Indra Bahadur 1924 – 1988
Singapore’s Pioneer Tattoo Artist with a reputation and fame that spanned across the oceans. Born with two thumbs on his right hand he became his trade name given by British soldiers who were his clients and his real name was Mr. Indra Bahadur s/o Ram Sing is of Nepalese origin.
Mr. Indra Bahadur was born in 1924 in Falam, the capital of Chin State in Burma (Myanmar). He learned to tattoo from an old tattoo artist who became his guru somewhere in the north-eastern part of India across the border with Burma during Second World War just before the Allied Forces pushed into Japanese-held Burma at the Battle of Imphal.
After the war, Mr. Indra Bahadur opened a tattoo shop at Sule Pagoda in Rangoon the capital of Burma. Not very long after, he left for Singapore which was still under British rule where the British Far East Command was stationed. Sailors of the Royal Navy and tattoos always went hand in hand and the Naval Base in Sembawang made sure that customers always kept Indra Bahadur very busy. In the Seventies, the Vietnam war made sure a steady stream of U.S. Marines and sailors of the U.S. Seventh Fleet on R&R waited patiently in line at New Lucky Store, Bras Basah Road from where Indra Bahadur operated from.
NEW LUCKY STORE was a shophouse located at 37 Bras Basah Road. This is where the Indra’s family resided on the second level and ran their family tattoo business down below.
By the Eighties, Mr. Indra Bahadur had already become famous internationally.
His fame spanned across many continents mostly carried on the lips of countless sailors from numerous ships of many nations that call upon Singapore, not forgetting oil riggers and drillers.
Anyone with a keen eye in discerning various styles of artwork and those well versed in appreciating the subtle nuances of various great masters will be awed by the sheer simplicity of this great tattoo master’s work.
His style in employing the minimum to bring out the maximum was the hallmark of his works. Shadings were used sparingly and were very cleverly deployed in incorporating the blank spaces within to create a sense of completeness as a whole. Each of his work became unique classics never ever replicated successfully by anyone.
Indra Bahadur had built his own tattoo machines from scratch. Each piece is unique and the original machines are now kept and maintained by his son Harka Bahadur (Richard Tat). These special custom machines are still in working order.
Indra Bahadur passed away in August 1988 and his two sons, Singha Bahadur (Singha Tat) and Harka Bahadur (Richard Tat) continued tattooing and brought the tattoo art to new heights and pushed new frontiers. This brought tattooing to the level of social acceptance and became very popular among many who would have shunned it in an earlier era.
Today, the granddaughter of, Ms. Sumithra Debi, better known by many as Sutattoo has emerged as a new legend in the world of tattoo art.
It is obvious, her grandfather must have passed down artistic genes through her mother who is Indra Bahadur’s elder daughter, Mdm Sakuntala Debi. At a teenager age of 16, Su became the youngest professional female tattoo artist in Singapore which was the first breaking into a predominantly male domain. Numerous, countless articles, features, write-ups and interviews featured in various magazines, periodicals and newspapers stand as testimony to her popularity and fame and continuing the legend of a great tattoo master whose spirit and artistic genius continues to propagate and live on in the artwork of Sumithra Debi.
Exotic Tattoos & Piercings is located on the fourth floor at Far East Plaza #04-11. This is where Sumithra Debi Sutattoo operates from dispensing high-quality work done in a hip looking joint where the trendy young generation of tattoo art lovers would meet.
Exotic Tattoos & Piercings are the first family run tattoo art studio in Singapore on record to have the youngest female artist as a professional who went pro at the age of sixteen. Sumithra Debi is Singapore’s only tattoo artist that specializes and is certified in paramedical tattooing. Health and hygiene are taken very seriously and everything that holds the needle and ink is sterilized and the ink used for each tattoo is properly discarded. The studio’s strict adherence to health policy ensures the client’s health and safety are never compromised. Social and moral standards are closely maintained with the age limit being enforced strictly.
With Sumithra Debi, the granddaughter at the helm the legend of Indra Bahadur will continue to be perpetuated by the third generation. The reputation for excellence in service and standards are after all guided by the same principles laid down by the legendary tattoo master himself.