from the net," he says. Dotted tattoos that merge geometrical patterns with exquisite artwork are all the rage this season. "Apart from the dot effect,a few customers want to go for the hand-prick tattoo too," says artist Abhishaik Madhur.

While this move towards an older form of tattoo execution hints at nostalgia for a lost age, it has also meant the rediscovery of a marginalised form. Clearly, the Indian tattoo scene is ready to reclaim its rich indigenous legacy of body art.

The weekend fix guide
A guide to the places in the city that offer unique and innovative inking options

Devilz Tattooz
USP: One of the oldest studios in the country, it set the Guinness record for tattooing the most flags (199) on a single body. The studio offers customised tattoos by visiting artists from Canada, Sweden, and Portugal.
Price Range: Rs.1,500-Rs. 150,000
Location: M-53, GK.1 M Block, Tel: 46792201

Inkinn Tattoo Studio
USP: The studio offers free consultancy services. You can discuss designs and the counselling session means there is less chance of regretting your choice afterwards. The place offers tidy cover ups too. They also offer black and grey realistic tattoos.
Price Range: Rs. 25,00-Rs. 90,000
Location: D-1, Defence Colony, Tel- 9910236996

Mo Tattoos
USP: No run-of-the-mill, predicatable angels and butterflies here. The emphasis is on getting realistic patterns, portraits and modern 3D tattoos that blend art, music and fashion to create something entirely new, futurustic and edgy.
Price Range: Rs. 2,000-Rs. 100,000
Location: 26, Basement, Haus Khas Village, Tel-9654503556

Indelible Tattooz
USP: A new corner for dotted and bio mechanical tattoos. They also offer tattoos executed through the traditional hand-prick method that has become rare.
Price Range: RS. 1,500-RS. 50,000
Location: Shop 145-A, Taimoor Nagar, New Friends Colony, Tel- 9871594396

First Published: Jun 29, 2012 22:47 IST