Get subscribed to our newsletter
Get interesting updates to your email inbox.
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
Along with the undeniable natural beauty, the Kashmir valley has developed a reputation for adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, and river rafting. Kashmir has maintained its charm, allowing us to time-travel into beautiful destinations which make one forget about the stress and worries of life. The hikes in Kashmir offer adventurers to go on a self-discovery trip through nature's lap over the mountains while taking in the breathtaking scenery that surrounds them on their journey. In addition to the hikes, there are many thrilling adventure activities, like rock climbing, rope climbing, etc. Trekking across the region of mountains and lakes will allow you to experience living in the "Paradise on Earth," and you wouldn't want to return to your regular life after that.
The following are some of the finest hiking destinations in Kashmir:
#1: Kashmir Great Lakes Trek: You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. In addition to three high-altitude passes and five river valley crossings, this is the only trip in the Himalayas that includes seven alpine lakes, each of which is a stunning shade of green, blue, or turquoise. The extravagance is limitless and breathtakingly stunning every day: infinite blue sky, a larger-than-life backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, colourful meadows overflowing with wildflowers, river crossings are just a few examples of what you will encounter during the trek.
You will be transported to a heavenly and unseen aspect of Kashmir on the Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. | Photo by prayer flags on Unsplash
#2: Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora Trek: The Sonamarg-Vishansar-Bandipora trek is a one-of-a-kind experience that provides a glimpse into Kashmir's undiscovered regions. Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey that is the perfect experience for anyone looking to get away from the frantic tourist rush. This trek is a fascinating journey that allows nature enthusiasts to bask in the splendour of nature's grandeur. The trek goes over many high mountain passes, some as high as 4000 metres in elevation. The hiking route, in addition to providing breathtaking views of the magnificent Vishansar Lake, provides visitors with the chance to see more than 50 alpine lakes.
Sonamarg, famously known as the Meadows of Gold, is the starting point for this fascinating journey. | Photo by YASER NABI MIR on Unsplash
ALSO READ: Top 10 Beautiful Sights To VIsit In Kashmir
#3: Tral-Narastan-Marsar Trek: The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. The hiking trail passes past a waving saffron field, beautiful meadows, and several streams. The path also crosses the Dachigam National Park, where there is an opportunity to see various animal species. Trekkers may take in spectacular views of the high mountains running parallel to them as they cut and pass through Narastan, a Hindu pilgrimage place.
The Tral-Narastan-Marsar trek is filled with a range of exciting experiences from beginning to end. | Wikimedia Commons
#4: Chhatargul-Mahlish-Gangabal: The journey, which passes through beautiful locations such as Chattargul, Mahlish, Kolsar, and Trunkul, provides a peek into an utterly uninhabited wilderness of Kashmir. There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one trek into the alpine wilderness. Trekkers can also enjoy fishing in the crystal clear lakes, camping, or just seeing towering snow-capped mountains while on their journey.
There are lakes and meadows adorned with flowers along the route as one treks into the alpine wilderness. | Wikimedia Commons
#5: Kolahoi Base Camp Trek: The Kolahoi Base Camp trek in Kashmir has been famous since the early 1900s and has been a goal for many seasoned hikers from across the world. While Srinagar serves as the beginning point for the trip, it is in Aru Valley that the actual hiking begins. The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. The breathtaking sight of the peaks rising into the sky on the horizon of the Pirpanjal and Karakoram ranges is certainly worth capturing. It is considered to be one of the most popular treks in the Kashmir valley.
The Kolahoi Base Camp Trek is a gentle adventure that is ideal for novices and families with children. | Wikimedia Commons
Kashmir's natural splendour, with its beautiful valleys and towering mountains, is really unlike anywhere. Trekking through various valleys and peaks while taking in the scenic beauty is something that always calms the heart and provides us with memories that we will remember for a lifetime.
