Nepal Minute - out of the ordinary


Raju Pandey, 41, who comes from Jyotinagar, Butwal, hidden away from the tattoo culture, stumbled upon a mesmerizing world of tattoos after his eyes sparked upon seeing a cherry red tattoo gracing a friend's arm in 1999. He was 16. Back then, little did he know that particular 'incidence' would pave his way for a remarkable journey into the realm of body art. This self-taught artist from a small bordering town of Butwal would eventually find fame across India and Southeast Asia transforming himself from an obscure enthusiast to a celebrated tattoo artist.

Determined to learn the art of tattooing, he in no time managed to assemble a makeshift tattoo machine with help from his close friend. . Kiran ripped apart his cycle mechanic father’s cassette player to scavenge motor for their do-it-yourself creation. 

Pandey declared himself both the victor and the victim of his own creation adorning his arm with his self-made machine with a red tribal art using charcoal and vibrant red fountain pen ink. 

Within six months, he had garnered enough admirers, with people traveling from as far as the Indian township of Gorakhpur across the border – roughly 130 kilometers from Butwal – to get inked by the inventive artist. 

Pandey had an itch for more.

In pursuit of his newfound passion, Raju embarked on a journey to the Southeast Asia, leaving behind the makeshift tattoo machine back home. He joined a studio located in the bustling streets of Kuala Lumpur. 

Weeks passed by but no customer would walk in to get a tattoo from an inexperienced stranger.

Porn stars bring luck

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Pandey recalls his first four clients, after nearly a month of waiting, were famous Australian porn stars, who were touring Malaysia. The studio owner apparently told a lie to attract the tourists: “Raju is the most experienced guy in the shop.” 

“I tattooed their private parts,” chuckled Pandey. "That brought me good luck."

His popularity soared in no time.  Within months, he found himself opening his own studio in Kuala Lumpur, and invitations from neighboring Singapore started streaming in. 
However, the adventure didn't stop there. 

Pandey's artistic endeavors brought him to Mumbai, where he honed his skills for nearly a year before finding his true calling at Funky Monkey, India's oldest professional tattoo studio in Gurugram.

“That’s where I earned my real fame,” boasts Pandey. 

Working as a senior tattoo artist for 15 years in Funky Monkey, Pandey tattooed high profile clients and celebrities - the likes of Namrata Joshipura; fashion designer, Malini Ramani; fashion designer and quite a few other fashion designers from Zara. 

Jayanti Chauhan, the vice-chairperson and heiress of Bisleri, one of India’s biggest bottled water manufacturers, stands as a testament to Pandey's artistry, having received a poignant portrait of her six-year-old doggie that had died recently of a protracted illness. “She was in tears all the time; she had strong emotional connection to the tattoo,” recalled Pandey. 

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Pandey discusses with his client on the tattoo design. Photo: Raju Pandey

His talent wasn't confined to the tattoo chair. Pandey bagged awards in prestigious tattoo contests for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015, eventually transitioning into a respected judge in those competitions.

After his successful stints in   Southeast Asia and India, Pandey now has his sight on Nepal. "I intend to set up my own studio – 7R Tattooz – in the tourist hub of Thamel," he said. 

Why Nepal?

Pandey said he is on a quest to establish a "healthy tattoo culture" to revive the lost significance of Nepali tattoos.

According to Pandey, the tattoo culture in Nepal, even as found in different traditions, has actually lost its meaning. 

“Nepali people nowadays put tattoos just as a fashion statement, just to "fill" their bodies,” said Pandey. He believes each tattoo as an art should tell a story, evoking emotional values and memories with each glance.

There are various cultural tattoos throughout the world, including in Nepal, like Godana in Tharu community which “can be taken worldwide”. 

He added: “There is a huge craze for such artistic tattoos among tattoo lovers worldwide. Take for example, the Sak Yant tattoo done by Buddhist monks with chanting of mantras throughout the process of tattooing.” 


Pandey wants to leverage his international relations to elevate Nepali heritage and monuments to the world stage through tattoo.

“Tattoos done well and with meaning behind are akin to a travelling museum, not confined within the four walls,” added Pandey.

He thinks tourists who carry such tattoo on their bodies will proudly show it to others when they return to their country of origin. And it will be “a point to talk”. Pandey ultimately wants to brand Nepali tattoo worldwide and wants his name “Raju" to be attached with Nepal as well.

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Jiya KC posing with her flying birds tattoo on her right hand. Photo: Diwash Ghimire

He said he is soon organizing a celebrity session, “maya ko chino” to bring his art to the public through Nepali celebrities. As tattoo gains popular acceptance, he is optimistic that more and more people go for the art. "Each tattoo on a human body should stay as a memento," he said.

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