Bali is blessed with beautiful crafts and customs, and Balinese art is world-famous, especially Balinese paintings, woven textiles and statues.
This little island has also become an international destination for getting tattooed, so many people are surprised to learn that tattooing is not part of traditional Balinese culture. Thanks to globalization and tourism, Balinese tattoos are now “a thing” in high demand. We see a lot of tattoos that look like Balinese stone and wood carvings – striking tattoos of Hindu spirits with floral embellishment and heavy shading and highlights.
Here are some of the most popular Balinese tattoo designs and examples from the Island of the Gods.
Garuda is the bird-like deity with a strong work ethic and good morals. Garuda has massive wings extending from a chiseled human abdomen, talons and the beak of an eagle. Garuda is a national symbol for Indonesia and the name of its major airline. You might see different interpretations of him across religions or thanks to artistic license.
In Bali, Garuda is also called Paksi (right??). There is an ambitiously large statue of Garuda and Wisnu in progress at Bali’s GWK Cultural Park, and patung kayu (wood carvings) of Garuda are popular here.
Two other less known Hindu bird figures which make great tattoo designs are Jatayu and Sampati (or Sempati in Indonesian), sons of Arjuna. Jatayu looks a lot like Garuda, while Sampati looks like an eagle – legend has it, these two flew as high as the sun, and Sampati lost his wings as a child in the heroic act of protecting little brother Jatayu from being burned by the sun’s flames).
From Left: (1) Garuda action figure-style tattoo in progress by Hendro Dewisura (2) Original Garuda x Iron Man color tattoo by Hendro Dewisura (3) Black and gray Garuda leg tattoo by Ibud Nyoman, Balinesia Tattoo (4) Garuda Line Tattoo by Bali Bagus Tattoo 99 (5) Colorful new school Garuda tattoo, Artful Ink Bali (6) Freehand Garuda tattoo by Juxe Ache, Bali Global Tattoo (7) Garuda head tattoo by Pa’udy Bali, Paradise Ink (8) Garuda and Visnu backpiece by Pa’Udy Bali, Paradise Ink (9) Artistic Garuda tattoo by Blur Tattoo (10) Paksi Balinese Garuda tattoo shared by Gustut Ananniti, Ubud 69 Tattoo (11) Balinese Paksi tattoo by Kasna Tattoo 73 (12) Jatayu Balinese tattoo by Imagination Tattoo Bali
Naga are serpent spirits and guardians of the immortality elixir. Some illustrations look like snakes while others are more like Chinese-style dragons or ancient sea serpents. Naga are very much associated with water. Slippery creatures, they can exhibit negative characteristics and are known to fight with Garuda (inspiration for a snake vs. eagle tattoo with an oriental twist?).
Nagini is the female form of the word (and the name of Lord Voldemort’s snake in the Harry Potter stories).
From Left: (1) Naga Tattoo by Bali Ant (2) Naga Tattoo by Endry Dharma, Star Angels (3) Naga by Sanur Ink Tattoo (4) Naga black and red tattoo by Svara Tattoo (5) Balinese dragon shared by Gustut Ananniti, Ubud 69 Tattoo (6) Balinese dragon tattoo by Gede Sony, Masons Ink
Balinese Dancer Tattoos
A Balinese dancer is a beautiful subject for a tattooed portrait. Our favorite tattoos of Balinese dancers capture the detail of the clothing and the performer’s calculated gestures with their eyes and hands which are characteristic of Balinese dances for religious ceremonies and storytelling.
Left to Right: (1) Legong Dancer by Shotonk Tattoos (2) Balinese Dancer and Barong by Paudy Bali, Paradise Ink (3) Balinese Dancer (artist unknown) (4) Color tattoo of Balinese Dancer, PJS Tattoo (5) Male Balinese Dancer, Also PJS Tattoo (6) Topeng Sidakarya by Tridatu Tattoo (7&8) Also by Tridatu Tattoo (9) Dancer with expressive eyes by Adi Samsara (10) Balinese dancing couple by Lionk
Barong Mask Tattoos
For the sacred Barong dance in Bali, dancers wear masks to become Barong and Rangda in a choreographed battle that represents good versus evil.
Barong is the guardian spirit of Bali – a very iconic mythical creature with large eyes is described as looking like a lion, a tiger, a bear or a dragon, and is usually red and gold.
Barong tattoos by:
(1) Ipin Latattu, Indigo Tattoo Parlour
(2) Nice Art Tattoo Canggu
(3) Paudy Bali, Paradise Ink
(4) Jimmy toge
(5) Conscious Arts Tattoo Ubud
(6) Ipin Latattu, Indigo Tattoo Parlour
(7) Paudy Bali, Paradise Ink
(8) Endry Dharma, Star Angels
Rangda Mask Tattoos
Rangda the evil witch spirit has fangs and a long tongue. The elderly widow is the queen of the Leyaks – demonical cannibalistic flying heads. In some parts of Bali, she is also seen as a protector.
