Phuket Vegetarian Festival
15th – 23rd October 2012
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival, celebrated by the Chinese community in Phuket, is Phuket’s most important festival held over nine days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar (usually in late September or early October).
During the festival there are various ceremonies to invoke the gods such as body piercing, firewalking and other acts of self mortification. These take place in the vicinity of the six Chinese shrines around Phuket Town, with the main shrine being “Jui Tui” (please refer to Phuket Town map below).
At the root of the festival is a belief that by eating vegetarian food and observing the commitments (see below), believers will purify their body and soul, as well as bring good fortune upon themselves and the community.
Mediums, known as mar song, are believed to be possessed by the Nine Emperor Gods. The mediums are dressed in clothes befitting the god that has possessed them. It is believed that the god will protect them from serious harm while they perform the various rites and acts of self mortification.
Each of the main shrines will hold a parade through Phuket Town on different days of the week (see festival parades schedule below), with the mediums demonstrating the might of their respective god by withstanding the pain of their self mortification. Many people will also set up a table of offerings to receive blessings from the passing mediums.
The climax of the festival for each shrine is a procession on the last day to Saphan Hin, where the gods are given a big sending off with rituals and a huge quantity of fireworks.
Rules for Festival Participants
The following commitments are undertaken by all participants of the festival. For those unable to commit to the full nine days, merit is still gained from adhering to the rules for part of the festival period.
- Maintain cleanliness of the body.
- Use only clean kitchenware which has not been used by others who do not participate in the festival.
- Dress in white.
- Be moral in both thoughts and actions.
- Abstain from eating meat.
- Abstain from any sexual activity.
- Abstain from alcohol.
- Abstain from foods with strong flavour such as garlic and onion.
- People in mourning should not participate in the festival.
- Pregnant women and menstruating women should not attend the ceremonies.
Origins of the Vegetarian Festival
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is believed to have begun in 1825. At the time, there was a Chinese opera group who became ill with malaria while performing in Kathu. In order to rid themselves of the illness, they decided to adhere to a vegetarian diet as an oblation to the Nine Emperor Gods. After they recovered from the illness, which at the time was usually fatal, the people of Kathu celebrated by holding a vegetarian festival to thank the gods and celebrate the recovery of the opera group.
Schedule for Vegetarian Festival Parades 2012
|Wed 17th Oct||Sapam Shrine|
|Thu 18th Oct||Samkong Shrine|
|Fri 19th Oct||Ban Tha Ruea Shrine|
|Sat 20th Oct||Bang Neow & Cherng Talay Shrines|
|Sun 21st Oct||Jui Tui Shrine|
|Mon 22nd Oct||Kathu & Yokkekeng Shrines|
|Tue 23rd Oct||Sui Boon Tong Shrine|
Map of Chinese Shrines in Phuket Town
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