by Emz Garcia
Anyone for a little self-mutilation !!……
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival takes place each year on the first 9 days of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calender & is the celebration for the beginning of Taoist Lent. During this period the devout local Chinese community refrains from eating all meat and other vices, with most local Phuket restaurants also adapting their menus to support the festival.
The Taoist event celebrates the belief that they will gain good health, fortune & peace of mind if they abstain from eating meat during this period.
Everyone dresses in white and shopkeepers set up small alters with offerings of incense, flowers, candles, fruit, and 9 cups of tea to the 9 emperor deities honored by the festival.
Apart from serving good vegetarian food, various traditional rituals also take place during the festival, some of them slightly macabre others downright gruesome. These range from offerings of food & drink to the taoist gods to walking on burning hot coals all the way to wholesale self-mutilation including extreme body piercings with the use of knives, swords, guns,skewers and a very wide range of household items!.
The reason they do it is to act as “mediums” for the 9 gods present in Taoist beliefs, and by their self-torture accept the evil doings of individuals,which will ensure good luck for everyone, they also believe that the gods will protect them from any harm by their actions!.
The exact origins of the festival are unknown, but legend has it that the Phuket Vegetarian Festival began in the 19th century when a travelling Chinese opera troupe who were entertaining local miners all contracted some kind of illness.
They prayed to the Nine Taoist Emperor Gods and adhered to a vegetarian diet to honor the gods & were quickly cured when they adhered to the 9 day ritual which is now held each year promoting inner peace, brightness, and proper hygiene.
Despite all the potential health hazards, however, the participants usually leave relatively unscathed, other than the “souvenirs” left on their faces & bodies!.
If you plan on visiting the Phuket vegetarian festival make sure you check out the Phuket Accommodation nice and early, as the festival grows in popularity every year!.