Keywords: Kashmir, Lakes, Alpine, Hiking, Trekking, Treks, Sonamarg, Gangabal, Kolahoi, Chhatargul, Mahlish, Tral, Narastan, Marsar
The Pitru Paksha starts after the Full Moon day, and this day marks the beginning of the waning phase of the Lunar cycle. This event is roughly of 15-day period, and is of great significance. From this day, rituals like Tarpan or Tarpanam and Shradh are carried out to pay respects to dead relatives and ancestors.
It is believed that from the very first day till the last day, the unhappy souls of the deceased return to the Earth to see their family members. So, in order to ensure that the dead attain Moksha, i.e. to get liberation, family members of these souls quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger by performing the Pind Daan, which includes offering food consisting of cooked rice and black sesame seeds. The literal meaning of Pind Daan is the act of satisfying those who no longer exist physically.
For fifteen days, prayers are offered in temples and rituals are performed to help the souls get free from the cycle of birth, life, and death, and attain salvation.
At the same time, the Pitru Paksha is also an important period for people with Pitru Dosha, which means the curse imposed by the ancestors. Hence, in order to ask forgiveness, people perform Shradh rituals and offer food to the crows, who are considered as living beings that represent the dead. It is believed, if the crow eats the offered food, the ancestors are happy and pleased. But, if the crow doesn't eat the offered food and flies away, the ancestors are not happy.
The event of Pitru Paksha is widely observed by Hindus from all over the world, and they perform prayers and rituals in order to gain their ancestors blessings.
At the heart of Bangalore city, a large 300-acre space of lush greenery and heritage stands as a symbol of the city's past, present, and future. Cubbon Park is every child's favourite park, every Bangalorean's haven of fresh air, and altogether, the city's pride.
It stands testament to the past, in terms of the diversity of flora it houses. Bangalore traffic in the recent past has grown into a menace, but the stretch between MG Road and Cubbon Park is always a pleasurable place to stop and wait for the signal to turn green. The gust of wind that blows here, and the smell of mud, coupled with floral scents instantly transports citizens to Old Bangalore, where the weather was fine, and the trees loomed over roads with thick canopies that did not even allow rainwater to penetrate. Cubbon Park is also a historical site, and one of the few remaining monuments of colonial heritage in Central Bangalore. It houses many statues and among them, the most famous is that of Queen Victoria, which faces the St. Mark's Square.
The stretch outside Cubbon Park is cool and well-shaded from the canopy of trees over it. Image source: wikimedia commons
At present, Cubbon Park is known for the cultural hub that it is. It houses Jawahar Bal Bhavan, which is a large theatre that hosts film festivals through the year. Festivals, poetry open mics, and other such shows are conducted on the lawns every Sunday. A small stream runs through the park, where boat rides are held occasionally when the water level is high enough. There is a children's park on one corner, and a government-maintained aquarium, two-storeys tall, with exotic fish.
The Park has been renamed many times in the past. It was originally named Meade's Park, after Sir John Meade, the acting commissioner of Mysore in 1870. It was later changed to Cubbon Park after Sir Mark Cubbon, who was the longest-serving commissioner of the Mysore state. In 1927, the park was renamed after the Mysore Maharaja Sri Krishna Wodeyar, to celebrate his silver jubilee, since the park was developed during the reign of his ancestors. Even though it is officially named Sri Chamrajendra Park, it is still known as Cubbon Park all over the city. In fact, Bangalore was alluded the sobriquet of 'Garden City' because of the rich botanical diversity of this park.
Art Installation at Cubbon Park Image source: wikimedia commons
In many parts of the country, governments have renamed structures, places, and cities to remove traces of colonialism. But, in a city like Bangalore, there is too much evidence of the British rule. Many of the most prominent attractions of the city are known by their British identities despite the change in name. Even the city's name continues to be Bangalore, despite having been changed to Bengaluru. Last year, the British era and its achievements were celebrated in Cubbon Park when Sir Mark Cubbon's statue was moved from the grounds of the Karnataka High Court and placed in the Park.
Keywords: Cubbon Park, Mark Cubbon, British Colonialism, Cultural hub, Garden City