On my list of favorite Thai festivals is the Tattoo Festival held annually in Nakhon Chaisi district of Nakhon Pathom, west of Bangkok about 50 kms.  It is difficult to understand and photograph for the first time what you are seeing during the festival without first researching the event.  My first Tattoo Festival I found myself running in circles trying to photograph the event.  It took me about three years before I realized there was an order to madness and patience would reward me with better images.  Wat Bang Phra (Wat means temple) is famous for the magically charged tattoos that are inked into the backs of followers with traditional bamboo spikes.  It was first explained to me that devotees to the temple believe that their tattoos can protect them from things like bullets, knives and jealous husbands.  Once tattoos, which many have over their entire upper body, are recharged, a process of adding new images or script, the devotee takes on the spirit of an animal, usually a tiger.  Sitting outside the temple many soon become entranced and charge the stage where a statue of their now deceased head master and Buddhist Monk, Luang Phor Boon, sits.   Waiting to stop them is an army of volunteers or soldiers.  Also waiting is an army of photographers, many who have seen the images online and want a piece of the insanity.  The entire process at times resembles a street fight.  Followers still come to honor Luang Phor Boon, usually on the first Saturday of March in a festival known as a “Wai Khru”.

Buddhist monk with tattoos at Wat Bang Par, Thailand.

Devotees to Wat Bang Par, Thailand gather for the annual festival.

Black ink is tapped into the back of a devotee at Wat Bang Pra, Thailand.

A tattoo master inks a devotee at Wat Bang Pra.

A devotee has his tattoo recharged at Wat Bang Pra.  Tatttoos of tigers hold great  significance as their master Luang Phor Boon is reported to have save a border village from tiger attacks with his blessed tattoos.

Devotee to Wat Bang Pra gather.

A devotee is restrained by volunteers while in an entranced state at Wat Bang Pra, Thailand.

A devotee is restrained by volunteers while in an entranced state at Wat Bang Pra, Thailand.

Volunteers  struggle with devotees in trance like states as they charge a stage area at

A devotee enters a trance like state during the Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Pra in Thailand.

A devotee crawls on hands and knees during the Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Pra in Thailand.

A devotee in a trance like state wear a tiger t-shirt during the Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Pra in Thailand.

A devotee enters a trance like state during the Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Pra in Thailand.

Tatttoos of tigers hold great  significance as their master Luang Phor Boon is reported to have save a border village from tiger attacks with his blessed tattoos.

A devotee enters a trance like state during the Tattoo Festival at Wat Bang Pra in Thailand

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