Folklores and myths about tattoo

Here, in this article you can learn about the Folklores and myths about tattoo believed in Nepal.

In Nepal tattooing culture started a long back ago. The earliest tattooing evidence was dated somewhere between 3300-3100 BC. In Nepal, getting a tattoo is a part of culture as well as the social aspect. Tattooing cultures is one of the oldest cultures practiced in various communities of Nepal. Communities in Nepali society like Tharus, Newars, Madhesis, Gurungs and Magars have been practicing tattoo culture from long ago. Every groups or communities have their own beliefs or some folklores and myths about tattoo or getting inked.

Recently, Nepal has undergone a drastic transformation in terms of getting inked. Getting a tattoo is mainly attracted to youths. These days, having a tattoo is normal among the Nepalese youths. Looking back, maybe a few years ago, getting a tattoo was pictured in a negative way. People with tattoos were pictured as a countercultural. Even though our great grandparents had tattoos and were considered as having cultural values, the parents of youths were against having their child tattooed.

According to the scientists, ethnographic and historical texts have revealed that tattooing has been practiced by every human with different cultural beliefs in ancient times. Getting a tattoo then and now holds completely different reasons to the people. We can clearly say that, getting a tattoo in ancient times had cultural beliefs as well as it held some myths. But these days getting a tattoo has a complete different reason and belief.

So, talking about the local folklores or myths of tattoo in Nepal, every different ethnical groups or communities had their own beliefs in tattoos. Tattoo types or designs also varied from one another according to the different communities. Previously, tattoo was done for cultural values and now it has become more of personal choice or values than cultural. Since, practice of getting a tattoo had cultural and social aspect in ancient times, people were compelled to get tattooed even if they did not want to or were not willing to have a tattoo and the pain that comes with it. But now getting a tattoo is more of a personal choice than cultural or social aspect. People these days are getting inked just because they are willing to or are interested in getting a tattoo.

According to social and cultural aspect, in ancient times getting a tattoo was mostly popular among women than in men. Let’s get to know some folklores and myths about tattoos.

There are many folklores or myths about tattoos. Talking about the Newari communities, women back then mostly had tattoos in the legs and tattoos in the legs symbolized their strength. And one of the interesting belief about getting tattooed is that after a person dies, tattoo is the only thing a man takes into his grave. And on the way to heaven, the person sells his/her tattoo if they find any hardships and therefore can make a way to heaven comfortably. In some parts of Nepal, making a tattoo at an early age is believed to protect the children from evil spirits as well as from some illness.

newari style tattoo, traditional newari tattoo, tattoo nepal
Ancient tattoo design popular among Newari tribes.

Similarly in Tharu tribe Tattoo or “Godhani” are considered as a part of their social norms. Females decorate their hands, limbs, legs and chest with symbolic designs of nature mythological stories and historical events. Tharu females are encouraged to get tattooed before marriage because getting tattooed is a part of their beautifying process. Getting tattooed is common in the tribe. Both men and women have their tattooing ritual in detailed Tharu ritual. Tharu community believes that one with a tattoo will find a peace of heaven.

traditional tharu tattoo, tattoo design of ancient tharu tribe
Tattoo style popular among Tharus in ancient times.


In Gurung and Magar tribes, especially ladies decorate their faces and near lips with designs of sun, moon and the stars. Similar to Tharu tribes, Gurungs and Magars get tattooed as beautifying process and also a symbol of good luck for them and their families. In ancient times, getting a face tattooed was a trend among women to keep themselves safe from the king because the king used to take any women he wished. And to keep the women safe, people started making face designs to distract the king from taking their women in ancient times.

Gurung& Magar tattoo designs, ancient tattoo, traditional style tattoo
Face tattoos popular among Gurungs and Magars in ancient times.


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