Fascinated by the people who have tattooed the famous Hindu God’s name “RAM” all over their body, I made an attempt to photo document this diminishing tradition of body art. The art of tattooing in India has existed since the ancient period, where people used to ink their skin for different reasons. But the caste-defying tattoos of the RamnamiSamaj in Chhattisgarh is something very unique.
It’s a low caste movement that formed to challenge the religious restrictions being imposed upon them by the upper caste community. “Wrapped with Faith” is a series of images of RANMANI ethnic group, that documents a unique religious practice in remote part of India.
The RAMNAMI sect of Chhattisgarh, India is a movement that started in early 1890’s by low caste as a disagreement to the upper caste Hindu religious beliefs and practices. Hindu religion is divided into the caste system and in earlier days the upper caste was rich, powerful and dictated religious terms whereas the low-castes often did menial jobs, was poor and powerless. Forbidden access to religious places and deities the followers of RAMNAMI sect tattooed their entire body with the name of Lord RAM as an act of devotion to be gript with God’s. It’s a message to higher-caste Hindus that God is omnipresent, regardless of caste, class, and gender. In Hindu religion, lord RAM is the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal righteous king. It is therefore considered that chanting his name protects and enriches the religious virtues of one-self.
The process of tattooing was extremely painful and it was done by using an ink made from soot and water. RAMNAMI followers never drink, smoke, and eat non-vegetarian food. They chant the name of “Ram” daily and treat everyone with equality and respect. Almost every Ramnami household owns a copy of the Ramayana epic, a book on Lord Rama’s life and teachings. Most followers’ homes in their villages have “Ram Ram” written in black on the outer and inner walls.
Unfortunately, the practice of full body tattoo called “NAKSHIT” ended in 1970sand presently there are only 5/6 aged people left. NAKSHIT’s even have tattoos on their genitals. Presently RAMNAMI movement is rapidly diminishing. The practice of tattoo is no more followed by the younger generation nowadays as they perceive it as discrimination. The younger generation has started going to school, colleges and cities for the job and they don’t want to be targeted as “ backward” by their tattoo.
About Tania Chatterjee
Tania Chatterjee is an eminent photo artist from the city of joy Kolkata, India. She is practicing photography since last 7 years winning many awards and accolades. Presently she is the President of a photography club named FOTORBIT INDIA and Co-Founder and Mentor of a photography organization named FOTORBIT. Her niche subjects of photography are people, culture, travel, and documentation.
Her works has been exhibited in almost all major cities in India and near about 30 counties (France, Italy, UK, USA, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Argentina, Greece, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Iran, Singapore, Cyprus, UAE, Russia, Hungary, Prague, Switzerland etc.). She won about 200 awards in different national and international photography salons. Her photographs have been published by several national and international agencies. Winner of “Being a Girl” Travelling Photo Contest, 2016 supported by Govt. of India Initiative “BetiBachaoBetiPadhao”, UNFPA India, UN Women India, National Foundation for India and many more. Recently she has won West Bengal Government Information and Cultural Department’s State Level Photography award (2016-17) and nomination award from prestigious The Humanity Photo Awards, 2017( HPA) supported by UNESCO.
She has been appointed as a jury member in different national and international photography contests. For her photographic achievements, she has bagged distinctions like EFIP (Excellence FIP) from Federation of Indian Photography and EFIAP (Excellence FIAP) from FédérationInternationale de l’ArtPhotographique (France) Recognized by UNESCO.
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All the pictures in this post are copyrighted Tania Chatterjee. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.