Annual ‘Sak Yant’ festival brings together tattoo devotees

  • On the first Saturday of March, believers visit the Wat Bangphra Buddist temple to have their bodies tattooed
  • The ink, which may be infused with snake venom, causes its wearers to enter into a deep, trance-like state

Each March, devotees from across Thailand travel to the Nakhon Pathom province to have their bodies adorned with intricate traditional inkings.

About 30 minutes outside of Bangkok is the Wat Bangphra Buddhist temple, famous for the daily tattoos, known as ‘Sak Yants,’ given by the monks that live and train there.

These ‘magic tattoos’ are believed to have mystical powers, the ability to ward off bad luck and the power to protect wearers from harm.

First introduced by Buddhist monk, Luang Por Pern, the Bangphra temple brings together thousands of adherents on the first Saturday of March each year.

Beginning the evening before, adherents may visit the temple to begin the process of tattooing.

Artists work through the night to complete the detailed designs, inked on visitors’ chests, backs, legs and arms, which are believed to provide those who wear them with strength and security.

Aside from simply amassing new body art, adherents also visit the monastery to pay their respects to the temple’s master tattooist.

Often, during that process of tattooing, devotees enter a deep, meditative-like trance.

As the crowd forms outside the temple, a path may be cleared for those in the otherworldly state to make their way inside.

It’s believed that adherents who fall under such a spell will then take on characteristics of the animals that they have tattooed on their bodies, growling like a tiger, for example.

Those who invoke the spirit of their animal tattoos may need to be subdued and soothed before entering the temple, similar to how a captured animal would need to be calmed down.

Traditionally, the tattoos are done with a ‘mai sak,’ a long bamboo stick sharpened to a point, by the Buddhist monks.

The ink is made from several ingredients, which may include snake venom, herbs and cigarette ash.

Monks bless the tattoo upon its completion and then blow on it, which is believed to infuse the inking with power.

Each year, adherents may return to the temple to have their tattoos bestowed again with new healing and protective properties.



  1. I would say this has every thing to do with folk practices and believes in Thailand. Gautama Budha's teachings is about doing good, avoid doing evil and purify one's mind; cultivate oneself to eradicate greed anger and delusion. In Thailand there are rogue monks who make money through palm reading, fortune telling, curing illness, selling talisman etc.

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