For various reasons, these women were expected to receive tattoos in their culture.
Though the stigma of inking one’s body is beginning to decline in Western cultures, the trend still isn’t widely accepted. In the Tharu tribe, however, which is located in the Nepalese town of Chitwan, it is not only acceptable to tattoo one’s body, in some instances, it is expected.
When Saudi Arabia photographer Omar Read traveled to the region, he was interested in documenting the last women of the Tharu tribe who are covered with tattoos. On Bored Panda, Read relayed three stories that were shared with him about why the women allowed themselves to be tattooed.
“The first one [story] was extremely shocking. During the era of the Kingdom of Nepal, the royal family used to spend their summer in the Chitwan area. They used to take the beautiful girls of the tribe as sex slaves. To stop these abductions, the tattoo trend started and the girls got inked in order to deform themselves, so they look ugly for the royal men.
The second one was as shocking as the first one. Tattooing used to be mandatory for a girl during the teenage phase, or she will be estranged from her family and community. She won’t be allowed to talk, marry, and even people won’t be allowed to take anything she touched like food and objects. She must get inked in order to be accepted by her people.
The third one was about beauty and the afterlife. Once a woman dies, she will rise in heaven in her most beautiful form.”
Though it is unknown which – if not all – of the stories are true, what’s most important is the last tattooed women of the Tharu tribe have been documented for people are the world and future generations to learn from.
“They all prove one thing, the tattoo art played a major part in the role of the tribe’s women. It was a survival mode in their life and even after death,” wrote Read.
Follow the artist’s Instagram to learn more.
Following are 15 stunning images of the tattooed women:
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