Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2011
Venue: Various Chinese shrines in Phuket Island
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite. During this time, local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing and merit-making. 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".
The Vegetarian Festival or "jia chai" in the local Hokkien Chinese dialect is believed to have been observed in Phuket since 1825 when the Governor of Thalang, Praya Jerm moved the island's principal town was moved from Ta Reua District to Get-Hoe in Kathu District, in which Phuket's tin mines were located and Chinese immigrants had settled.
Legend has it that during the time, a popular Chinese opera company (called "ngiu" in Thai or "pa hee" in the Hokkien dialect) that was on tour stopped in Phuket to perform for the miners fell. The troupe soon fell ill with an undiagnosed fever and resorted to a strict vegetarian diet in honour the emperor gods Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Song Teh, in the belief that by doing so good health would be restored. For nine days and nights while homage is paid to the Emperor Gods and Star Deities, followers abstain from meat, alcohol and sex. The performers did indeed speedily regain their health leaving the Chinese community in awe and eager to learn more about this natural healing phenomenon.
The opera performers accredited their speedy and miraculous recovery to the observation of a strict vegetarian diet and the faith they held in the accompanying sacred rituals and ceremonies. The locals fervently embraced this new faith.
10 RULES FOR THE VEGETARIAN FESTIVAL
1. Cleanliness of bodies during the festival
2. Clean kitchen utensils and to use them seperately from other who do not join the festival
3. Wear white during the festival
4. Behave physically and mentally
5. No meat eating
6. No sex
7. No alcoholic drinks
8. People at mourning period should not attend the festival
9. Pragnant ladies should not watch any ritual
10. Ladies with period should not attend the ritual
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