5 steps to a great Sanskrit tattoo design

Sanskrit tattoos are very popular and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t get a meaningful and fantastic work of art on your skin.  Avoid common mistakes with these five simple steps to a great Sanskrit tattoo design.

  1. Make it meaningful: don’t just pick a random phrase or symbol. Sanskrit is a language and there are a great many wonderful words and phrases that make for a very meaningful tattoo. You can choose from ancient texts or get something translated (more on that below). Individual words can make for powerful tattoos. There are ancient texts with short phrases on all matters relating to love, life, philosophy and more. There are many mantras (short meaningful phrases repeated as part of meditative awareness), prayers, poems and hymns that are part of the rich history of the Sanskrit language.SanskritTattoo_palmstone.com_2
  2. Get an expert translation: Sanskrit is a highly precise language in terms of grammar, phonetics and spelling. Make sure your translation is being done by a Sanskrit scholar. Languages are more idiomatic than we imagine. For example, in English we often use metaphors–comparing one thing to another–without thinking about it. “Your love keeps me grounded” is a good example: does this mean that you get pushed into the ground, or that you are ground up (like coffee beans). Even as an idiom, do you mean to say that you are being punished (I was grounded for a week), or that you are feeling stable and secure? These nuances of meaning need to be understood by the translator, or you will end up with a phrase that means the wrong thing–or worse yet, is complete gibberish. At I work with Sanskrit scholars in India who have the expertise to compose correct Sanskrit and take the time to understand the meaning of the words and phrases to be translated.
  3. Make sure you want Sanskrit: To clear up any confusion, Sanskrit is a (very ancient) language from India. The Sanskrit language is most typically written using the Devanagari script, a phonetic alphabet that is also used for writing Hindi, Marathi, Nepali and 120 other languages. You may indeed want a Sanskrit tattoo–but many people have tattoos that look like Sanskrit but are actually in a different language. I get many requests to do designs in Pali, for example, which is the language that the Buddha used in his teachings. There are also many other scripts related to Devanagari. I can provide calligraphic tattoo designs in Gurmukhi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Sinhalese–all alphabets related to the Devanagari script. If you want other scripts or historical variants, please let me know
  4. Commission your own design: Even celebrities–no, especially celebrities–should be able to spend a little time and money to get a really beautiful Sanskrit tattoo. I cringe when I see the arrow-straight lines of Sanskrit inked into the skins of the famous (and not so famous). What you’re seeing is a Devanagari computer font. It is like getting a wonderful word or phrase inked permanently onto your skin in Times Roman or Arial.  You can do better than having your tattoo designed in Word. Calligraphers–like me, but also others out there–can write your Sanskrit tattoo in beautiful, hand-written calligraphy. Not only will your tattoo be beautiful, but it will be unique to you, since I don’t send the same designs out to multiple customers. Another advantage of calligraphy: I can create custom designs: writing in a circle, on a curve, with a lotus, you name it!
  5. Take your time: When you order a Sanskrit calligraphy tattoo design from me, I don’t just send you one design and take your money.  I first learn as much as I can about what you have in mind. If you need a translation I work with my Sanskrit experts to make sure the Sanskrit wording is just right. Then I begin the creative work. To create a design that I like I produce a large number of drafts. I send the best of these to you so that you have a full array of choices to look at. Finally, I do any edits or changes that may be needed so that you end up with a special piece of artwork to have inked–your very own Sanskrit tattoo!
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