SAK YANT TATTOOS
Looking For A Sak Yant Tattoo In Bangkok? – Here’s The Lowdown
While most of us are familiar with the mystical geometric tattoo patterns that we see tattooed on the bodies, necks and even the faces of Thais and Western visitors to Thailand, it is doubtful that many of those receiving a “Sak Yant” tattoo in Bangkok are aware of the tattoo’s origins.
What is a Sak Yant tattoo?
Although they are usually called “Sak Yant” tattoos, they can also be referred to as “Thai Traditional” or “Bamboo” tattoos.
Sak in Thai means Tattoo, and Yant is the Thai pronunciation for the Sanskrit word Yantra – a mystical diagram used in meditation.
Yantra is common in the “Dharmic religions”, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
The practice of Sak Yant originated over 2,000 years ago amongst the Tai tribes of Southwestern China and northwest Vietnam.
It consists of sacred geometrical, animal, or deity designs, which are accompanied by Pali phrases that offer the bearer of the tattoo magical benefits, such as:
A traditional Sak Yant consists of three different components:
- The Yantra
- The Pali Text
- The Associated Mantra
This ancient art gradually spread as far south as Indonesia and the Philippines, but these days, it is mainly practiced in Thailand and to a small extent in the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Some of the most popular Sak Yant designs
There are countless Sak Yant designs to choose from and your choice should be whatever you feel personally speaks to you, whether by design or by meaning.
Before giving 3 compelling reasons as to why the professional and fully qualified ALL DAY team of Designers & Artists are perfectly placed to become your ‘go-to’ Sak Yant design studio in Bangkok, let’s take a look at the basics of Sak Yant drawings followed by explanations of the most popular designs:
The basics of the Sak Yant style of tattoos
The lines which are drawn in any Yant design represent: The Umbilical Cord of the Buddha – Traditionally they are known as ‘The Bones of the Yant’ Yantra comes in many forms such as: Round Yant, Triangular Yant, Four-Sided Yant and Pictorial Yant. Here’s what these and other images represent:
- Round Yant: Represents the Face of the Buddha (Pra Pakt Khong Pra Putta Jao) in the Brahmanical tradition. With Brahma applied for the meaning
- Triangular Yant: Represents the Triple Gem of the Buddha Dharma & Sangha (Pra Put, Pra Tamm, Pra Songk). Brahmin tradition states that the 3 Lords of Heaven (Shiva Brahma, Vishnu) are applied for the meaning
- 4-Sided Yant: Earth, Water, Air & Fire are the 4 elements represented
- Pictorial Yant (Animalistic): A Pictorial Yant can represent a variety of drawings such as: People, Angels and Mythical Animals (Sathw Himapant)
- Onk Pra: This represents The Buddha Himself – The Half Moon Symbol that is etched above Onk Pra is a representation of the Moon illuminating the way during Dark Hours
- Sun Symbol (The small circle): This is seen above many Yant designs. It means that during the daytime the Sun is lighting the way, and that all Humans as well as Living Beings exist through the influences of the stars & planets. It is these forces which enable us to develop and also bring changes
- The Zig-Zag spiral line: Known as Unalome, this is to be found at the top of the Yant. It represents those Saints who have Enlightened beings’ status because the fetters of desire have been unentangled and discarded. Unlike normal Human Beings these Saints do not waver on their path
Note: You will note that the end of the zig-zag evolves and is shown as a straight line.
This means that the Saints have ceased all diversions and are on a straight and direct path to Nirvana.
The Crown of the Head of the Buddha is represented by the middle spiral.
The line of a Unalome is: straight, unwavering, perfect & complete
Thai Sak Yant Tattoo Designs and Meanings
Below we will give you a taste of some of the most popular sak yant designs that people get done when looking for a sak yant tattoo in Bangkok.
Immortalized forever when Angelina Jolie got it on her back, although it’s traditionally been very popular with men too.
The name is translated to English as “5 lines”.
This popular design actually has a very spiritual meaning and encompasses all aspects of a person’s life. Each vertical line relates to a different area of life and are represented as follows:
- 1st row: This prevents any unjust punishment and will also lean in your favor if there are grey areas. It also represents the cleansing of unwanted spirits and protects the place you are living in.
- 2nd row: Signifies the reversal and protection against any bad horoscope constellations as well as bad luck.
- 3rd Row: Seen as protection against any black magic as well as preventing anyone from putting a curse on you.
