The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is here again! Some festivals are simply legendary. The festival is one such event with a reputation that precedes itself. The event is currently taking place from 17 to 25 October 2020.
This annual festival is held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. And is so famous that worldwide publications such as Maxim and FHM have featured the event in their magazines more than once. If sacred rituals and gruesome acts of devotion such as fire walking and self-torture are your things, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is right up your alleyway. Here is some info to give you a better understanding of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
What is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival?
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is also known as jia chai in the local Chinese dialect. The festival is believed to be Taoist in its roots, providing Phuket’s Chinese community with 9 days in which they abstain from meat products and other stimulants during the period. It is believed that abstinence will bring about good luck and help the devotees obtain good health and peace of mind.
– Festival History
Although we are not entirely sure how the festival started, it is widely believed that a Chinese opera troupe touring the island in 1825 was asked to perform for tin miners in Kathu. Shortly after, the opera troupe all came down with an illness, which was believed to be jungle fever. To combat the disease, the troupe partook in a vegetarian diet in honor of the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone. Sure enough, the illness subsided as quickly as it appeared. Amazed by the rapid turn in fortunes for the opera troupe, the Kathu tin miners were intrigued to learn what methods they had used to fight the illness. The troupe told them of their vegetarian rituals, which impressed the miners who from that moment delved headfirst into the faith.
In later years, one of the devotees of the festival in Phuket volunteered to visit Kansai, China, and brought back holy persons and scriptures where they were met by the Kathu tin miners at Bang Niao Pier on arrival that led to a procession which now is a sacred part of the festival.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival Abstinence
The main commitments of abstinence during the 9-day festival include:
* Cleanliness of the body during festivities
* Clean kitchen utensils that can only be used by those taking part in the festival
* The wearing of white clothing during the 9 days
* Good behavior both physically and mentally
* No meat-eating
* No sex
* No Alcohol
* Those mourning should not take part
* Pregnant and menstruating women cannot attend the ceremonies
The ceremonies take place within the Chinese temples scattered throughout Phuket Town, with the main temple being the Jui Tui Shrine. The first act of the festival is to raise a ten-meter lantern pole to notify the nine Chinese gods that the festivities are about to begin. Once erected, the Hindu god of Shiva is believed to descend, bringing the festival spiritual power. Over the course of the next few days, the Chinese/Thai community brings along their household gods to the temple along with many food and drink offerings. It is believed that the household gods benefit from a spiritual injection from the temple during the 9 days of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Phuket Town
In and around Phuket Town, you will encounter hundreds of vegetarian food stalls with a selection of delectable delights. The almost electric atmosphere has to be experienced to be believed. Thousands of people converge on the town, creating a vibrant party where hustle and bustle are the main ingredients.
The street processions are the main feature and focal point of the festival. To the naked eye, the acts of fire walking and self-torture can be quite graphic yet fascinating. It is common to see devotees of the procession piercing their bodies with all manner of items, sharpened and blunt. Guys with swords sticking through the cheeks on their faces are the norm, which brings observers to the question: Why do they do that?
The Ma Song are special devotees who are used as a platform by the gods to manifest during the festivals. Manifesting the supernatural powers of the gods, the Ma Song reaches a trance-like state where they perform the acts of self-torture which aims to shift the evil spirits of individuals to themselves so the community can enjoy good luck and enhanced well being for the future year. The acts include bladed ladder climbing, hot oil bathing, and fire-walking. Some of the acts are toe-curling, although others may find it immensely spiritual and interesting.
9-Day Phuket Town Festival
Throughout the 9 days of the festival, you will hear a constant barrage of deafening drum beating and fireworks, which are to fundamentally drive the evil spirits away. By adhering to the abstinence of meat products and sex alongside partaking in the ceremonies, the devotees of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival will strengthen their mind, body, and souls. The aim is to keep away evil spirits and then prosper from good luck and happiness. Promoting good hygiene, brightness, and inner peace, this interesting 9 days is one of the most important festivals in Phuket and the longest-running.
If you are in Phuket from the 17 to 25 of October 2020, visiting the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a must. Many of the streets are closed for cars and bikes, allowing you the free reign of the town, although there are some restrictions because of COVID-19. It will be an atmosphere you have never experienced in your life, so make the most of it if you are lucky enough to be visiting during this sacred time.
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