Sunday October 22, 2017

Rediscovering – The tradition of Indian tattoos

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Image Source- IndianRoots

by Annesha Das Gupta

Tattoos and the culture of India are the two things that many of us will immediately deem as an oxymoron. Through the electronic and the print media, the masses are feed upon the images that the art of tattooing as particularly a western phenomenon. Though, here the idiom of ‘What we see is not always true’ can be thoroughly applied.

Many of the customs and traditions of our subcontinent did become obsolete a long time ago, and the surprising bit is that the culture of tattoos is one of them. Tattoos were hold in ultimate veneration throughout the agrarian landscapes for much longer than what the annals of documentation tells us.

The ancient patterns of maze-like creations carved on the rocks dating back to the time of 1000 B.C. were later adopted by the tribal communities to mark their arms and other parts of their bodies. The patterns resembling a labyrinth known as Kolam, were often drawn by the families, residing in the regions of South India. The symbols were placed outside the threshold of their abodes, in order to protect the members of the household.

It was believed that the illustration is capable of magical powers which would trap the demons and other evil beings in the puzzle of the maze, something which cannot be solved by those creatures. The Kolam was usually made during the time of dawn, when as the legend goes, the inhabitants of the darkness come alive. Thus, it is of no wonder that the same was inked on the human bodies to permanently keep themselves safe and secure.

Apart from this one tattoo which was and still is believed to have magical properties, the marks, the symbols, the lines and the dots were regarded to borne medical, religious and sympathetic significance as well.

 Exploring the power of tattoos – Surreal and beyond

Gauitra Bahadur writes that while researching for her book Coolie Woman, she found out about the tradition of Sita Ki Rasio, a tattoo without which the married women of northeast India cannot cook meals for their in-laws. While another of the tattoos drawn on women, denotes the five Pandavas and one Draupati, as five dots centered around a single one. This can depict the harmonious relationship between various husbands as polygamy was readily practiced by some tribes like that of the Nagas.

Such instances, also tells us about the heavy influence of the Hindu epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. Then there is the symbol of Krishna’s crown which was wore by the Rajput women to show off their aristocracy indicating that the social status or position of someone’s caste or class can be read upon by the tattoo they have been marked with, like the caste of Govals who had the tattoos of Kanhaiyyaa and his milk maids inscribed on their arms.

The tattoos also used to work as something which will strengthen the marital relationship between the couples. The symbol of Moon or Chandi protecting his favorite wife, Rohini and the tattoos carrying the decorations of Vishnu’s tools like wheel and lotus are marked on the palms of the wives keeping with the terms of the legend that the God drew his weapons on the arms of his wife, Lakshmi to keep her secure while he was away, engaging in wars.

The craft of tattooing which is called Gudna in Hindu was mainly used to be done by the elders of the village or otherwise the itinerant women, who may be were illiterate but there was no standard of complex design that cannot be drawn by their expert hands and shrewd eyes. The Kothari women, who practiced tattooing on both men and women, generally began the task by restoring benediction on their subjects. The materials that were used in the exercise were three or more sharp needles tied up in a thread, organic materials like the coating of turmeric, cow’s milk and urine mixed with oil to lubricate and redeem the pain which will be felt by the person when the pricking will be going on.

Sometimes songs and nursery rhymes were also sung to divert and soothe away the pain which the man or the woman is going through. It is known that in the earlier times, no such distractions or ointments were applied and the area where the person has been tattooed would have been bloated and pain remained there for even more than a week.

Moving on, comes the religious powers that were believed to be donned by the tattoos, they also were said to have affinity to ease the work of everyday life. We can start on by the instance, where the horses and Hanuman being tattooed on the thighs of women so that they could be protected while walking barefoot and have the ability to labor all day in the field and carry out burdensome materials and task from one place to another.

The sector of agricultural, while, holds a primary place among the rural population and tribes and was therefore included it in the evolving structure of the tattoos. Especially when the harvesting season comes, the women who are not tattooed were not allowed to reap the crops and was considered to be impure for cultivation and its various purposes.

On the other hand, one can also speak of the medicinal importance of tattoos, like the ‘tattoo operations’ being performed to affect the remission of gout, rheumatism and arthritis.

Some of the tattoos are separately reserved to pay respect to motherhood like that the image of goddess Bara Deo, drawn on the breastbone of women, when their first infant is born. This particular part of the woman’s body is chosen due to the fact that it is where the child rests its head while been suspended inside the clothing. It is supposed to protect the child while the mother’s hands freely work in the fields.

Among the superstitious facets, it is held by some that tattooing can help them in keeping themselves secured, especially in their afterlife. As it is a common believe that the marked ones are safe as the devil do only devour the beings who are not tattooed and also that the inscriptions help the people to find their way safely back to their deceased ancestors.

It is also feared by some communities that if a man interrupts the tattooing ceremony by accident and markings on the body of the girl is not finished, no further performing of the task can be carried out. And that it is the will of the God, who will be shredding the woman’s body with iron rods after her death.

