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Sikhing Answers

Is There Anything Wrong In Wearing A Tattoo?
Sikhing Answers - XIII




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Is there anything wrong if we adorn our bodies with one or more tattoos?

With a permanent one? What if it is temporary and washes off?

What if it consists of a Sikh emblem or sentiment? An Ik Oankaar or a Khanda?

Though it's a new trend and is currently fashionable, small tattoos were quite common in our grandparents' generation, when they had appeared as a fad - with both males and females. 

If you are opposed to it, is it against any tattoo, no matter how small or what its content is? Or are you particularly offended by the over-the-board displays of body murals, etc.? 

... Why?


Posted on March 11, 2012

Closing Date: March 18, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Virendra Mongia (Pune, India), March 11, 2012, 9:45 AM.

I believe that one who wears a religious tattoo should maintain the respect for the religous values. For example he or she should not be seen sporting tattoo at places prohibited by the religion such as a bar or pubs, as it brings a bad name to the entire community. Permanent tattoos require hair to be removed from the body part, which is against Sikhism.

2: Jaspal Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 11, 2012, 9:52 AM.

I for one know in Sikhi it would not be permitted. However, I do have multiple ones (including a khanda). You do need to practice what you preach. I am not an amritdhari but would hope to be some day in my life. I believe in live and let live. We all must meet our moment of truth ...

3: Charanjit Sandhu (Canada), March 11, 2012, 10:09 AM.

I have seen many Sikhs sporting a khanda tattoo. Some of my clean shaven friends insist they are showing pride and respect to Sikhism. I always answer that if that is the case, then why not follow the discipline of the faith. Needless to say, that always draws a quiet response or excuses as to how they are not ready to take that step. Your body is a temple, therefore treat it with respect and don't vandalize it.

4: Sukhi (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.), March 11, 2012, 10:14 AM.

Tattoos are an expression of art and feelings and I do not think there is anything wrong with adorning one's body with that form of art. People ought to be judged by their actions, not by their tattoos. I do not see any issue with a person, may it be amritdhari or not, adorning himself or herself with a 'khanda' symbol or an 'ik oankaar'. It is a personal choice and should be respected. Tattoos are not responsible for creating an image about a 'community', it is the people's actions towards each other that shapes it. Sikhi is about acceptance, love and service, not about how to judge people by their tattoos.

5: Jasneet Kaur (Delhi, India), March 11, 2012, 10:18 AM.

I don't think there is anything wrong in wearing a tattoo.

6: Amandeep Riar (Melbourne, Australia), March 11, 2012, 11:15 AM.

First of all, there is no place for tattoos in Sikhi, but if someone wants to have one, then he/she should show respect to Sikhi. Some are having tattoos of Sikh symbols, of Sikh Gurus and heroes as well, but they have their hair removed from their bodies, are clean shaven or have cut their hair. So what are they trying to show other people about their faith or religion? it is just not good.

7: Gavin Mand (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), March 11, 2012, 12:17 PM.

I think there is nothing wrong with it all. It's your personal choice. I am 22 years old and have a khanda with an ik oankar in the middle. It's a symbol of pride!

8: R. Singh (Canada), March 11, 2012, 2:16 PM.

I agree with Sukhi ji. There is no harm in expressing yourself. It is mean and agressive actions that do damage to our own body-temple or anyone else's - not inanimate tattoos. I think we need to learn to live and let live, and not be peeking at others all the time, finding faults.

9: Kanwar Singh (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), March 11, 2012, 8:27 PM.

Sikhism is a very broadminded relgion. Wearing a tattoo is a fashion statement and dome think it looks cool. At the same time, there is no place in Sikhi for pettiness. Sikhi allows humans to live freely and experience the vastness of kudrat. Sikhi does not attempt to control human beings the way other religions do. Along those lines, wearing a tattoo has no bearing to being a Sikh.

10: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), March 11, 2012, 10:17 PM.

Why would any one want to first discard or hide the unique identity of a Sikh, and then emblazon his body with huge Sikh emblems to identify himself as a Sikh? There is a disconnect here somewhere.