- 4th row: This row works to energize good luck, success & fortune in future ambitions and your lifestyle.
- 5th row: As well as boosting the 4th row this final row works to increase your charisma & attraction.
In English this is translated to “9 peaks” or “9 spires” and refers to the 9 peaks in the design.
The word “yord” is used in modern Thai to mean “the best!” with the phrase “Sud Yord” being something you might hear when you’re around Thailand meaning “amazing!”.
Buddhism attaches a high importance to the number 9 and the Gao Yord is a representation of the 9 different Buddha’s.
Each one bestows special universal powers and spells.
This design is seen as a very powerful tattoo offering wide-ranging powers of protection. Many Sak Yant devotees see this as the most sacred Buddhist tattoo.
- Basic Design: Represents the 9 peaks of Mount Meru (known as Sumeru in Buddhist mythology) and is the mythical mountain of the Gods
- 3 ovals: These represent The Lord Buddha. This grouping of triple ovals is seen in many other Sak Yant designs
- Script: Gao Yord designs include the ancient Khmer script (known as Khom) of a Katha (mantra or prayer) at their base
- The centre: Is the magic box and is designed as a patchwork of small squares (some designs do not show the outlines, only the content)
Each square contains a khom abbreviation denoting the protective spells the particular Yant design will bestow. The actual number of small squares can vary dependent upon the design chosen, but the wearer will always be granted the following:
Maeta Ma Hah Niyom: This blessing means others will treat you with extreme loving kindness as well as compassion. Through such treatment you will gain popularity as well as benefiting from preferential treatment.
Klaeoklad: Brings benefits to ensure the wearer avoids serious injury.
Chana Satru: Gives the ability to defeat any enemy.
Ma Hah Amnat: This gives the wearer great power, authority and control over others.
Awk Seuk: Shows the willingness to go to war or fight battles for anyone who has your loyalty. It signifies the desire of the wearer to fight for what they believe is right.
Kong Kra Phan: Provides magical protection as well as invincibility.
Oopatae: Works to ensure success in any business or enterprise activities. It gives the ability to carry out work in a correct manner and helps ensure things will run smoothly.
Ma Hah Saneh: Brings charm; increases popularity and attractiveness to the opposite sex.
Ma Hah Lap: Brings the wearer immense good fortune as well as luck.
Noon Chataa: Works to improve the wearers destiny and fate.
Pong Gan Antarai: Protects against accidents (including natural disasters). It also gives protection against violent acts.
Nah Tee Gan Ngan Dee: Helps to improve work circumstances.
The Paed Tidt
This translates to Eight Directions.
It is a sacred Geometric Yant containing 8 mantras.
These are placed in the centre of the design and written in 2 concentric circles.
Paed Tidt designs also incorporate 8 Buddha representations.
These are shown as the groups of 3 ovals, each decreasing in size from bottom to top. Why 8 Buddha images?
In Thailand there is a Buddha image in a different pose for each day of the week.
Wednesday’s have 2 Buddhas; 1 for the morning, 1 for the evening. When visiting Thai temples, it is extremely common to see these 8 images.
They generally surround a Chedi.
- Protection in any direction you are travelling: The Paed Tidt design gives this protection and also wards off evil spirits.
This yant is usually done on the back of the neck, but can also be done in other positions.
The specific meaning behind this design is to give the wearer the power of success over everything in their life – wealth, happiness, good luck and charming.
In addition to this the design blesses the wearer to be treating with compassion and kindness by all, improving their popularity with others and success in business.
With that kind of meaning, it’s no wonder that this lesser known design is very popular amongst entrepreneurs and those wanting more confidence and success in their lives.
Hanuman is the mythical Monkey God from the Rama period. It is invincible, with powers which are far greater than any human.
Hanuman can also fly. Ingrained in the Thai culture is the fact that Hanuman led a monkey army in order to rid the world of unwanted spirits.
His actions are considered to give hope for all humanity by demonstrating to Human Beings that mere mortals can rise above shallow, worldly pain.
The major traits of this monkey god were humility & bravery.
Once received it bestows upon the wearer qualities of:
- Protection from any danger
- Being fearless when facing adversity
- Strengthening self-confidence
- Allows the wearer to influence people
- Helps you remain focused
- Gives the determination required to see things through to a successful conclusion
A variety of Hanuman Sak Yant designs are to be found. Just 3 examples are a design that is often used by women wishing to have better partner relationships, the Hanuman Suwanna which signifies longevity as well as kindness & compassion from all others they meet, and the Hanuman Ma nivor which indicates polite speech & straight talking.
