India Docktattoo detail, by Tanya Rose of Shadowandsoul Photography

India tattoo prelimary study
Preliminary study only, for development of India dock tattoo design

Trade goods from India, such as spices and tea, were one of the major motivating forces for European exploration and the growth of trade by sailing ship. We have enjoyed commerce with this

Indian art has a very long history which has influenced many of the cultures on the Eurasian continent, from Europe to China. I’ve been fortunate enough to be put in touch with an advisor who has made a study of Indian art and decoration and its wealth of symbolism and meaning therein:

Brinda Gill is a writer based in Pune, India. Educated in Economics, she enjoys studying the wealth of a nation through its crafts heritage and writing on India’s crafts and craftspersons – the unassuming creators of India’s unique and vibrant living heritage.

Decorative Motifs:

  • Eight Auspicious Symbols: (Ashtamangala) Sacred symbols or qualities of enlightenment also used as a teaching tool, originally used in India at ceremonies such as coronations; Used in many cultures of the region especially Tibetan Buddhism (Read more: Wikipedia; Takeyama on Universal Metaphysical Symbols; Buddhist studies. )
  • Peacock: An ancient, symbolic, beautiful design element- signifies love and courtship; also Protection, when it is holding a snake in its beak. (Associated with worship of the god Murukan for the Tamils and in South India: “The colour and fertility of the bird equated with the vibrant hills and its beauty was like that of women and fresh vegetation. The peacock danced in the rain and so brought rain like Murukan did.” —University of Cumbria)
  • paisleyPaisley: A beautiful, symbolic and international element- across cultures. Originally taken from the shape of a mango: fertility, good fortune. Possibly also from the cypress tree, a Zoroastrian symbol of life and eternity.
  • Tree of Life: a nearly-universal symbol, often meaning life and eternity, immortality or connecting all forms of life.
  • Conch: “Representing the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma, which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others; In Hinduism the Conch is an attribute of Vishnu as is the Wheel” (–from Wikipedia; in Hinduism; ) also from the sea.
  • Endless Knot: Love; intertwining of wisdom and compassion in enlightenment (–Wikipedia)
  • Fish: Abundance and fertility. Water element is a source of life, purification, and regeneration.
  • Lotus flower: Neverending cycles of the sun, also associated with source of life and sun/moon duality as a water plant.
  • Swan: Wisdom, separating good from bad.


Tattoo History:

Tattooing as an art form was more used in some regions than others: “Permanent tattoos were very common in south India, especially Tamil Nadu, before 1980. Tattoos have been used as cultural symbols among many tribal populations, as well as the caste-based Hindu population of India.” (–Wikipedia)

The art of mendhi (henna body decoration) is highly developed and very popular, especially for women and around auspicious occasions such as weddings. It’s also been enjoying a lot of popularity in the west recently.


Installation Crew:

Cultural & Artistic Consultant: Brinda Gill, Pune, India
Design and sketch: Liz LaManche
Inking: Emma Westling, Julia Tenney
Shading: Sara “Hapto” McGee