The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar it is purported to be one of the largest celebrations of it's kind in the region. The vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite. Many of the local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making. The food presented throughout the streets of Phuket City and actually the island as a whole is fabulous. Sacred rituals are performed at various Chinese shrines and temples and aesthetic displays such as walking barefooted over hot coals and ascending ladders with bladed rungs are performed by entranced devotees known as "Ma Song".
This is our temple just at the end of our street all flagged and decorated for the festival.
Joss sticks and charcoal create a wee bit of smoke
My husband rode by on his bike to take some great pictures of the opening at our local temple.
Throughout the festival participants wear white
Offerings at the Temple altar
Phuket's Vegetarian festival (or jia chai in local Hokkien Chinese dialect) began in 1825, when the govenor of Thalang, Praya Jerm, moved the island's principal town from Ta Reua in Thalang District to Get-Hoe in Kathu District, where were tin mines and Chinese miners. Kathu was then still covered by jungle and fever was rife. It happened that a traveling opera company (called ngiu in Thai or pua-hee in Hokkien dialect) came from China to perform for the miners. When the whole company grew sick from an unnamed malady, they kept to a vegetarian diet to honor two of the emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone Teh. The sickness afflicting the opera troupe then disappeared. This greatly interested the people of Kathu, who asked how it was done. The answer came that ritual vegetarianism with its attendant ceremonies had been the cause, with the result that people embraced the faith enthusiastically. Thus the festival began:starting the first evening of the ninth lunar month, it continued until the ninth evening; the aim was to bring good luck to individuals as well as to the community.
It later happened that one familiar with the festival volunteered to return to Kansai, in China, where he invited the sacred Hiao Ho-le or Hiao lan (incense smoke) and Lian Tui (name plaques), which have the status of gods, to come stay in Kathu. He also brought holy writings used in the ceremonies, returning to Phuket on the seventh night of the ninth month. The people, upon hearing of his arrival, went in procession to Bang Niao Pier to bring him and his sacred cargo back. This was the origin of the processions that figure so greatly in the festival. The afternoon before the festival begins, a great pole at each temple is raised, called the Go Teng pole, with which the gods are invited to descend. At midnight the pole is hung with nine lanterns, signalizing the opening of the fest. Two important gods are also invited down at midnight to preside over ceremonies; these are Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Tae.
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