This is the Tiger tattoo. It is an extremely common design among Thai’s who are employed in dangerous occupations as well as being favoured by Muay Thai Fighters. The Tiger represents:
- Authority over your subordinates
Prachao Ha Praong
This can be translated as “The 5 Blessings of Buddha” (‘Na-Mo-Put-Ta-Ya’).
While this design is less well known to the general public it is considered to be a fundamental Yant (“Yant Kru) for Sak Yant disciples and are to be found regularly in Buddhist representations.
Wearing this design is said to bring:
- Good Luck
- Well Being
- Protection from any potential surrounding bad spirits
The Golden Swan – There are traditional tales stating that during one of the Lord Buddha’s many lives he came to earth as a magical Golden Swan and lived in the forest.
So spectacular was he that every other bird in the forest revered him as their charismatic leader.
On the day the Golden Swan met his final moments by swimming into a trap he did not panic nor scream for help.
Instead he calmly warned others not to swim in the trapped pool and urged them to fly as far away as possible.
This act of brave, unselfish conviction saw the Golden Swan gladly sacrifice himself so many others could be saved from his fate.
Wearers of the Hong Ku Yant are granted the gift of:
- Observational powers & the ability to associate with virtues of self-sacrifice & kindness
There is no denying that the dragon is a mythical, fearsome creature and a Yant in this design can look truly spectacular.
The dragon is feared for destructive powers and the fact that it can breathe fire to destroy enemies.
Those wearing a dragon Yant design are offered:
- Protection against physical harm
- Bad influence others may try to bring to bear
- Good fortune
Dragon designs are particularly popular with Thailand’s senior military personnel and government officials.
Some estimates put the crocodile’s existence at around 50 million years!
This makes it is easy to understand its significance in terms of tremendous endurance, strength & power.
An added belief is that due to the toughness and difficulty to penetrate a crocodile’s skin that such designs also offer protection against knives or swords It is common for Thai Boxers and members of the Armed forces to opt for crocodile designs as it is believed to offer protection from many different types of danger.
This also makes it suitable for firefighters, officers in the police force and those employed in other risky occupations.
The Lotus Flower
Buddhism has a deep association with the Lotus flower and each colour has a different meaning:
- Blue Lotus: This is associated with victory of the spirit over and above that of wisdom, intelligence & knowledge. Those opting for a Blue Lotus design will be given a depiction which is partially open, but the centre is never shown
- White Lotus: As would be imagined purity plays its part in this design. The white lotus flower symbolizes Bodhi (being awakened). This representation is a state of mental purity and relates to spiritual perfection. A white lotus also associates with pacification of a person’s nature and in this design, it is considered to be the womb of the world
- Purple Lotus: This colour lotus is seen as being Mystic and having associations with esoteric sects. Designs choices can be as an open flower or a bud. The 8 petals represent the noble eightfold path. This is a principal teaching of the Buddha.. By following this path it will lead to self-awakening. It is considered as one of the noble truths
- Pink Lotus: Considered as the supreme lotus. It is seen to be the true lotus of Buddha
- Red Lotus: Relates to the heart. This design is associated with love & compassion
Why Choose the ALL DAY Tattoo Studio in Bangkok for your Sak Yant Tattoo?
Many foreign visitors to Bangkok who are looking for a Sak Yant tattoo believe it is only possible to do so at a temple specializing in the art.
This is most certainly not the case!
Here are just 3 reasons why a visit to a fully licensed & certified tattoo studio such as the ALL DAY Tattoo Studio in central Bangkok is arguably a far better option.
Convenience & Comfort
Our purpose-designed studio offers a clean, modern, air-conditioned environment in which you can relax while receiving your extremely intricate Sak Yant tattoo.
While booking an appointment is not mandatory, it is highly recommended.
We say this because we are often fully booked and booking in advance guarantees your place and saves you wasting any of your hard earned holiday!
Having said this, we must stress that ‘walk-in’ visits to the ALL DAY studio are equally welcome and that all visitors to our studio are guaranteed personal, professional and prompt attention throughout their visit.
Avoid the “Tourist Trap” or Scams at tattoo studios in Thailand
Sak Yant designs are beautiful, meaningful and are chosen by people of all Nationalities, creeds and religions as a memento of their Thai holiday that has the benefit of a deeper meaning.
