Annual Traditional Tattoo Celebration in Thailand

In no other country in the world except Thailand does the tattoo tradition have an annual religious celebration. Once a year, thousands of tattoo enthusiasts from around the world descend on the temple known as Wat Bang Phra, located 50 km outside Bangkok, where dozens of heavily tattooed Buddhist monks are masters of the tattoo art. This Wat is also known as the Temple of the Flying Tiger.

There are hundreds of traditional Thai designs, many of them animals, the tiger being the most popular. The lower back is the preferred location for this most powerful of motifs. Taking a tiger tattoo is to take on the tiger spirit, a spirit that will be in control of your life.

Unlike most tattoos in the West, the Thai version comes steeped in spiritual, or some might say superstitious, meaning. Protection, good luck, blessings from on high -- these are what the tattoo devotees are seeking. Many arrive already heavily tattooed and are there to simply get their designs 'recharged', by having the Buddhist monks re-bless their body art. During the festivities it is not uncommon for the tattoo devotees, through their chanting, to reach an extremely heightened state of consciousness, appearing to enter into a trance. Everyone arrives with gifts of incense and flowers for the tattooist’s venerable teacher.


Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, has a tiger tattoo on her back.

There are hundreds of traditional Thai designs, many of them animals, the tiger being the most popular. The lower back is the preferred location for this most powerful of motifs. Taking a tiger tattoo is to take on the tiger spirit, a spirit that will be in control of your life. Angelina Jolie submitted to the classical tiger treatment at the hands of venerated tattoo master, Ajarn Noo Kanphai in 2004.

A Thai Buddhist monk draws a traditional tattoo on the back of a devotee, during a tattoo festival at the Bang Phra Temple in Nakhon Chaisi, west of Bangkok on March 7, 2009. The temple, made famous by the late Buddhist monk Luang Phor Boon, hosts a yearly festival gathering hundreds of followers believing tattoos protect them against harm.



A festival goer enters a state of trance.












VIDEO: Tattoo performed by a buddhist monk at the Thai temple Wat Bang Phra.









 

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