Phuket might seem like an odd place for a fully-vegetarian event, but the Phuket Vegetarian Festival has become almost synonymous with the Thai island. Also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, this raucous-filled vegetarian festival is held once a year in Phuket, during the 9th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.
During the nine days, from 8 October through 17 October, Phuket Island will come to life with wild drums, ululations, colorful floats, flags & flowers, earsplitting fireworks, and the unmistakable smell of an assortment of Chinese traditional herbs. There’s also a procession of near-trance men and women with their faces and bodies pierced with bizarre objects like swords, spears, knives, and whatnot.
During the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, the ethnic Chinese Buddhist stave off meats, dress in pure white and adhere to strict rules of purification. In that time, the whole town of Phuket is dressed in large flags in honor of the festival with 9 lanterns placed on Ko Teng poles to ward off evil and welcome the presence of the gods throughout the festival.
If you intend to attend or marvel at this fabulous festival this year, be sure to snap up Phuket luxury villas early enough. So, what’s the Phuket Vegetarian Festival all about? Keep on reading to learn more.
What’s the Phuket Vegetarian Festival?
As called Jia Chai locally, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is held every autumn for nine days during the 9th lunar month (Chinese calendar). During this period, Phuket’s ethnic Chinese community (nearly 38% of the entire island’s population) refrains 100% from eating meat and Phuket turns into an orgy of festivities and performances. What’s more interesting is that a throng of young men performs self-mortification acts in a bid to please the deities and protect the community from blanket harm.
Origin and History of Phuket Vegetarian Festival
It all started in 1825 when an unexplained tropical catastrophe hit the population of Chinese immigrants who’d come to the island to mine tin and build a future for their lineage. From then on, the community as a whole decided to stick to a vegetarian diet and perform trance-like acts of self-mortification to appease Yok Ong Sone The and Kiew Ong Tai The, two of Chinese so-called “Emperor Gods.” Today, 150 years later, the ethnic Chinese of the island are still embracing the tradition. On the last day of the festival, a ceremony known as Koi Han is held to bid farewell to the emperor gods and exorcise evil from the community.
What Can One Expect from the Nine Emperor Gods Festival?
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the festival would be marked by a somber mood and experience associated with most temples. Phuket Vegetarian Festival is nothing but raucous, loud, lively, and filled with merriment. With a huge procession throwing fireworks and beating intense drums, it is much akin to a live parade.
You can expect to meet or see two types of participants: the passive crowd which wear white while the entranced devotees – the maj song – don in elaborate costumes and self-mutilate themselves with spears, knives or just about any object they can lay their hands on. Those picked out to be mah song are often unmarried women and men, who perform outrageous acts like lying on a bed of knives, walking on a hot charcoal bed or piercing themselves with sharp, bizarre objects. Because of the large crowds and festivities, you might want to book one of the Phuket luxury villas days before so you can truly focus on the festival.
Where is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival Held?
Nowadays, the Vegetarian Festival is centered on the six Chinese temples on Phuket Island. Weeks before the actual festival, the streets around the shrines become a beehive of activity and yellow flags reminiscence of Chinese culture pop up on nearly every intersection and roadside. Nearby Phuket luxury villas are filled to the brim, with tourist enjoying infinity pools, beach parties, and other sizzling amenities. Décor, stages, and parade flair often appear near all temples, with hundreds of food stands erected to serve veggie meals to guests.
Cherng Talay, Phut Jaw, Kathu, Bang Niew, and Jui Tui are just but a few temples where the action takes place. Inquire with Phuket luxury villas beforehand to find out the actual schedule of events. The festivities often move from one temple to the next throughout the festival.
While most people attend Phuket Vegetarian Festival to witness the extreme performances, vegetarian cuisine can also be found aplenty. All Phuket luxury villas, food stalls, restaurants, and café serve mouthwatering Thai noodle and other vegan dishes that are prepped without meat.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival Rule
All attendees are expected to observe the following 10 golden rules throughout the ceremony:
- Strictly vegetarian diet
- You must maintain body cleanliness
- Must keep kitchen utensils clean
- No sex during the entire period
- Must wear white
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Behave well both mentally and physically
- Menstruating women must stay away from the rituals
- Mourners must not attend
- No pregnant woman should be involved in the rituals
When Is Phuket Vegetarian Festival?
You can see the festival from 9 – 17 October 2018. Plan a hassle-free festival stay today by checking out Phuket luxury villas.
Published by Alice Queen