Phuket Vegetarian Festival - Photos & History

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Silent incantation

Procession to Saphan Hin

Just call me spike

Origins of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Medium on the roof of a car

Fasting ceremonies have always been practiced and are named "Chai" in Taoism religion.

In 1825, Phuket was covered with a dense forest inhabited by tigers and other fierce creatures. Chinese people - survivors of the 1809's Burma invasion and Chinese "Hokkien", Suo Thao" and "Ai Ming", gathered in Nai Tu Village (today: Kathu) where Tin mines offered job opportunities. Kathu was prosperous, counting numerous houses and shops, even a Chinese opera!

At that time, a mysterious fever was spreading in villages surrounding Kathu. The opera's responsible noted that old and traditional rituals were not made as well as in China. He decided to set up a fasting ritual with the actors of the troup. After 9 days of fasting, the disease stopped and no one in Kathu got sick afterward.

However, a Chinese man from Kang-Si thought that a lot of differences remained in the ritual, compared with the way it was done in China. He offered to go back to China in search of sacred statues, items and healing books. People from Nai Tu collected money to help him: travel to China and come back was a long way in the middle of XIXth century.

Fire walking ceremony in Kathu

One year later, he arrived in Phuket at Bang Niao pier, on the 7th day of the ninth lunar month. He brought back books, talismans, magic formulas, and a sign to place at the front of the shrine. All people from Kathu went to welcome him and escort him back to Kathu in a procession: Phuket Vegetarian festival was born.

36,000 Gods and specific divinities protect and take care about each person. In return, it is only asked to lay flowers on the spirit house all year round. Once a year, a fast has to be done: in that way, all sins are pushed away. It is a matter of fact that the diseases was caused by all the bad actions, weird thought and naughty behavior. After fasting, everything is great, a good feeling spreads in the community. This ceremony of fast, named "Djè Chai" or "Troot Djin" in Phuket, is held on the nine first days of the ninth month of the Chinese year. The figure 9 is an entirety symbol.

10 commitments to be followed during the Festival

Last evening's procession

• Cleanliness of the body
• Use special kitchen ustensils only for the festival
• Dress in white or in a very light color
• Behave physically and mentally
• Don't eat: meat, fish, eggs, milk
• No sex
• No alcoholic beverage
• People in mourning should not go to any ceremony
• Pregnant ladies should not go to any ceremony
• Women in their period should not go to any ceremony

On the last evening of the festival, you could assist and participate in the 'crossing the bridge' ceremony which happens in all Chinese shrines involved in the festival. People who did not follow the commitments seriously should not try to cross the bridge, as they may fail to reach its other end. People who cross the bridge successfully receive a red stamp on the back of their white shirt or Tshirt as a reward from the Gods for their commitment.

Phuket Town, nowadays...

Women can be mediums

Exept the Muslim community, the entire city follows the Festival and, if it's possible, the rituals. Everyone dressed in white, without any bad thought nor violent behavior. Everyone eats the delicious vegetarian cuisine, goes to watch the miraculous healing ceremonies, the mortifications, that are not a display of power but a way to pay for other people sins.

When mediums pierce their cheeks, walk on fire, beat their back with an axe or climb a razor blades ladder, it's to take on them all the pain and sorrow, all misfortune and sadness from the world.

Mediums suffer to make you feel better. Possessed by a god, they don't feel pain anymore. When a medium comes close to you, good luck for you, join your hands as in a prayer and listen carefully: a God is talking to you...

Text written by Bobol.

Each year the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand gives all information about the festival.

Tourism Authority of Thailand

Southern office : Region 4
73-75 Phuket Road, Amphoe Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand
Tél. +66 (0)76 211036, 212213, 217138
Fax. +66 (0)76 213582

The office is open all year round from 8.30 am till 4.30 pm.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Photo Gallery 2009

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