From A Sign Of Rebellion To A Mark Of Individuality: The Tattoo Evolution

Posted by Shreya Singhal in Society
January 29, 2018

An artist is not someone who bounds themselves in the four corners of paper, but someone who sees the whole world as their domain. No wonder then that the human body itself is vindicated as a canvas where art becomes the medium to express the ever latent ideas of the human mind. More so, it is like wearing your heart on your sleeve, quite literally.

Tattooing, today, has carved for itself a remarkable niche in the domain of personal expression.  Our body is the one thing that is undeniably our own and a tattoo becomes a statement of how we feel or what we think – in a way that exceeds the potential of words.

As rebellious as the idea may seem, tattoos don’t only hold an air of defiance. Contrarily, tattoos have been tokens of conformity in Indian culture. From being markers of an identity of the tribe to blotting the faces of women to protect them from the male predators, tattoos have been markers of cultural significance in the Indian context. ‘Mehndi’ in India, a type of temporary tattoo, is used to grace many an occasion, bringing forth a spirit of festivity and reinforcing the significant presence of tattoos in Indian culture. At the same time, tattoos have even existed as symbols of rebellion for a long time, as is evidenced by the Ramnamis of Chhattisgarh, who used to wear ‘Ram Ram’ tattoos on their whole bodies as a protest against caste oppression.

From being a part of a culture, today, tattooing is perceived as being more about individuality. Whether it be an opinion, a belief or a fantasy, getting inked is a serious consideration today. The Indian tattoo industry has come a long way and caters to an ever-augmenting audience. The award-winning Delhi-based tattoo artist, Manjeet Singh, comes on the list of top 100 tattoo artists around the world, with a forte in portrait tattoos. Having bagged a Guinness world record for doing the most number of flags with Mr Rishi, the artist is recognized globally. His specialty being photorealistic designs, he also has a keen interest in tattoos inspired by the Sikh religion, hence, marrying religion and art into a quirky blend.

What might be an item checked on the bucket list of a client, could be a part of a larger endeavor of a tattoo artist. As is the case with Abhinandan Basu, whose tattoos are inspired by the Bengali folk art form ‘Patachitra’ or scroll painting. This is a manifestation of the keen enthusiasm for the revival of the old traditions and keeping them alive through a contemporary medium, or better put, keeping the best of both worlds.

A job in the industry is equally promising for it provides the rare combination of a good pay and creative exercise. If you love art and have the talent, patience and persistence, the industry would open its arms for you. Artists like Manjeet Singh, a painter-turned-tattoo artist, set forth an example of the possibilities that lie in the field. Tattoos might have been formerly associated with rebellious, eccentric or gypsy figures, but are gradually seeping through into the mainstream mindset. The statistics of the trainees and clients prove it for themselves.

Tattooing is garnering more and more meaning to it with time, with people treating tattoos as milestones of their respective lives. The name of a deceased loved one etched onto the wrist, a symbolic freedom from an adversity condensed into ink, or just a quote that holds much meaning in life; tattoos have become a vent for everything that someone believes their true essence to be.

The fact that a tattoo is there for life fosters a profound commitment to oneself. It stands for something that would be pertinent to whatever phase of life one is in. People are becoming increasingly aware of this realization, paving way for a more well-thought-out and evolved tattoo industry in India. In the end, it is about being true to oneself.  A tattoo is a story manifested in ink, shared by both the client and the artist, to be told to the world in all its vivid details. It is a product of the curiosity of the client and a passion of the artist, united by a love for the same.

As the stigma continues to fade away, there is hope for a fully bloomed tattoo industry in India, for art satiates the soul.