Madurai’s fashion freaks get high on tattoos

After all that festive revelry and binging, the young and the cool are moving on from clothes to skin. Temporary or permanent, tattoos have become stylish in Madurai. Even middle-aged women and men are signing up for skin art, and small tattoo studios have mushroomed across the town.

“Tattooing the skin has always been in our culture, but the cool side of it took time to seep in,” says Deepan Dayan of Madura Tattoos, the first parlour to be started in the city three years ago. “Of late, youngsters have made tattoos a part of their style. It has become a mode of self-expression.” Deepan also notes that religious designs like trishuls and motifs of gods and goddesses are favoured by older clients while peppier western art is fancied by the young.

Vicky, tattoo master at Naturals Salon and Spa in K.K. Nagar, says, “Initially, only writing names on skin was common. But these days, people are going for elaborate intricate designs.” Sun signs, tribal art, dragons and foliage designs are all-time classics, he says. Vicky also visits Glow Studio on Bypass Road, another beauty salon that specialises in tattoos.

Another parlour that has come up in Vishaal Mall’s food court is attracting people from across the southern districts. “On an average, I get nearly ten customers for permanent tattoos every week and there is always rush for the temporary ones,” says Irfan, who started the kiosk a month back. “I bring tattoo artists and masters from Chennai for doing it professionally.”

Albert, a professional tattoo artist from Chennai, has been visiting Madurai on weekends along with his master, Randy. “People here are much excited about getting tattooed but there is also as much fear and apprehension,” observes Randy, who has done a six-month tattooing course in Thailand. “Many are shy about walking in, yet I have seen many women boldly going for it, bearing the pain.”

Archana, a tattoo lover, prefers to go to spas for her tattoos. “It provides privacy and a sense of reliability. I have got two tattoos already and would want one more.”

3D Tattoos

“Getting your skin tattooed is an impulsive thing,” says Albert, who has six years of experience in the art. “If you think too much, you may change your mind.” The rage now is 3D tattoos, he says. He shows a butterfly design. “This would look as if a real butterfly is sitting on the arm. We took a month to complete the design and charged Rs. 60,000.” 3D tattoos may take three to four sittings as every layer of colour and shade should be given a week to seep and set into the skin.

“Price is never a factor for the style-conscious,” says Deepan. “The most expensive one I have done in Madurai is for Rs.10,000 – a floral design on the chest.” The cost of a tattoo depends on the size, intricacy and colours used. A simple, small permanent outline starts from Rs. 1000. Needles and inks are imported from Germany and the US, while most traditional designs are oriental. “The Far East is the birthplace of tattoos as the tribals there believed that tattooing the skin may ward off evil,” explains Randy. “The traditional Pachai Kuthuthal is also a derivation of this. Yet, there is much difference in the ink we use and the technique followed.”

Hiding scars

“The most expensive tattoo I have done is a tribal art design extending over the entire right arm to the chest for Rs. 10,000,” says Irfan. “Body builders have a fetish for tattooing their biceps. Many people experiment with a temporary one and then decide on a permanent tattoo. Women also do this for hiding scars or marks.”

All these tattoo parlours have over 10,000 designs in their library and once the client finalizes the design, size and colour, the process starts. A printout is followed by a butter-paper trace and then a sketch is drawn on the skin with a pen, over which the tattoo is done. “Small-headed needles are used for outlines while big ones are used for shading,” explains Albert. “The needle is sterilized and dipped into the ink. When punched on to the skin, the needle blows the ink it has sucked in. If the shading effect is intricate, the process may take long.”


Geetha, a young entrepreneur, says, “I got a colourful butterfly on my shoulder. I wanted it for nearly two years and only now I found a place to get it done. I will get more tattoos.” Senthil, a college student, feels a tattoo makes him stand out from others. Men feel that tattoos are real head-turners, while some women shyly reveal that it’s a turn-on for their boyfriends. Temporary tattoos of Pokemon and Chhota Bheem sell well among children.Says Andrews, a 40-year-old consultant, “I am a patriotic person and I would go for a national flag on my right arm.”

However, many also fear the pain, after-effects and complications of a permanent tattoo. Randy says, “A permanent tattoo only needs basic precautions and care. Before punching the needle, a soap wash and disinfectant spray must be done. If proper tattooing is done by professional masters, it will not lead to infections.” He advises customers to keep the tattooed area dry for 15 days and to apply baby oil regularly.

Vicky from Naturals spa says that applying Vitamin A and Vitamin D ointments will prevent infections. He says, “Tattoo wax or serum may also be applied before starting off so that it may reduce pain and rashes.”

Temporary tattoos are popular among students fearing a scolding from parents or punishment at school, and many older clients like them too. Says Shanti, who gets a new tattoo every week, “You may change the design whenever you want, minus the pain.”