The properly clothed young Gond and Kolam women now make do with the tattoos of the symbols of their tribes

If reduction in the size of clothes heralded the fashion of tattooing in urban centres, a reverse trend is seen in the agency areas of Adilabad district in recent times.

The growing propensity for better clothing has reduced the scope for tribal people to get their bodies tattooed elaborately, in tune with their tradition. Improved economic conditions and increased access to the outside world has made people from the primitive Gond and Kolam tribes to adopt ‘modernity'. Therefore, semi-clad women are not found in the younger generations in the agency areas anymore.

Traditionally, Gond and Kolam women wore meagre clothes which left a good part of their body exposed to sun.

Much of bare skin used to be covered with tattoos, or ‘kohkana' in Gondi, which gave the individual a decent look.

“Tattooing on the back, waist, arms and face was done during infancy of the girl child. The practice continues to this day but the size of the tattoo is much smaller,” says Kala Ratna award winner Guruji Ravinder Sharma of Adilabad's Kala Ashram, who has studied the culture of local primitive tribes.

The properly clothed young Gond and Kolam women now make do with the tattoos of the symbols of their tribes. The symbols -- half moon and three spots in a triangle -- are tattooed on the forehead and on the chin respectively.

“Tattooing is also considered curative of some illnesses. For examples some tattoos on the temple and forehead cured the individuals of chronic headaches,” says Mesram Jangu, former chairman of the Nagoba temple committee, Keslapur.

The dwindling inclination for tattooing has also deprived the Thotti primitive tribe of its traditional livelihood. Thottis were masters in the art of tattooing and were medicine men in their own right. The methodology of tattooing has also changed in recent times.

While the Thottis used to puncture the skin with three medicated needles bound together, the present day tattooists use a drill like machine.