Arist Trung Tadashi


Each March, devotees from across Thailand travel to the Nakhon Pathom province to have their bodies adorned with intricate traditional inkings.

About 30 minutes outside of Bangkok is the Wat Bangphra Buddhist temple, famous for the daily tattoos, known as ‘Sak Yants,’ given by the monks that live and train there.

These ‘magic tattoos’ are believed to have mystical powers, the ability to ward off bad luck and the power to protect wearers from harm.

Each March, devotees from across Thailand travel to the Wat Bangphra Buddist temple to receive ‘magic tattoos

Buddhist monks adorn adherents with intricate inkings that are believed to have mystical powers and provide strength and security

First introduced by Buddhist monk, Luang Por Pern, the Bangphra temple brings together thousands of adherents on the first Saturday of March each year.

Beginning the evening before, adherents may visit the temple to begin the process of tattooing.

Artists work through the night to complete the detailed designs, inked on visitors’ chests, backs, legs and arms, which are believed to provide those who wear them with strength and security.

Aside from simply amassing new body art, adherents also visit the monastery to pay their respects to the temple’s master tattooist. 

A devotee acts like a tiger while under the spell of the ‘magic tattoo’
during the annual festival at Wat Bangphra Buddist temple in Thailand

Wearers often a deep trance and may take on the characteristics of their animal tattoos.
As such, some visitors may need to be subdued

The practice was first introduced by Buddhist monk, Luang Por Pern,
who lived and practiced at the Bangphra temple

Participants receive tattoos via a traditional steel rod sharpened
to a point during the Magic Tattoo Festival in the Nakhron Pathom province

As well as having tattoos applied or touched up, believers also visit the temple
to pay respects to the temple’s master tattooist

These intricate tattoos have deep religious meaning and are believed
to provide strength and security to those who have them

Often, during that process of tattooing, devotees enter a deep, meditative-like trance.

As the crowd forms outside the temple, a path may be cleared for those in the otherworldly state to make their way inside.

It’s believed that adherents who fall under such a spell will then take on characteristics of the animals that they have tattooed on their bodies, growling like a tiger, for example. 

Those who invoke the spirit of their animal tattoos may need to be subdued and soothed before entering the temple, similar to how a captured animal would need to be calmed down.

During the festival, Buddhist monks use traditional needles to tattoo devotees,
who believe that the inkings have mystical powers

A devotee in a state of trance, and clad in silver amulets,
mimics an animal while visiting the temple to pay his respects

Devotees are also sprayed with holy water during the festival,
which is held on the first Saturday of March each year

The ink is made up of ingredients such as snake venom and ash
and the monk blows on the tattoo when complete to infuse it with power

This particular devotee, also in a state of trance,
mimics the tiger that he has tattooed on his chest 

Many attendees believe that the tattoos covering their bodies help
to ward off bad luck and protect them from harm

Traditionally, the tattoos are done with a ‘mai sak,’ a long bamboo stick sharpened to a point, by the Buddhist monks.

The ink is made from several ingredients, which may include snake venom, herbs and cigarette ash.

Monks bless the tattoo upon its completion and then blow on it, which is believed to infuse the inking with power. 

Each year, adherents may return to the temple to have their tattoos bestowed again with new healing and protective properties.
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