The origin of tattoo culture in Nepal dates back to ancient times. The actual time when the tattoo culture began is yet to be known, but the practice of getting a tattoo was an integral part of the cultural and social aspect of people’s lives since age old days. It is one of the oldest culture practiced in various communities in Nepali society like Newars, Tharu, Gurungs and Magars.
Getting tattooed during special occasions like Rato Machindra Nath Jatra and Indra Jatra was a trend among women especially in Tebahal and Thimi, Bhaktapur. Tattoo in legs is also referred to as ‘Lha Chyogu’ in newari language. ‘Lha’ means flesh and ‘chyogu’ means writing. Tattoo in legs of a Newari Woman also symbolizes her strength. The best part about getting inked is that when we die we take nothing but the tattoo on our body. There is a belief that on the way to heaven, if one faces hardships, he/she can sell the tattoos and make the way to heaven more conveniently. Newar people usually get images and symbols of different gods and goddesses and specific patterns related to nature. Mixture of coal and milk from selected plants were used to produce color for the tattoo design.
Getting inked is a part of the social norms in tharu tribe. Getting inked is also referred to as ‘Godhani’ in Tharu community. Women decorate their hands, limbs, legs and chest with symbolic designs of nature mythological stories and historical events. Getting inked before marriage is also a part of their beautifying process. Getting a tattoo is quite common in both men and women in tharu community. They believe that one will find solace in heaven if he/she has a tattoo. Women with good memory power known as ‘Tikaniya’ are the one who are experts in carving the designs. Mustard oil and cow dung are the traditional ointments used as ink and thorn from Neem trees to imprint a tattoo in Tharu culture.
Women belonging to Gurung and Magar community have a common trend of decorating their faces and near lips with designs of sun, moon and the stars.
The culture of getting inked has gradually evolved in Nepal. It is a way of expressing oneself through art, words or symbols. Nepal is one of the most affordable and finest destination for getting tattooed. Nepali tattoo artists are even internationally renowned for their artistic work and creativity.
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