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The History of Bamboo Tattoo in Cambodia


Samuel Smith - October 21, 2019 - 0 comments

The Tattoo Art Style of Sak Yant Bamboo tattoo has its origins in Kambuja, present day Cambodia, respectively in the ancient city of Angkor Wat, the centre of the Khmer empire that ruled over much of South East Asia. Over 1,000 years ago, the symbolism and the writing of the ancient Khmer and Pali Buddhist scripture have been adopted. This special font is also called as Âksâr khâm. It was Tattooed on people as it was believed to have magical protective power for those who wore it on their bodies.

The Yanras or Sak Yant Bamboo Tattoo’s have Hindu origins, as the original Khmer Empire was Hindu in the beginning before changing later to Buddhism. The Tattoo style is used and combined with the corresponding mantra applies it as a representation of the Divine for thousands of years. In a Yantra or Sak Yant Tattoo the designs are usually a geometric figure, often reflected on the respective axes. A Sak Yant accordingly consists out of three different components:
The Yantra, the Pali text and the associated mantra.

Sak Yant Tattoo style is very popular and is a distinct Tattoo style mainly in Southeast Asia, especially in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
These Tattoo’s were used according to tradition, mainly for fighters, warriors and security guards, not least for women.
Warriors got tattooed an esoteric text on the chest, the back or at the arms, which should give them strength and endurance and also protect them from injury, a defeat or death.

In Cambodia these Tattoo are believed to be magic and inspire power and strength, imagine just the scenario: You’re sitting with hundreds warriors before a battle starts, the warriors must be inspired to be fierce and brave in battle.
The holiest of monks your religion comes to engrave you all a Sak Yant what to give you strength and endurance.
The procedure is painful, but you as a warrior, must overcome your fear and  suppress the pain of the tattoo.
The monk is singing all the time during the tattooing his trancelike mantras.
Then the tattoo will be filled with magic and blessed.

So this is the way of the Khmer warriors they were affected by their Tattoo experience and naturally strengthened.
They were going fully motivated into the war into the next steps of their life ready for whatever they might encounter and would meet every challenge with bravery.

This, this magic of the Sak Yant and it is also why it is one of the most popular styles of Tattoo for travellers to get when they come to Cambodia. For the history behind the tattoo and also so they will have the good luck and bravery they need in life to meet everyday challenges.