The Tattoo Temple
From the outside Wat Bang Phra looks pretty much like other wats, or monastery temples, in the greater Bangkok area. Beautiful? Yes. But, uniquely so? Not really. What makes Wat Bang Phra unique is that its tattoo artists/monks can bestow superpowers onto mere mortals. Yes, the monks at Wat Bang Phra are famous for creating yantra, or sak yant tattoos that impart the newly inked with mystical strength, protection and good luck. People arrive from all over the world to be tattooed here. One of the more famous recipients is the actress Angelina Jolie.
Getting one of these tattoos is not for the faint of heart. Monks repeatedly and skillfully pierce the skin by tapping it with scary 18 inch long needles to create mystical monkeys, tigers, buddhas, celestial beings or deities. The tattoos also usually incorporate ancient Khmer or Sanskrit script. Because the needles contain no ink it must be applied into the tiny punctures afterward. Often people will request that the monk choose the form and placement of the tattoo based upon what the monk perceives to be a person’s special needs or weaknesses. Monks have also been known to refuse specific requests because they did not meet the spirit of the individual. Payment is usually in the form of offerings of flowers or cigarettes purchased in the temple gift shop which are often returned to be resold with the proceeds going for upkeep of the Wat.
There is a witticism that describes a tattoo as, “A permanent reminder of a temporary feeling”. As a person that has gone 52 years completely un-inked I am not sure I will ever need to be the recipient of superpowers such as these but, if I ever decided that I need the strength after, having seen the beauty of these tattoos and the reverence with which they are applied, this is where I will go.
If you ever got a tattoo would this be the kind of place where you would want to get it? What would you get? Where would you put it?