Unfortunately because of this, many less scrupulous studios will set up a fake process to try to convince tourists that what they are going through is somehow more traditional or authentic and by doing so, overcharge and compromise the quality of the end product.
The traditional process of receiving a Sak Yant tattoo in a temple would mean literally years of intense training with a Master, who would teach the mysteries behind the designs and give the tattoo to their student based on merit.
Getting a tattoo “blessed” by an “Ajarn” or “Monk” in a studio or even temple is far from this authentic and ancient method.
Firstly, a true Ajarn is not allowed to take money for tattooing and secondly, it is pretending that you have earned the tattoo through merit and dedication – this is just misleading.
On top of this, many of these studios use techniques such as giving taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers an incentive to “trick” clients into going to their studio.
If a studio isn’t good enough to get clients on their own merit, you should run away – quickly!
There’s usually a good reason for it. Getting a Sak Yant design in Bangkok is totally acceptable culturally and Thai people will often be proud to see you wearing something that symbolizes their culture.
You don’t need to be tricked into a fake “magic” ceremony to enjoy your tattoo. In fact, doing so may put you at unnecessary risk.
The highest western hygiene standards
It goes without saying that everyone should be aware of the potential health hazards involved in receiving a tattoo.
Because of this you will find hygiene standards at the ALL DAY tattoo studio to be of the absolute highest order.
Concerns over multiple needle use and the fact that many tattoo practitioners (especially with bamboo or hand poked tattoos) dip different needles into the same ink jar are all too regular occurrences and must be viewed as unsafe practice.
Such practices will never happen at our studio.
In order to ensure the safety of both clients and our professional artists, the ALL DAY Tattoo Studio ‘peace of mind’ policy has been established as our top priority.
Highlights of this policy include:
- All needles are imported from the USA and are single use only.
- All inks used are of the highest quality and imported from the USA.
- All tattoos are done by machine. Bamboo tattooing can all too easily be an unsafe and low quality process that just isn’t necessary anymore. We don’t believe when it comes to something like tattooing that unnecessary risks are acceptable and so we don’t take them with our artists or our clients.
Wherever it is possible we purchase and use “single use”, ‘sealed in a sterile environment packaging product’. Examples being:
- Ink cups
- Machines bags
- Clip cord sleeves
All of which are carefully disposed of once used. You will also find surface areas around the tattoo stations covered by disposable film/barriers and that these areas are thoroughly disinfected using alcohol and/or Dettol before as well as after use.
Regular Sak Yant questions the ALL DAY Tattoo team give answers to
It is only natural that those looking to receive a Sak Yant design will have questions. This is where the professional team at our ALL DAY tattoo studio in Sukhumvit, Bangkok come into their own. We are ready to answer each and every query you have and will do so in a clear, no-nonsense fashion. 5 of the most important questions we are regularly asked are explained below:
How long do Sak Yant tattoos last?
By using the best quality equipment and inks, tattoos will last a lifetime.
Inks have become much better quality over the past few years and those faded or “green” tattoos you might have seen have started to become a thing of the past – as long as the studio is willing to invest in the premium required to use them.
Proper care is important while it’s healing and in the long term but our team will go through all of the details with you and we have high quality products available in store if you need them.
Does a Sak Yant hurt more than a regular machine gun tattoo?
The general consensus on this one is: No, however, there are several factors you need to take into account.
By nature, we all have different pain tolerances and it is also very evident that pain levels will differ dependent upon which part of the body is being inked.
For example, a tattoo on the ribs can be somewhat painful whatever method is employed, while a Sak Yant tattoo on the shoulder whether the traditional method or a machine gun is used will be far less painful.
The difference between a machine and bamboo in terms of pain, no matter which location the tattoo is one, can be significant.
A bamboo tattoo will go very different depths in the skin with every piercing, while a machine has a consistent depth.
This is why you see far less blood with a machine tattoo that’s done properly.
A machine will deposit ink on the third dermal layer, where little blood will come out if your skin is only pierced to this depth.
A bamboo will place ink on various layers, meaning not only more blood and much higher risk of infection but also a lower quality end product.
Having said that, and as we have touched on above, the real point here is that in this day and age there really is no need to go in for Bamboo tattooing.
We see this as a generally unsafe and inferior quality process which just isn’t necessary anymore.
Between the usual electric needle and the traditional Thai Sak Yant, which method of tattooing is more painful?