11: Parmjit Singh  (Canada), March 12, 2012, 1:01 AM.

For someone who considers himself a Sikh, cutting your hair and having a Sikh tattoo is akin to a black person cosmetically bleaching his skin and then wearing a "Black Pride" T-shirt.

12: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), March 12, 2012, 3:58 AM.

No. Nothing wrong - whatever the reasons for tattoos are. A Samoan friend tells me that he carries his family and island history tattooed on his body - like a birth chart or certificate.

13: R. Bedi (New Delhi, India), March 12, 2012, 9:53 AM.

Tattooing is just another form of self-expression. There is nothing wring with that. Tattoos consisting of Sikh emblems are also okay ... just self-expression and contentment again.

14: Harjit Singh (Paris, France), March 12, 2012, 10:03 AM.

Tattooing is a kind of self-mutilation. I completely agree with #3 - Charanjit Sandhu and #11 - Parmjit Singh.

15: Aman (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), March 12, 2012, 5:13 PM.

I am tired of hearing the argument, "I'm just trying to express myself" or "I'm showing pride in Sikhi". Express yourself with your brain and speech and actions. Express yourself with how you carry yourself. We don't need to express ourselves with cartoonish drawings etched into parts of the body. Tattooing is what is done to livestock when they are branded with a hot iron. Or to criminals and outlaws.

16: Jaden Singh Johal (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), March 12, 2012, 10:29 PM.

I think the Sikh community has bigger issues out there, such as alcohol and drug abuse, particularly in Punjab. We first need to look at the big issues facing our community, if and when we address those, we can then turn to other issues.

17: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, U.S.A..), March 13, 2012, 11:34 AM.

I leave it to the practicing Sikh. But my recommendation/ suggestion is that tattoos should never be displayed on gurdwara premises, that is, the divan hall, langar hall, etc. It is simply rude and disrespectful.

18: Dupinder Kaur (Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A..), March 13, 2012, 2:36 PM.

My views on all the questions posed here: 1) I see nothing wrong in getting tattoos. I am very surprised with some of the comments noting that tattoos are a kind of self mutilation/ disrespectful, etc. and that they have no place in Sikhi. Can someone please highlight any basis for claiming that there is no place for tattoos in Sikhi? I have seen many granthis with tattoos on their hands or forearms. Also, as noted by the editor, many from our grandparents' generation have Ik Oankar tattoos. If you visit a village in Punjab, there are a lot of people form the older generations with tattoos on their hands. I think tattoos are just like jewelry or any other way we change our physical appearance to express ourselves. Such as nail polish or turban color. The only difference is that tattoos are permanent. And if a person feels like it, they can live with the same image on their body for ever, there is nothing anti-Sikhi about it. 2) There is no difference in getting a temporary or permanent tattoo. If someone is willing to live with the same image forever and makes that decision consciously, it is fine. Just don't change your mind later. 3) I am completely against getting religious tattoos to show one's faith or religion. People might get them as a constant reminder of their religion. But it is very disappointing to see guys with khanda tattoos on the arm and smoking or going to strip clubs or rolling in their own vomit on a sidewalk. They cut their hair, which is one symbol to show the pride of being a Sikh, but they seriously think that a khanda tattoo is going to represent their Sikhi? There's a complete disconnect there, or the wires have got crossed somewhere. I agree with the comments on this point. 4) I am opposed to religious tattoos. That is not a representation of being a Sikh. 5) Tattoos are very personal and we have no right to get offended by another person's style.

19: Kuldip  (Birmingham, United Kingdom), March 14, 2012, 2:54 AM.

I would rather be a tattoo-adorned but well-intentioned, considerate sehajdhari who carries his Sikhi in his heart, rather than an ill-intentioned, deceitful and dishonest amritdhari.

20: Simrat Kaur (Chandigarh, Punjab), March 14, 2012, 6:32 AM.

Kuldip ji (#19): Can't disagree with you on anything you've said. BUT, wouldn't it be far more meaningful for you if you were a well-intentioned, considerate amritdhari who carries Sikhi not only in his heart but also on his sleeve? That way, you'll be even better than the people you are critical of so rightly! So, I'd humbly suggest, aim higher!

