In Short

Sak Yant Tattoo is a traditional Thai tattoo, tapped into the skin by a Buddhist monk or ajarn (master) using a sharpened bamboo stick or a long steel needle dipped in a special ink. The word Sak means ‘to tap’ and Yant refers to ‘Yantra’ which translates to a mystical diagram.

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Known For: Sacred and magical designs, which are typically geometric patterns or lines of Khmer script interwoven with imagery of Buddhist or Hindu deities and mythical animals.
Cost: 2000 baht. If you get it from a monastery, you don’t have to pay for it but people are encouraged to make donations or offerings.

History

Its history dates back to over 2,000 years ago to Southeast Asia, where many Buddhist sects practiced this art form. However, there’s an evidence of its use in the Angkor or Khmer Empire (present-day Cambodia) dating back to the 802 CE. Originally, it was bestowed on the warriors heading into battle, as a blessing and protection. With their supposed mystical powers, its popularity grew and became a global trend. This is mainly thanks to Hollywood celebrities Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt who has received this sacred tattoo in Thailand.

What’s So Awesome About It  

It is more than an ancient art form – it is believed that it keeps danger and evil spirits at bay and brings good luck, courage and power to the wearer.

The Hah Taew (five-line tattoo) is the most popular design, with each line representing a yant or a magical spell. Another well-known design is Yant Suea (tiger tattoo) that is commonly sported by Muay Thai fighters, as it symbolises power and authority. Before performing this important rite, monks or ajarns chant their incantations.

What’s The Catch

Every Sak Yant Tattoo comes with a set of rules that differ depending on the master who gives the tattoo. The common stipulations are to abstain from lying, killing or stealing, to avoid eating food at certain events or to refrain from eating a particular food. Failing to comply may lead to loss of all the magic powers the tattoo possessed.

Where To Get It

Wat Bang Phra, located just over an hour from Bangkok, is the most famous place in Thailand to receive a Sak Yant Tattoo.

  • Cost: You don’t really have to pay to receive a tattoo at this monastery. But as a sign of courtesy, visitors are encouraged to bring in some offerings like incense sticks, a pack of menthol cigarettes, orchid flowers or a donation.

Another location is Sak Yant Chiang Mai.

  • Cost: Starts from 2000 baht.

Pro Tips

  • Take an English-speaking guide with you, so that he can translate the whole process and ensure that you get the appropriate design.
  • If you’re planning to get a tattoo at a temple, dress modestly by covering your shoulders and legs.
  • Always make sure to request a new needle.

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