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Tattoo

  Tattooing in Myanmar may be as ancient as the word itself, which crept into the English vocabulary from its oriental origin.

Tattoo means the act or practice of marking the skin with indelible pictures or patterns by puncturing it and inserting pigments. The practice spread all over the world and was earnestly embraced by many people including the Japanese and the Myanmar. It used to be a very painful practice, hence one of the main purposes of wearing tattoos was to give the impression as being courageous. When ancient Myanmar men or soldiers braced themselves for fighting, they wrapped their longyis around the crotch and fastened it in the back thus exposing both legs completely to show off tattoos that covered the thighs, from the waist down to the knees, in the form of cascading circles.

In Myanmar, the practice of tattooing is confined to men only and looked upon as macho. In previous eras, young men with no tattoos on their thighs were regarded as sissies and frowned upon by ladies.

Another purpose of tattoos is for physical adornment or cosmetic reasons. Men wear various patterns on different parts of the body, especially the chest, back and forearms. Until recently, a number of young men tattooed figures of animals on their bodies, or initials, words or small figures on their forearms. The belief in occultism among Myanmar people used to play an important role in wearing tattoos. Some men were convinced that certain words, letters, diagrams or patterns tattooed on their bodies would bring them supernatural powers. These beliefs and concepts, as well as the practice of tattooing itself, however, are dying out among Myanmar people especially among the younger generations.