21: Parmjit Singh (Canada), March 14, 2012, 12:23 PM.

Kuldip bro -#19: I'm sure one would rather be a tattoo-adorned but well-intentioned, considerate person who carries humanity in his heart, rather than an ill-intentioned, deceitful and dishonest citizen of his nation. However, I'm sure this does not lead one to cut up and dispose of his passport and all other nation-identifying ID. Such reasoning would be absurd. In essence, such logic, or lack of it, is an attack on the Sikh identity, not support for tattooing. Nonetheless, I don't believe your post is ill-intentioned, but that does not mean you should not strive to get to better reasoning.

22: Theodorus Snellen (The Netherlands), March 17, 2012, 3:31 PM.

I feel that when you read the Sikh Rehat Maryada closely and also read between the lines, I think that Sikhs shoudn't get permanent tattoos.

23: Ram Singh (Birmingham, United Kingdom), March 19, 2012, 11:30 AM.

The fact that there are people out there who get tattoos of a khanda on there bodies just goes to show the level of ignorance or even stupidity that abounds in some regarding our faith. The khanda is a symbol of the Khalsa - the "pure" ones. A tattoo by definition is an impurity.

24: D.P.K. Sharma (India), June 18, 2012, 5:42 AM.

I really am impressed with how much you have worked to make this website so enjoyable.

25: Harmandeep Singh Grewal (Cranbourne,,Australia), August 09, 2012, 11:03 AM.

It's not ethically correct to have a tattoo which symbolizes Sikhism. Having a tattoo with a khanda or any Sikh symbol does not symbolize you are a good or great Sikh or that you love your religion. You are just showing off. You are a good or great Sikh only if you do good deeds.

26: Gurpreet (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), December 11, 2012, 12:43 PM.

I am surprised every time I see us getting caught up in these little do's and don'ts. My granddad and grandma had little tattoos of ik oankaars and my dad who is around 64 also has one. It appears everyone had one in their generations. And now, all we want to do is argue about everything. With the same logic as some have displayed, one would say you shouldn't wear a kara because you invariable do wrong things sometimes. #24 has rightly said: all this non-issue does is entertain us.

27: A J Walia (UAE), April 14, 2013, 7:33 AM.

A tattoo is a representation of feelings one has ... of pride in something, if you wish to call it that. As long as we observe Sikhi, I cannot see any reason why we cannot have tattoos. For me, it reminds me everyday to be a true Sikh.

28: H Bharj (England ), June 05, 2013, 12:48 PM.

I believe that getting a tattoo is a personal choice and people should not be judged on the fact that they have a tattoo of a khanda, etc. even though they have shorn their kesh. On the other hand, I believe that if someone has got a religious tattoo it shows that they have pride in their religion; they are not trying to show off. Lastly, a good Sikh would not be throwing his/her opinions on others - R Singh: "Live and let live!" - couldn't have said it better myself.

29: Mandeep (Sydney, Australia), February 26, 2015, 6:51 PM.

Guys, tattoos are a way of expressing yourself, emotionally, your beliefs, expressing who you are. I have nothing against tattoos. Only problem I have is if you are going to get something religious put it on your body where it is discrete and can be covered, a religious tattoo should never be a fashion statement and should never be shown off. What you may feel proud about may offend someone else. Having any religious tattoo should constantly remind you to live an ethical life. Think twice before getting a religious tattoo and see if you can give it full respect. If you can't please don't get one. If you can get one, not only will it help you live an ethical life you will always think twice from doing any action disrespecting Sikhism. I myself have a religious tattoo on my chest but I don't go around showing it off. It is there to constantly remind me to live an ethical life. As for us Sikhs who are against tattoos, our problem as a Sikh community is that it is our belief vs the rest of the world. We always tend to forget the fundamentals of life is to love all of humanity as your brother and sisters, we are one race. Our Gurus never said any religion was wrong, it was the humans of the time who did wrong. Please, everyone, learn to love all and respect all. These issues we raise about tattoos shouldn't even be an issue.

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Sikhing Answers - XIII "

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