The art of tattooing called Pachai in Tamil Nadu dates back to ancient times when it marked out the identity of an individual. The process seeks out to prepare females to bear the pain of childbirth besides healing for various maladies. The art form now is on the verge of extinction as research shows that there are only handfuls of old women who remember the old designs and songs that accompanied the tattooing process.
The process involves usage of a bunch of needles ranging from 7 or 11 to sometimes 14 that are tied together. The dye is prepared from natural herbs. Some of the popular old designs are the Vaikunta potti (the box from Lord Vishnu’s celestial abode), a few fishes called kendai and kelathi, Elakkasaram (cardamom string), Vethalai saram (betel leaf string), Jadhikka potti (nutmeg box), Mallippoo (jasmine flower), Vanki (jewellery design of an armlet) and Suryagandhi poo (sunflower).