Although Barong is Bali’s most popular tattoo design, getting tattoos of Barong and Rangda together in a chest piece, back piece or sleeve has become more common. Alternatively, you can go for a more creative modern tattoo such as a half-Barong half-Rangda mask or the clever ambigram design.
(1) Balinese chest piece by Indigo Tattoo Parlour
(2) Balinese mask half-sleeve by Gus Badra, Goldfinger Tattoo Studio
(3) Balinese sleeve by Ukix Tattoo
(4) Barong and Rangda sleeve by Nikz, Buch Familia Tattoo
(5) Rangda and Barong mask tattoos, Ukix Tattoo
(6) Ambigram tattoo (looks different upside down) by Endry Dharma, Star Angels
(7) Half-Barong half-Rangda tattoo by Kuta King
(8) Two-faced Barong and Rangda by The Tattoo Room
(9) Two-faced Barong and Randga by MA TATTOO
(10) Barong and Rangda tattoos high on chest by Ucen at Bold and Bright
(11) Finger tattoos by Ipin Latattu
Balinese Om Symbol Tattoos
The Balinese Om (or Ongkara), the symbol of God, creation and the universe, is the most sacred Hindu symbol in Bali. A display of devotion, you can find the Balinese Om symbol at temples, on entrance ways and on flags which are prevalent for the Galungan holiday. Its shape is taller and more ornate than the Sanskrit symbol of holy trinity.
Tattoo 1: Bali Om Tattoo by Big Brothers Tattoo Studio | Tattoo 2: Sanskrit om and Balinese om symbol tattoos by Star Angels | Tattoo 3: Ongkara tattoo by Exclusive Ink | Tattoo 4: Balinese om symbol tattoo on woman’s back by Conscious Arts Tattoo | 5: Om symbol mandala by Kings Tattoo Ubud
In Indonesian, Dewa means God. Hinduism has three manifestations of the supreme being; Brahma the creator, Vishnu (or Wisnu) the preserver and Shiva (or Ciwa) the destroyer. These three are substantial material for a large tattoo. Add their avatars like Lord Krisna, their partners like Goddess Lakshmi and other dieties… BAM you have a very impressive detailed piece!
Acintya (or Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa) is the almighty God in Balinese Hinduism, representing origin and emptiness, usually shown in human form seated in a lotus flower throne or surrounded by flames.
Wayang in Indonesian refers to all deities. In Bali, you may see these as ornate two-dimensional puppets with sticks attached to the base and hinged arms for movement (the puppets are also called Batara Batari, Javanese words for god and goddess).
Far left: artist unknown, Left: by LadyVTattoos, Right: shared by Aussie Rules Tattoo (artist Dex Wik?) Far right: DimasPraja
Lotus flowers appear frequently in Hindu and Buddhist art as a thing of beauty and purity alongside deities. The progression of a lotus flower growing from a closed bud to an open flower can be likened to a person’s life or their journey to enlightenment. Some mandalas are based on the shape of the lotus.
Ganesh (Lord Ganesha), with the head of an elephant and the body of a man with four arms, is one of the most well known Hindu gods, called the god of beginnings and remover of obstacles.
From Left: (1) Black and grey Ganesha portrait with red accents by Putu Johnet, Gods of Ink (2) Dancing blue Ganesha, Star Angels (3) Ganesha head, Buddy Marley (4) Ganesha with Om Symbol by Eka Sudarma Putra, Seven and Nine Tattoo (5) Ganesha sleeve shared by Bali Shadow Tattoo (6) Young Ganesha by Jim Bim (RIP) (7) Ganesha half sleeve by Goerat Tattoo (8) Ganesh tattoo on chest by Shua Epidemic, Luxury Ink
Hanuman (or Anoman) the Hindu monkey god symbolizes power and devotion. For whatever reason, Lord Hanuman is not as popular in Bali for tattoo designs compared to Garuda, Ganesh and Barong.
From Left: (1) Lord Hanoman tattoo by Prima, MA TATTOO BALI (2) Hanuman tattoo by Ibud Nyoman, Balinesia Tattoo Studio II (3) Color tattoo by Ubud cultura tattoo shop (4) Old school style tattoo by July Arthaya, Bold and Bright
Thought so! Don’t forget to take note of the tattoo styles you like most by visiting their portfolios and clicking the favorite heart.
Please always research your tattoo ideas with various sources before getting inked. Do not expect Bali tattoo studio staff to know everything about Balinese tattoos, as many artists come from around Indonesia and other parts of the world. It is also wise to carefully consider the placement of your tattoo design, as some cultures associate feet and left hands with disrespect.
Did we miss anything?
Add your comments or give us more Balinese tattoos in the section below. INK BY ARTISTS IN BALI ONLY. Last update: 25 Nov 2017.