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Unalome Tattoos: What do They Mean?

UnalomesMost people like their tattoos to have meaning. A tattoo’s design can also be inspired by other symbols or icons, like with Zodiac signs or the symbol Om. Unalome tattoos have been growing in popularity and also make meaningful tattoos. At first sight, the unalome designs can like a cute and insignificant doodles, but in fact the unalome’s meaning is profound… and somewhat mysterious!

Unalome’s Meanings

Unalome on forehead

Buddha statue (Myanmar) by Jakubhal

The signification of unalome, or unaalome, is mysterious to this day. Explanations are widely available online, but none of them come from credible sources. In fact, it looks like the same explanation has been copy-pasted from one site to another. Also, there are different versions of the unalome, ranging from the classic one to many altered versions that add different symbols (for example a lotus flower) and thus convey different meanings.

It is widely accepted that unalomes are spiritual symbols, or at least, are part of spiritual symbols related to Theravada Buddhism and close to other spiritual symbols (for example, curlings known as Bindu in Sanskrit and Tigli in Tibetan). The common signification is that they represent the path to enlightenment. The bottom spiral illustrates the struggle with life, struggle that gets thinner as one progress on the path and finally reaches the enlightenment or Nibbana (Nirvana). Unalome also appear on Buddha statues, mainly in Myanmar.

Unalomes appears in Sak Yant tattoos, or bamboo tattoos, an ancient form of tattooing similar to stick and poke tattoos nowadays mainly practiced in Thailand and Myanmar. Thus, another meaning could simply be the end of a text since they are placed at the end of Pali phrases in Sak Yant tattoos.

Sak Yant

Sak Yant by 3dcheapskate on DeviantArt

Unalome for Male or Female

If you browse the Web in search of the unalome’s meanings, you’ll come across the explanation that different orientations of the spiral should be worn either by men or women. This information is unclear since unalomes often appears with spirals starting from the left and from the right within the same tattoo (as shown in the Sak Yant picture above).