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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
The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to examine a seeking direction to the Election Commission to de-register a political party, which fails to comply with the court's direction to disclose criminal antecedents of candidates fielded in polls. Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay requested a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli to list the petition urgently, against the backdrop of the ongoing election process. He contended that nomination for the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election has started, and the political parties and candidates are brazenly violating the top court judgments.
After briefly hearing Upadhyay, the bench said: "We will consider it... will give a date".
The plea argued that allowing criminals to stand for election threatens democracy and secularism. | Wikipedia
The plea claimed that the cause of action for filing the plea arose after the Samajwadi Party fielded alleged gangster Nahid Hasan from Kairana but neither published his criminal records in electronic, print and social media nor the reason for his selection within 48 hours. On February 13, last year, Shamli police imposed the Gangster Act on Nahid Hasan, who is a two-time MLA from Kairana. "He (Hasan) has multiple criminal cases and is the 'mastermind' behind the Hindu exodus from Kairana. There are many criminal cases including fraud and extortion, and he was declared a fugitive by Special MLA-MP Court," the plea said.
The plea argued that the consequences of permitting criminals to contest and become legislators are extremely serious for democracy and secularism. The plea sought a direction to the Election Commission to take steps to ensure that every political party publishes the details regarding criminal cases of each candidate along with the reason for such selection on the homepage of its official website in bold letters within 48 hours in the spirit of top court orders passed on September 25, 2018, and February 2, 2020. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: uttar pradesh assembly election, hima kohli, justices a.s. bopanna, chief justice n.v. ramana, political party, election commission, the supreme court, tainted candidates, action, plea)
There will be no chief guest at the Republic Day parade this year also as the plan to host state heads of five Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- seems to have been cancelled due to the Covid situation in India as well as in the respective nations. Though the Ministry of External Affairs is yet to confirm this officially.
If the guests arrive, then this would be the second time when India hosts a group of state heads as the chief guests on the Republic Day. In 2018, state heads of ASEAN countries graced the occasion with their presence. Apart from Kazakhstan, none of these countries' state heads had been invited as the chief guests on the Republic Day. In 2009, Kazakhstan's then president Nursultan Nazarbayev was the Chief Guest.
The Government of India is in no mood to take any risk to invite any foreign guest.Unsplash
As per sources, due to the corona situation, the Government of India is in no mood to take any risk to invite any foreign guest, so the plan seems to have been cancelled. Last year, British Prime minister Boris Johnson was invited for the same, but later cancelled due to rising corona cases in the UK.
In the past, there have been occasions when the Republic Day ceremony was celebrated without any foreign guest. In 1966, there was no foreign chief guest in the Republic Day parade ceremony as the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had passed away in Tashkent in January, and Indira Gandhi took oath as Prime Minister on January 24. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : chief, guest, Republic Day, parade, India, January, pandemic, 2022, host, nation, guest, invite, foreign, occasion, presence, celebrate.)
A team of scientists from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) have found a cure for those suffering from chronic wounds, particularly with diabetic foot ulcers. The team led by Prof Gopal Nath of the department of Microbiology, Institute of Medical Sciences, said that wounds that took months and years to heal, could now be cured in days or months. The findings of study have been published in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health, US.
Prof Nath said that a wound is defined as a breach in the skin or body tissues due to injury. An acute wound is defined as a "recent break that is yet to progress through sequential stages of healing". The wounds where normal healing process is stalled due to underlying pathology (vascular and diabetes) or infection beyond three months is defined as chronic wound. While chronic wounds always get infected, the contaminated wounds are reasonably susceptible to infection.
A significant improvement could be achieved in the form of complete wound epithelization within a few weeks.Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash
Infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and biofilm formation halt healing progress. These wounds cause significant psychological and physical morbidity. The traditional treatment strategies often succeed in healing wounds, he said adding that many wounds have been observed recalcitrant to them, leading to persistence and recurrent infections. Search for alternatives to antibiotics has now become a compulsion. Fortunately, bacteriophage therapy is a re-emerging solution to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Prof Nath's team carried out phage therapy of acute and chronic infected wounds in animals and clinical studies. It showed efficacy against Pseudomonas aeruginosa in a mice wound model. Furthermore, they evaluated the efficacy of phage cocktails in animal models' acute and chronic osteomyelitis caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. They also observed biofilm eradication from K wire in rabbits' wound infection model. Clinical trials of phage therapy initiated by the BHU have reported the efficacy of topical phage in healing chronic wounds in three prospective exploratory studies and no adverse events mimicking the results in vivo animal models.
Scientists have found a cure for those suffering from diabetic foot ulcers. Unsplash
A clinical study by Gupta demonstrated the significant role of bacteriophage therapy in the chronic wounds associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The study employed a total of twenty patients with chronic non-healing ulcers for more than six weeks duration. A significant improvement could be achieved in the form of complete wound epithelization within a few weeks. Another study, employing 48 patients having a minimum of one eligible full-thickness wound that did not heal in six weeks with convention wound management, showed the promising result, and significant improvement was observed in the wound healing.
The study projected that specific phage therapy is equally effective regardless of the diabetic or non-diabetic status of the patient though the healing was relatively delayed in diabetic patients. Another successful study has shown encouraging results on healing process of infected acute traumatic wounds. The average number of days required for complete granulation of wounds and attaining sterility and healing was half compared to conventional therapy. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : scientists, cure, chronic, wound, suffer, ulcer, diabetes, healing, pathology, health, infection, bacteria, study, patient, therapy, successful.)
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