Thai temple tattoos or sak yant have increasingly caught the interest of travellers from around the world. Some seek to make these intricate geometric designs a permanent memento of a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience.
Guests interested in this uniquely Thailand experience can visit the main tattoo temple in Thailand or simply read on for some useful information about the sak yant.
What is a Thai Temple tattoo?
The Thailand temple tattoo is called a sak yant, which translates to ‘prayer tattoo’. A sak yant is considered to be sacred and promises to offer the bearer good luck, power, charisma and/or protection from harm.
Here are some facts about sak yant:
- The practice of yantra tattooing originated from the Khmer Empire, spreading to Thailand and beyond.
- They are traditionally done with a sharp bamboo needle dipped in a well of black or red ink. An invisible sak yant can be done with oil.
- A Thai temple tattoo is traditionally done by monks, but ajarns (non-practising monks) also carry out the practice. An ajarn will bless the tattoo the same way as a monk in a temple will – by reciting a prayer and blowing on the tattoo.
- While temple monks use a bamboo or metal needle, ajarns and tattoo artists will carry out the sak yant with a regular tattoo machine.
- Some of the more common designs include the gao yord (nine spires), which represents the holy Mount Meru; the ha thaew (five lines), where each line is a different yantra; and the yant suea (tiger), which represents power, strength and protection.
- The smallest sak yant tattoos take around 10 minutes to complete, with approximately 2,000 taps of the bamboo needle.
Where to get a sak yant tattoo?
The main temple tattoo in Thailand is Wat Bang Phra, just outside Bangkok city limits. On Wai Khru day, this temple overflows with people waiting to get a sak yant or to have their existing tattoos blessed by monks.
In Chiang Mai, a popular temple is Wat San Makieng, in the rural fringes of Doi Saket. In other parts of Thailand, there are individual ajarns available who do sak yant the traditional way.
The difference between getting a sak yant from an ajarn and a monk.
Cost of a sak yant
- At the temple, an initial offering must be bought for THB 20-30. The tattoo itself is free, but an additional donation is expected. The exact amount is at the individual’s discretion (generally from THB 100)
- An ajarn will set their own prices, starting from approximately THB 1,000. This price can go up to tens of thousands baht depending on the detail and size of the tattoo.
- A reputable professional tattoo artist can also do the tattoo and will charge THB 2,000 or more.
Can women get sak yant from a monk?
Yes. Thai Buddhist monks aren’t permitted to touch women, but will put a piece of cloth between their hand and the recipient’s skin to avoid direct contact. Alternatively, they may wear gloves.
There’s a lot more to learn about getting a sak yant in Thailand and our travel consultants are always at hand to answer questions.
If you’d like to know more about temple tattoos or other general Thailand travel information, go here. You can also contact our travel consultants at [email protected] or simply drop us an enquiry below!