For the Baiga tribe of Madhya Pradesh in Central India, the practice of tattooing is an important cultural custom. This traditional skill of tattooing, called godhana, is handed down through generations by the women of the community. Young men and women are tattooed at various significant times in their lives, like on attaining puberty, or having children. Often, the ritual of tattooing is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood. The tattooed symbols are different for men and women and have specific context and significance and particular designs are created and reserved for different parts of the body. The Baiga community is divided into several groups and every group has its own distinguishable design. Common patterns or symbols often signify fire, flowers, trees, crop and peacocks. Most of these abstract symbols appear to represent aspects of everyday life.

    The process of marking the body begins with mixing black soot with sesame seed oil. Today, the artists often use modern tattooing equipment, traditionally, the skin was pricked with a wooden needle.  The Baigas believe that when the human body was created, it was divided into masculine and feminine principles, represented by the bones and flesh respectively. Tattooing the male and female body is believed to unify these masculine and feminine principles. Another tribal myth surrounding the creation of the female tattoo artist, narrates the story of a gods fury, which is pacified by a fully tattooed woman, the Naga Baigin, who was the first woman according to the Baiga creation myth. The female tattoo artist that decorated the Naga Baigins body was called Badnin, a term that is still in use today.

    Godhana artist Shanti Bai explains Women from Baiga tribal community attach great importance to godhana because they see it like amar ghena (ornaments for posterity). We recite mantras before we start the process and every design created on a particular part of the body has a specific name dhandani on lega, pichadi on the back, pukda, pori etc