Nepal is now a known as one of the best destinations for getting inked. Tattooing is as old as paintings and it is painful and gruesome, if done the traditional way. This is one piece of art that one takes to one’s grave. Tattoo culture in Nepal is one of the oldest traditions practiced in Newars, Tharu ,Gurungs and Magars communities of the country.
In Newars Culture, Tattoos are most commonly used by women and lower-caste Newaris. Tattoo in legs is also referred to as ‘Lha Chyogu’ in newari language. ‘Lha’ means flesh and ‘chyogu’ means writing. The tattoos on the feet of Newari women from the Bhaktapur-Thimi area symbolize strength and are supposed to be attractive to the men folk. Tattoos making in children at an early age are also believed to protect them from illness and evil spirits. Newar individuals normally get Symbols and images of various divine beings and goddesses and particular examples identified with nature. The traditional way of making tattoo colors are- Mixture of coal and milk from selected plants. Newaris have a traditional belief that tattoos on one’s body drive away misfortunes. Another belief is that, when a man dies he takes nothing from this world with him except the tattoos on his body. On the way to heaven if this man comes up against hardships he can sell the tattoos and thus make his way to heaven more comfortable.
In Tharu community the tattoo is known as ‘godhani’ but usually old women, are called Tikaniya. Getting a tattoo is quite common in both men and women in tharu community. Ladies embellish their hands, limbs, legs and chest with symbolic designs of nature mythological stories and historical events. Other markings were simply meant to look aesthetically pleasing, like jewelry. In this community a newborn child is tattooed either on his leg, hand or chest with designs mostly of birds. These tattoos are done following Hindu rituals. They belief that getting tattoos designed on their bodies will find a place in heaven. Getting inked before marriage is also a part of their beautifying process. Tattooing was compulsory for married Tharu women and they used to get tattooed on their legs prior to marrying Mustard oil and cow dung are the traditional ointments used as ink and thorn from Neem trees to imprint a tattoo in Tharu culture.
Gurung and Magar people group have a typical pattern of beautifying their countenances and close lips with plans of sun, moon and the stars. It was believed that getting inked brought good fortune for them and their families. Tattooing is traditionally done with the help of a ‘nilkadha’ (the thorn from the nil tree). The nilkhada is dipped in goat’s milk and designs are made mostly on the hands, cheeks chin, legs and the forehead.
Tattoo culture in Nepal has found a new niche among youths today. It has grown increasingly. Now, Nepali tattoo artists are even internationally renowned for their artistic work and creativity.