Concluding – The present state

We can make an appraisal of the current situation by Akhilesh Shukla’s report on tattoos of India at the Caravan Magazine which he titles as ‘Fading out’.

The traditional tattoo artists, he reports are at a total loss as the scope in this occupation has already gone its prime time and is now withering slowly away. Most of them, does not want their next generations to pursue the same path as the customs of the tattoos are getting erased from the minds, even of those who belong to the tribal communities.

In pre-Independent India, most of the tattoos used to cost a sum of one-sixth annas to that that of five and now it is more than that of hundred bucks even for a single line. Earlier, of course it was a fashion statement for the elites and also a necessity as the girls who do not have tattooed themselves before tying the knot, were considered as belonging to an uncultured background.

But now, the times have changed and so have the norms. Separating men from women, the male population, have also stopped getting themselves involved in the arena of tattoos as most of them, coming from the rural settings try out for the positions in the military. Since, there are already strict rules on any tattoos in the field many are discouraged to try their ‘hands’ out on this way.

Therefore, it may be safe to conclude that the future of traditional Indian tattoos, are rather degenerating into the pit-holes of loss of memory. Lack of proper anthropological research and dissemination of the topic is creating crevices which if not repaired soon, will become irretrievable.

Annesha Das Gupta is a student of Sociology, pursuing her degree from IGNOU, Kolkata. She has a special interest in the branches of Feminism, Sexuality and Dalit Studies. Twitter: Dancingbluepen

 

 

 

 

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Know Why Women Of “Apatanis tribe” Harm Their Faces: Arunachal Pradesh

The Apatanis women are believed to be the exceptional beauty in Arunachal Pradesh.  With their beauty, arrived a danger of theft of apatanis women by neighboring tribes.

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Apatani Tribal Women. Wikimedia

Arunachal Pradesh, July 1, 2017: India is a land of many tribes which forms its rich cultural heritage. One such tribe is Apatanis also known as Tanw, which lives in Ziro valley in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh in India.

This tribe is famous for their colorful culture with various festivals, vibrant traditional village councils detailed and complex handloom designs and cane and bamboo crafts skill. They reside in very basic bamboo huts resting on top of vertical wooden stilts.  The Apatanis worships nature by praying sun and moon. Apatanis are also known for their distinctive way of sustainable farming and social forestry.

The Apatanis women are believed to be the exceptional beauty in Arunachal Pradesh.  With their beauty, arrived a danger of theft of apatanis women by neighboring tribes.

Majority of women on the earth are considered to be delicate pieces of physical beauty. The outer beauty is not seen as a blessing of god but the parameter on which the girl is admired, adorned or loved. No matter, how beautiful a woman is but the beautiful looks always wins in captivating the eye. People are more tempted by what they see than what they feel.

Beauty is a positive term that is why it attracts people. Especially, if we talk of outer beauty, the desire of it makes people cross their limits and restore to wrong practices.

Rape, sexual assault, kidnapping and forceful marriage are some examples of these wrongful deeds. A lady finds variety of ways to protect herself from the cruel world. Some learn self defense, some keep weapons, some don’t go out alone in night, some keep pepper spray and  some employ special bodyguards to  save themselves.

But, these tribal women found the solution in killing the root of the problem itself. Their pretty faces were very appealing to the neighbor tribes which lead to kidnapping of these women.

They altered their faces by inserting huge nose plugs and tattooing their faces in order to safeguard their lives. Their decision showed their bravery of letting go their outer beauty.  They preferred a life without beauty instead of physical beauty because their life was very much more than physical beauty to them.

The older women of tribe can still be spotted with inked faces and nose plugs. The further inserting of nose plugs and inking of faces have been banned by government.

The beauty they portrayed by disregarding their face appearance was beyond words. But on the other hand, hurting oneself just for getting secured is not a good choice. Will you spoil your face by the fear of getting raped; will you hurt yourself so much and make your outer skin ugly to protect yourselves from all the evil crimes of outer beauty?

– by Surbhi Dhawan. Twitter @surbhi_dhawan

 

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Famous Pre Human ‘Lucy’ likely to have died after falling from a tree: Study

Researchers reached their conclusions after extensive X-ray scanning of the skeleton over 10 days when they were able to borrow the skeleton

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A reconstruction of "Lucy", a female Australopithecus Afarensis. Source: wikipedia

August 30, 2016: According to Researchers from University of Texas, Lucy, our most famous ancestor, may have died due to a fall from a tree, after they analysed her fossilized bones.

The Australopithecus afarensis, which walked upright, lived in Africa between three- and four million years ago. Her partial skeleton was unearthed in 1974.

Some experts disagree with the conclusion, arguing instead that her bones were broken after the young adult hominid died.

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Lead author John Kappelman told The Washington Post there were some cracks that appeared to have happened post-mortem, but there were also apparent compression fractures likely cause by some kind of impact.

