Phuket - Vegetarian Festival
When : 17 - 26 Oct 2009
Where : Phuket, Thailand
The Thai-Chinese in Phuket have long passed on the vegetarian festival to purify mind and soul by refraining from meat consumption and meditating. Symbolising the presence of the deities throughout the festival are 9 lanterns lit up and placed aloft on Ko Teng poles. On the 6th day of the festival, there will be religious processions and incredible displays of face-and-body piercing. On the last day, there will be a “Koi Han” ceremony to exorcize ill fortune and a farewell ceremony for the deities at night.
Every first day of the ninth lunar month the streets of Phuket come to life with the Vegetarian Festival. Devotees push steel rods through their cheeks and tongues in a gruesome display, marking the start of a purification period.The ceremonies date back to the mid-19th century when a travelling Chinese opera company fell gravely ill. Fearing that they had let down their Gods, the actors performed self-mutilation rites to try and cure themselves. It is also celebrated by devout Chinese all over the world, although the island's five temples are the most famous venues. On day one gods, spirits and ghosts are petitioned for their mercy and assistance during the following nine days. Various ceremonies are performed in the temples and processions of white-clad devotees fill the streets.After dark on day six and seven believers gather to run over glowing charcoal. Of course, there are no burns on the feet to prove their journey. Day seven involves ladders with rungs of sharpened blades. Participants run up and down them, fuelled by a frenzied spiritual fervour. Days eight and nine involve another procession through the town. While the first one was white, this one is red. Several participants show off their spiritual prowess even further by piercing different parts of their bodies with iron needles, measuring up to four metres long.