Famous Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has two yantra tattoos, a tattoo depicting Cambodian script on her left shoulder and an enormous tiger on her lower back.
Yantra tattoos are also known as Sak Yant, where sak means to tap or tattoo, and yant, being a Thai word originating from the Sanskrit word yantra, means instrument or machine. Though the art of yantra tattooing originated in Cambodia, today it is practiced in many Southeast Asian countries, like Laos, Thailand, Singapore, etc. The ancient Khmer script was originally used in these tattoos, and this is still followed in Cambodia and Thailand. However, other scripts, like the Northern Thai and the Lao Tham scripts are also used.
As the tattoos were believed to protect a person from physical harm, Khmer warriors used to cover themselves from head to toe with these tattoos. Yantra tattoos were considered magical, sacred, and even as a mark of respect by all.
Over the centuries, the tradition of getting a yantra tattoo spread to other neighboring countries. The script and designs also changed according to different cultures. Different masters added different beliefs to the designs, and every master has his own set of rules that had to be followed. Soon, people from all around the world came to Thailand to get these tattoos.
Given in the article below are some of the various spiritual beliefs associated with yantra tattoos.
Gao Yord is one of the most common yantra tattoos. It has 9 spires which represent the abilities of Lord Buddha, and has 9 symbolic images of Him. This tattoo is usually placed on the upper back. It is believed to protect the wearer and bring good luck.
▶ Who does the yantra tattooing and how?
Sak Yant tattoos are done by Buddhist monks or Ajarns. These tattoos have geometrical designs, which have their own meaning and significance. It is believed that people bearing these tattoos should be treated with respect. The tattoo design, as well as the placement, is decided by the monk who is going to make the tattoo. Sak Yant tattoos are traditionally made with the help of bamboo sticks with sharp ends or metal spikes.
▶ What is the significance of this tattoo?
Yantra tattoos are said to be a symbol of mystical power and good luck. In Cambodia, people believe that this tattoo bears magical powers, which saves the bearer from evil and hardship. Since it was believed to protect the bearer from physical harm, soldiers in ancient Cambodia used to get their bodies extensively tattooed with yantra tattoos. However, there are a few rules that need to be followed to maintain the power of the tattoos.
▶ What is the procedure of getting this tattoo?
To reap all the benefits of this tattoo, it should be done in the traditional way. To harness its powers and spiritual meaning, it should be done only from Buddhist monks, who use traditional tools for the process. The ritual scarring and other ceremonies that are conducted at a Buddhist temple should also be conducted.
Offerings in the form of flowers, candles, incense, and menthol cigarettes are customary. All these items are available at the entrance of the temple. Once the monk accepts your offering, he will start the tattooing process with the help of metal spikes, or a pointed bamboo stick. The ink that is used in the tattoo comes from a secret recipe, and is believed to contain Chinese charcoal, snake venom, palm oil, etc. The entire process takes about 10 to 15 minutes, after which the monk will chant blessings on the tattoo. It should be noted that without the ceremony and the chanting, these tattoos are believed to be meaningless.
Prior to the tattooing, the monk will teach you breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques to help relieve the pain.
▶ What are the types of Sak Yant tattoos?
There are different forms of yantra tattoos. The tattoo can be circular (which represents Buddha or Brahma's face), triangular (which represents the three Hindu gods or the three worlds), square (which represents earth, water, wind, and fire) and pictorial (which represents the gods or deities, humans, or animals). The following are some of the most common types of Sak Yant tattoos.
- Ongk Phra: Provides insight, guidance, illumination, etc.
- Ha Thaew: Brings blessing for success and good luck.
- Yod Mongkut: Provides protection from all types of danger.
- Suea: Represents power and authority.
- Paed Tidt: Provides protection in the eight directions of the universe.
Every Ajarn or monk has his own set of rules for the people on who he inks this tattoo. The person is not forced to follow these rules, but it is said that in order to keep the tattoo sacred and fruitful, one needs to follow the rules laid by the Ajarn. The rules also depend upon the type of tattoo which one gets. For example: the Metta Maha Niyom tattoo brings kindness, mercy, and compassion to the tattoo bearer from everyone he meets. But if he himself shows cruelty towards others, the tattoo will lose its power. The following are some of the most common rules which an Ajarn may ask you to follow.
- Do not lie
- Do not get intoxicated
- Do not kill
- Do not steal
- Do not disobey and speak unfavorably to your master or your parents
- Do not be unfaithful to your spouse