Researchers reached their conclusions after extensive X-ray scanning of the skeleton over 10 days when they were able to borrow the skeleton, which is usually kept in Ethiopia.

“We scanned nonstop, 24/7, for 10 days,” Kappelman, a the University of Texas at Austin anthropology and geological sciences professor, told the Post. “We were exhausted. I was happy to see her come, but I was happy to see her go.”

“Orthopedic surgeons see these breaks day in and day out all over the planet,” Kappelman said. He’s had several specialists take a look at Lucy’s big break.

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“To the person, it’s not like, ‘Oh, you know, there’s a chance.’ They say, ‘This is what it is; we see it in our practice all the time.’ We have been able to demonstrate that these are matches to what is widely seen in the literature in patients recovering from a fall,” he said.

But some experts are dubious.

“I’ve worked in eastern Africa at these sites for many years, and there’s hardly a fossil out there that doesn’t have damage like Lucy has,” said William Kimbel, director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, during an interview with The Washington Post.

“I just don’t buy it,” said Kimbel, who was not involved in the research.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and appeared in Monday’s issue of the journal Nature. (VOA)

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Engraving a Symbolic Idea: The Tale Of Tattoos in India

With a blend of creativity and fashion, tattoos have transformed over the years, from tattooing for beauty and tradition to that of fashion and belief

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Tattoo Designs. Image Source: tattooeddesign.com
  • Tattooing is an emotional, physical, spiritual and mental experience
  • Various tribes use tattoos for several purposes from recording historic events to strengthening the marital relationship between couples
  • Tattoos are also used to strengthen the marital relationship between couples and depict their resolve to a particular faith

Tattooing is not a contemporary idea rather it has come a long way. The only difference that we now find in the popular tattoo culture is that it has become more customised one. It is now used as a symbolism to share personal life-stories and much more. From the tribes to urban youth, India is obsessed with Tattoo culture and holds it close to heart.

In India, tattooing is an age-old tradition. Various tribes used tattoos for different purposes from recording historic events to strengthening the marital relationship between couples. With a blend of creativity and fashion, tattoos have transformed over the years, from tattooing for beauty and tradition to that of fashion and belief, said the Statesman.com report.

  • The tribes of Singhpo of Assam and Arunachal, had distinct rules for each gender and age. While the unmarried Singpho girls were barred from wearing tattoos, the married women were tattooed on both legs from the ankles to the knees.  The men tattooed their hands.
  • The Konyaks a tribe of Nagaland tattooed their faces to show their prowess in battle and headcount. Tattoos also helped in establishing tribal identity in the region and helped in the recognition of the dead.
  • In Southern India, permanent tattoos are called pachakutharathu. They were very common, especially in Tamil Nadu, before 1980. To keep them safe and secure until reunited with deceased ancestors in the afterlife, a kollam, a sinuous labyrinthine design was inked on the bodies.
  • Tattoo on a old woman’s hand. Image Source: Flickr

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  • The Dhanuks in Bihar tattooed their women to deglamorise them. The women from lower castes had to have visible parts of their bodies tattooed to signal their inferior status.
  • Munda men have a tattoo on their foreheads, three straight vertical lines which represents the three victorious battles of the Mundas against the Mughals. Here the tattoos are used to record historic events.
  • The Gonds of Central India, one of India’s largest tribes, traditionally left much of their bodies exposed. The bare skin was covered with kohkana (Gondi for tattoos) to ensure they looked decent.
  • The men of the Santhal tribes of Bengal and inscribe odd number of tattoos on their forearms and wrists. The odd numbers signify life and even numbers symbolise death in Santhal cosmology. The women of Santhal are subjected to extreme pain by tattooing their bodies with floral patterns. It is done so as they believe that painful experiences prepare a girl for motherhood.

    Image Source:.freetattoodesigns.org
    Tattoo made on the neck of a woman. Image Source: freetattoodesigns.org

Tattoos are also used to strengthen the marital relationship between couples and depict their resolve to a particular faith.

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According to the Statesman.com report, Nagaland’s Mo Naga, one of the three Indians featured in the World Atlas of Tattoo. He wants to create modern patterns emerging out of the traditional designs and has founded the Headhunters’ Ink Tattoo School at Guwahati. Using modern machines and techniques of tattooing, he seeks to revive the traditional designs of the tribes of the North-east.

An elephant tattoo on hand. Image Source: The better India

The art of tattooing is one thing but the symbolic meaning and the tales behind it, is what makes a tattoo iconic. We often associate pictures, songs and certain symbols with people, memories, ideas and beliefs. When some of these are worth submerging ourselves into or when we are ready to completely embrace these emotions or ideas, tattooing them make them immortal. They are now permanent and represent who you are. These symbols that are engraved into you become an eternal ideal.

The process of tattooing is a ritual. Though done in different ways, the essential idea is the same. Hence, it is not wrong to say that tattooing is an emotional, physical, spiritual and mental experience.

prepared by Ajay Krishna an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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