Unlike Buddhism, where the Buddha urged that his image not be used, the artwork and symbolism of Hinduism is centered around the many different depictions of the different gods. Like the religious artwork, the tattoos with a Hindu theme use many of these same sacred and familiar images.
Tattoos of the gods are perennial favorites: Brahma, Ganesha, Hanuman, Kali, Krishna, Krishna with Radha, Lakshmi, Shiva, Varuna, and even Vishnu. Often times these favorites in the pantheon will be accompanied by their own set of religious symbols, such as those that Ganesha or Shiva (at right) hold in their multiple hands.
Ganesha has become a favorite Hindu symbol in tattoos in the west. He is the god with an elephant head and is known as the remover of obstacles.
Hanuman is the divine monkey chief and the ultimate devotee of Lord Rama, at one point actually tearing open his own heart to show that Lord Rama was kept there. Although not as popular as Krishna or Ganesha, the scene of the heart opening is one that is done in tattoos.
Although Varuna is rarely done as a tattoo symbol, his associated symbols are well known in tattooing. Varuna was the supreme divine authority in early Hindu belief, riding a chariot drawn by seven swans while holding the lotus, a noose, the conch, and a vessel of gems.