The Taboo of Tattoo

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‘Eta ki?’, ‘Maatha kharab hoye gechay tor?’, ‘Paagal ho kya?’, ‘Are you a lunatic ?’,
‘Nikal jao ghar se!’, ‘ber ho baari theke!’, ‘Leave my house!’, ‘Humaar ghar se nikal jao!’.
These are the loved reactions you’ll probably get if you go home one fine day after college/work and tell your mother that you got yourself a permanent tattoo.

Is getting inked actually so much of a taboo?
Or is it just a wannabe mimicry of the west?
Then why is it we see every second person on the street with some tattoo or the other. And if getting a tattoo is so much of a deal in Kolkata, one can only imagine what being a tattoo artist in the city would be like. Curious enough?  Then read on…

Well, tattoos, in India, have been prevalent since the ancient times. From the royal monarch to the tribal villager have had tattoos for reasons more than one. From cast branding to medical/therapeutic purposes to simply cordoning off the royals; or an average man’s flair for art, in retrospect this fact seems to be the only binding factor for the varied castes and creeds of the past. So the concept of tattooing being a mere mimicry of the west is out of the question.   So why so much of hate for tattoos? Well, we tried to solve that for you by meeting up some of the most respected tattoo artists in the city and were enlightened with the responses.

Deepak R. Singhvi, a renowned freelance tattoo artist in the city.

Deepak R. Singhvi

Now I’m not asking you to get a tattoo but when you visit any college campus or go to your local mall and spot the ‘cool guy’, with an arms’ length tattoo or one by his neck, out of the crowd you do think to yourself,  ‘I can get that too’. And get one you can; for today, in Kolkata one can get inked at a nominal price at any of the 200 plus tattoo parlours buzzing in the city.
It’s simple- just walk in to any tattoo parlour, select a design from the catalogue which fits your budget, select a precious square inch of your body, weigh it against the laudings you will get for it at home, and you’ll get a life-long emblem to cherish and be the ‘cool guy’ you saw at the mall. But is this all there is to tattooing? Is looking cool the penultimate reason for bruising your skin with ink?  Not at all! Tattooing is an art and not just a means to look cool, it is a form of expression coupled with the intensity to pull it off.

Kabir Ray, One of the senior most tattoo artists in the city , owner at Rites of Passage tattoo parlour

Kabir Ray

Tattoo culture in Kolkata is developing rapidly; a lot of people are getting inked these days. For me it started about 10 years back when I got my first tattoo, there were a handful of tattoo artists in the city back then. Being a tattoo artist is an entirely passion driven profession, it is about believing in the art that you stand for. As far as learning tattooing is concerned, it is like asking a painter which school he got his arts degree from! It is an art form and a way of life. So, tattooing can never be taught or mastered at, it is a skill which takes a lifetime to understand.IMG_1836editcom

Kaushik Modak, practioner of the art of tattooing by etching.

Kaushik Modak

That tattooing in India is an ancient art is known far and wide but how did it all begin here?  We didn’t have sophisticated tattoo parlours and refined machines back then did we? Back then, tattoos were hand etched into bodies. It was a tedious and time consuming affair and in most tribes across the country it is still practiced even today. Although an almost extinct art in today’s modern day society, this art is still appreciated and practiced by few.

10472109_1550091821912417_5453511348645542680_ncomTo put it in context, if a modern tattoo machine is like a painting on a canvas, a hand etched tattoo is a graphic created by individual pixels of colour.10959711_1550427515212181_2696304616360327362_n


  1. I have dedicated a set time to read amazing pieces of information about Art and Culture. Coming across this blog was a great hope. Relevant information with the right amount of facts added to my knowledge base.


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