Photo Essay

Magic tattoos

Process goes on

This absolutely amazing festival take place every March at Wat Bang Phra - temple, which located about 50 km to the west from Bangkok. On the Wai Khru Day ("Honor the teachers day") thousands of people come here to make a new tattoo with magic power and monk's blessing (or to renew a power of an old one's).

It's believed that recipient gets the defensive features and power of sak-yant tattoo images and that these tattoos will protect even from real weapons. That's why the majority of the devotees are soldiers, policemen and criminals (and some other dangerous professions).

Festival start at night when people come to get a tattoos from masters. These tattoos are created by hand with a long sharp steel needles and special ink made by masters. Then at morning the main ceremony starts. Crowd listening to monk's chanting and some of the devotees entering trance-like states, start shaking, yelling and growling as their magic animal spirits. And then start rushing to the main stage where the abbot and monks chant mantras. Near the stage volunteers wait to restrain and subdue the devotees. They catch rushing devotees and help them to come to their senses by pinching their ears. At the end of the ceremony monks pour crowd with holy water and throw them a blessed fruits and flowers.

This festival is one of the unique and must-visit events in the world. Traditions of sak-yant tattoos came from ancient Cambodia, where warriors made these rituals to protect themselves in future battles. It was mixed with Buddhism and Thai beliefs, and didn't lost it's popularity for centuries.

Pictures and story by Artem Zhushman (

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