Have you ever heard of the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket? This is one of the most important festivals in the province where thousands of devotees flock to the venue to celebrate it. Along with them, a lot of photographers and curious tourists visit Phuket to attend the festival too. It's a yearly event which occurs during the Chinese Lunar calendar's 9th month.
An introduction to Phuket Vegetarian Festival
We found a lot of helpful information about this festival on the Go Phuket Blog. For one, this festival has been celebrated for almost 200 years now. Back in the year 1825, a collection of theatrical actors from China was invited to Thailand for a number of representations directed towards Chinese miners. Legend says that all of them got struck by an inexplicable illness (which was probably malaria). It was said that they all got sick because they didn't honor the 9 Taoism Gods in a timely manner. In order to overcome the illness, they offered a vegetarian diet to honor Yok Ong Sone and Kiew Ong Tai. It started as a purification ritual to honor the 9 Emperor Gods and heal the Chinese actors who had fallen ill. After the ceremony, everyone miraculously recovered and they held the festival to honor the Gods once again. Since then, the people in Phuket celebrated the festival almost yearly at a number of shrines across the island.
From this legend originated one of the most incredible and fascinating festivals in the whole world. It's celebrated in commemoration of the miraculous healing that happened all those years ago. This festival happens in October and it's believed to bring luck to anyone who attends. During the festival, devotees gather along the island's streets to perform ceremonies and rituals along those streets and inside sanctuaries.
The goal of the festival
According to an article in kanoa.it, the main goal of this festival is for the devotees to attain purification. When you visit Phuket during the time of the festival, you will see come incredible rituals. A lot of those rituals involve self-torture which is meant to transfer evil from other people to themselves. When they do this, it ensures fortune for the entire community.
So you can expect people practicing their faith in an entirely different way. Some of them go into a trance then start walking on hot coals, climbing stairs filled with blades or even bathing in boiling oil. So if you have a weak stomach, this might not be the best festival for you to attend. On the other hand, it will definitely be a memorable experience which you won't see in the other parts of the world.
Things to keep in mind if you're planning to attend the festival
With its long history and unique rituals, those who aren't familiar with the culture of the Chinese-Thai people might feel bewildered when they attend the event. It's an intensely sacred festival which holds spiritual meaning for all its devotees. So if you plan to attend the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
1. It's not a festival for the faint-hearted
Although not all of the rituals and ceremonies which happen during this festival are gruesome and difficult to watch, a lot of them still are. So if you don't think that you can handle seeing the devotees jamming things through their skin or doing all sorts of self-torture, then you may want to skip this festival and just take a tour of the island.
2. You will learn a lot about the 9 Emperor Gods
The beliefs surrounding this festival have a Taoist origin. The event is meant to honor the 9 Emperor Gods who supposedly healed the Chinese actors who visited the island. Chinese communities all over Southeast Asia celebrate 9 Emperor Gods festivals but only in Phuket will you see self-torture as part of their rituals. The devotees believe that the nine celestial Gods help protect the health of the people, prolong their lives, and help maintain the safety and prosperity of the community.
3. You will enjoy a lot of vegetarian fares
During the festival, you will see a lot of vendors setting their tables up to sell vegetarian fare. Also, plenty of restaurants all over the island modify their menus for the festival making them completely vegetarian. Some hotels even offer special vegetarian dishes as part of the festival's celebration. Basically, no matter where you look, all you will see is vegetarian food.
4. If you plan to attend, wear white
If you're really curious and you want to attend the festival, make sure to wear white clothes from head to toe. This is a simple way to show how dedicated you are in purifying your mind and your body. If you didn't come prepared, you can purchase white clothing from the different shops across the island.