Misspelled Sanskrit Tattoos on Rihanna and David Beckham?


In recent years Sanskrit tattoos have become more prevalent among Western celebrities like Grammy winner Rihanna and footballer (soccer) player David Beckham. According to some Sanskrit experts, unless Western celebrities get advice on the  Sanskrit script, they run the risk of carrying misspelled Sanskrit tattoos on their bodies. In fact, this may be happening more often that we realize. According to some, both Rihanna and David Beckham may be carrying on them misspelled Sanskrit tattoos.

As someone born in India and steeped into that ancient culture, I am fascinated by this trend. I do not have any Sanskrit tattoos on me but I see these on my Indian friends quite often.  OM, the mystic syllable, is the most common tattoo.

In addition to Rihanna who also has a Sanskrit prayer tattoo from the Bhagavad- Gita, MTV winner actress Jessica Alba (Sin City), musician Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), dancer-singer Kimberly Wyatt (Pussycat Dolls), actress-singer Alyssa Milano (Who’s the Boss), Golden Globe winner actress Gillian Anderson (The X Files), etc.,  have felt an attraction to the ancient sacred language of India and gotten Sanskrit tattoos on them.

According to some experts, Rihanna’s latest tattoo inspired by the holy text of Bhagavad- Gita is “incorrectly written”.  Similarly, David Beckham has his wife’s name Victoria on his forearm in the Devanagri script and it appears to read, if literally read, as “Vihctoria”.

I am no Sanskrit expert. But it is quite possible that a different combination of letters in the Devanagri script are needed to create the same sound and effect in English. The so called “experts” could differ on whether it is an actual misspelling or not. The way I look at it, it is the sentiment that counts.  We should not be too critical of other people’s Sanskrit tattoos.  The sources for this article are given below David Beckham’s picture. Note the Sanskrit tattoo on his forearm with his wife’s name in the Devanagri script.

David Beckham



One thought on “Misspelled Sanskrit Tattoos on Rihanna and David Beckham?

  1. The David Beckham controversy is a manufactured one. The author of the piece is an ignorant fellow.

    All proper names are just names, they just get transliterated into the script that the language referring to them is written in. Sanskrit is variously written in different scripts, one of which is also Devanagari. The Roman script has two different consonants for the same sound, viz. V and W. In India, where most scripts work on phonetic representation of words, this is taken as a sign that the pronunciation of these two consonants is different. Particularly in Maharashtra, where I come from, V is taken to be equivalent of WH. Phonetically that would put Victoria as WHIKTORIA. This is not wrong. It is just how the transliteration would work. that is what was tattooed on David Beckham’s hand. He probably got his tattoo in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra.

    And ignorant bums make a mountain of a molehill!


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