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September 22, 2021
International

Tattooed devotees transform in Thai temple trance

Image: Devotees attend the religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where they come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

By Jorge Silva

WAT BANG PHRA, Thailand (Reuters) – Deep in trances, devotees of a Thai temple charged through gathered crowds on Saturday mimicking the beasts on their tattoos.

Some had their hands curled into tiger claws, some became crocodiles, some were transformed into Hanuman, the monkey god.

The annual tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, about 80 km (50 miles) from Bangkok, draws thousands of devotees every year who come to recharge the power of sacred Sak Yant tattoos.

The tattoos are inked by Buddhist monks using sharpened bamboo sticks or long metal needles. Originally etched for warriors needing protection in battle, they are also believed to bring luck and give strength.

But every year, their magic power needs to be restored at the festival, where thousands of devotees pay their respects to the temple’s master tattooist.

Not everyone goes into a trance. Those who do take on the characteristics of their tattoos. They try to charge toward the temple, but are held back by a wall of temple guards and soldiers.

A devotee attends a religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where devotees come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee attends the religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where they come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee in trance mimics a beast during a religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where devotees come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee in trance is calmed down during a religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where devotees come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee attends the religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where they come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee in trance mimics a beast during a religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where devotees come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee in trance mimics a beast during a religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where devotees come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaDevotees attend the religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where they come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaA devotee in trance is calmed down by soldiers and volunteers during a religious tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra, where devotees come to recharge the power of their sacred tattoos, in Nakhon Pathom province, Thailand, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Sam Holmes)
Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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