For some more background to answer this question, please refer to the previous answer.
The health & safety standards that the ALL DAY tattoo studio rigorously adhere to means unnecessary risks seen from traditional Sak Yant tattooing are completely eliminated.
Due to the fact the machine is only piercing the skin three layers and the bamboo is generally piercing it a somewhat random amount, most people find that a machine is far less painful.
In fact, in the majority of cases we have “first timers” who tell us that it hurt significantly less than they were expecting, it was more like a scratch.
However this definitely isn’t the case for bamboo tattoos, where people often describe the experience as “being burned by red hot needles”.
Not quite the same experience!
Add to that the fact that in our studio, clients are talked through the whole process in fluent English and are at ease with everything that’s happening all the way through knowing exactly what’s going on.
This is a big difference to being somewhere where you aren’t sure they’ve understood you, you’re not really made to feel welcome and you’re nervous it’s safe and clean.
The amount of pain someone feels can be affected a lot by their stress levels, so we do everything we can to reduce them.
Our concern is for the safety and experience of our client’s and artists.
In this respect you can be guaranteed the highest western hygiene standards are enforced each and every time and that you’ll enjoy the experience of being with us for your tattoo.
Sak Yant Rules of Conduct after getting a Sak Yant Tattoo
The truth here is that the real Sak Yant Rules of Conduct refer to rules you must follow once you have become a student of a Monk or Ajarn.
To add to this confusion every Monk or Ajarn has different Sak Yant Rules.
The ALL DAY tattoo studio team are confident that receiving a Sak Yant design whilst in Bangkok is completely acceptable from a cultural point of view and our artists are very happy to do them for you.
Indeed, Thai citizens will often be proud to note that you are wearing something which symbolizes their rich culture.
This is something you should bear in mind rather than being tricked into a false “magic” ceremony in order to enjoy your tattoo.
There’s a big difference between getting a design because it’s beautiful and reminds you of a specific time or experience in your life and being conferred a magical tattoo by a Master due to merit.
Although it certainly isn’t expected that a “normal” person will follow ALL of the magical rules of conduct after getting their tattoo (and in fact most “normal” Thai people who have Sak Yant designs won’t concern themselves with this either), it can be interesting to see some of the general rules magical adherents were asked to follow.
- Do not kill
- Do not steal
- Do not desire another person’s lover or spouse or be unfaithful to your own
- Do not lie
- Do not get Intoxicated
- Do Not speak ill of your Mother (or any Mother)
As you can see some are quite similar to the Western ideas of morality and we certainly hope that you’ll follow at least the most important ones whether you get a Sak Yant tattoo or not!
But in general, we’d suggest not stressing about it.
Just enjoy your beautiful design and what it means to you.
Can a woman get a Sak Yant tattoo?
The short answers is: Definitely YES, and the Sak Yant artists at ALL DAY Tattoo studio regularly apply this type of tattoo to female clients. It should be noted that many Monks and Ajarn’s refuse to tattoo a female.
It is important to understand that this is not due to sexual discrimination, more to the fact that rules of their religion do not allow them to directly touch a female’s skin.
In recent years however the Sak Yant style has become increasingly popular for women who enjoy the history and meaning behind the designs.
Can I chose my Sak Yant design?
If a Monk delivers the Sak Yant they choose the design which means you literally sit there and they tattoo whatever they want onto you, wherever they want to. For most people this isn’t ideal. At a professional studio then YES you may choose the design you wish.
Make sure you make the right choice about where to get your Sak Yant tattoo in Thailand
Anyone looking for a Sak Yant tattoo (or indeed, any tattoo design) while visiting Thailand does not need telling that there is a wide choice of options open to them.
You can go to a temple or temple fair, have it done on the beach, or at a flashy shop in one of the red-light districts who’ll bribe taxi drivers and tuk tuk drivers with a percentage of your tattoo fee to trick you into going there, but please think very carefully about the important decision you are making.
With this in mind, we strongly believe you would be far better served by visiting a reputable, professional, fully licensed, 100% hygienic and completely safe studio that doesn’t partake in any “tricks” or “scams” and never will.
That being the case then the ALL DAY Tattoo Studio fits every requirement and more.
Whether you have a specific design in mind, are looking for advice on different designs, tattoo sizes and body location, the inking process, costs, or a general tattoo enquiry, please do get in touch with our friendly, fully qualified and fluent English speaking staff for a no-obligation consultation.