Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

i

Spotted at the Heartwork Tattoo Festival in Delhi. Photo: Vikas Kumar

TATTOO FESTIVAL

Delhi just had a tattoo festival, & it was awesome. Our photos prove it

Vikas Kumar @CatchNews

It's the ultimate urban cool, and has its roots in primitive tribal traditions around the world.

That self-awareness was probably the only thing lacking at Delhi's Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium this weekend, the venue for Delhi's first tattoo festival.

At the buzzing venue, hundreds of young people looked through patterns, watching as artistes created intricate patterns on willing bodies. The sound of needles buzzing filled the air, a bit like a swarm of bees and no doubt as painful.

The Heartwork Tattoo Festival, organised from December 4 - 6, saw a pretty amazing turnout, both of experts and enthusiasts. Tattoo junkies shelled out as much as Rs 30,000-40,000 to get a tattoo of their favourite design.

Contemporary fashion may like to claim tattoos, but it has a long and somewhat mysterious history. Mysterious because it has scarcely been documented with the rigour it deserves.

Almost every tribal society has been enchanted by this body art. Most assigned their own connotations to body inscriptions. Some gave ritual significance of tattoos while others identified it more with aesthetics.

Tattoos have left their imprint on virtually every culture; the first historical evidence of the art dates back to 1300 BC in Egypt.

Bodies with tattoos were found in a 300 BC graveyard in Siberia. Tribal women in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Liu Guo islands have adorned their bodies with tattoos since time immemorial. And closer home, they're still popular among the women of the Gond and Toda tribes in India, among others.

In Madhya Pradesh's Baiga tribal society, tattoos reflect the age and social status of a person. As folklore goes, a Baiga king used to consort with a new girl every night. He would inscribe a tattoo on every girl's body after sleeping with her. The Baiga tribals, in desperation, started to inscribe tattoos on their daughters to save them from the king's lust - and the tradition continues till date.

Why we tattoo

According to some anthropologists, the advent of tattoos was serendipity, much like the invention of fire. The first tattoo must have been a scar left by a thorn in some primitive human being. Iconic British anthropologist Herbert Spencer, in turn, surmised believes tattoos owe their genesis to the tradition of offering blood to deities in tribal societies.

Others, however, believe it is impossible to truly trace tattoos to one genesis.

And maybe, given its storied role in human development, that's okay. It has come to symbolise different things to each person; freedom on the one hand, commitment on the other.

To a watcher at the tattoo festival, though, it seemed like it's the only thing that can make one of today's impatient young still themselves for a few hours.

Vikas Kumar

Vikas Kumar @CatchNews