JAWALI: In the state of Chhattisgarh, Ramnami Samaj, a community that has named itself in the memory of Lord Ram started tattooing their bodies more than a century ago as an act of protest after being denied entry in temples. Members of the community are distinctly visible with their entire bodies tattooed with the name of Ram written in Hindi as a mark of religious devotion.

The community says they took this up to show their proximity with Lord Rama, and to prove that he is for everyone, irrespective of caste and social standing.

The ink used to tattoo the bodies was traditionally made with soot and water.

Samna Bai is 75 year old now. She got tattoos on her body at a very early age.

Kholbhra Ramnami, 65 in traditional dress worn by the followers of Ramnamisamaj.

Houses are made of mud in Jawali village where most of the people live in abject poverty.

Many of the houses are painted blue in the village.

Dhan bhai, 60, sits outside her blue painted house.

Sahib Ram Kuray,64 is a devout follower of Lord Ram. He along and his family have been tattooed long ago.

A Local Nanku Ram Kurray, 76, tattooed his arms and forehead when he was just 13 year old.

Akkara, 44 has refused to allow his father to get him tattooed. He says ‘’I don’t agree with this as we have not gained anything.”

Ram Nivas, 71 was tattooed at the age of 3.

Seit Bai, 68 spends most of her time in prayers.

Tattoos are a matter of pride.

Ram Bhagat Mahilange, 70 found tattooing to be painful but has his entire body covered now.

Many villagers have got their legs and feet tattooed.

Mahetter Ram Tandon, 77 feels that they are connected to God by having tattoos on their body.

Younger generations refrain from tattooing as they feel they are vulnerable and will be identified.

(Cover Photo: Followers of the community consider tattooing as a symbol to show proximity with Lord Ram and to counter discrimination. )