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The Phuket Vegetarian Festival

The Vegetarian Festival lasts for 9 days and 9 nights from the 1st to the 9th Chinese lunar month. This festival normally falls on the eleventh or around October. The Chinese call it "The ninth month vegetarian festival".



In Thailand, the vegetarian festival centers are in Trang Province, in Krabi Province and in Phang-nga Province. But the most famous center is in Phuket Province. Due to the old and believable legend is that while there was an epidemic at Kratu District in Phuket, a group of Chinese opera entertainers performed their vegetarian festival and built some Taoist temples to get rid of bad lucks and to heal the ailments. The native people there then all believed those activities. They have maintained and performed this festival until now. In the beginning of this festival, some the local people representatives went to Kung Sai Community in China to invite the joss-stick smoke and ash called among the natives Hiawaient to perform their vegetarian festival. On the way back from China to Phuket, the joss-stick had to be lit all time.
On the first night of this festival, there is an important activity, The Tall lamp or Ko Teng Raising Ceremony at each Taoist temple. The nine wicks-in-oil in a glass cover are arranged in three rows on Ko Teng. This tall lamp represents Kiu Ong Tah., The holy Chinese God. Once the tall lamp is lighted and raised, it signified the arrival of Kiu Ong Tah and Siva, the God of Heaven.
The tall lamp is lowered by a pulley to add oil to the wicks and raised to the top of the post everyday in order to prevent the lighted from going out.
Another activity on the next day is to light big joss-stick. Some ritual propitiation, such as, sandal wood, slabs, the gold and silver paper and amulets are burnt to worship the shrine spirits, such as, the previous dead Kings or the dead people who had their good deeds for the nation.
After the first three days, the vegetarians realize that they have purified themselves. There will be and invitation the other two gods through the spirit mediums. The first god is 'Lamtao' who is the god register for the birth record and 'Pugtao' the god register for the death record. The Peung Kun or the God soldiers are invited to Protect vegetarian people from the evils and monsters. The highlight of this activity is watching the spirit mediums performances. Some of the god soldiers 'characters like Hieng Jia, or Buosong who could kill tigers with their bare hands are very exciting. The devotees are given Hu (a piece of paper with Chinese alphabets believed to be a holy amulet).
Most tourists expect to attend and see the events on the eighth and the ninth day. There will be a very exciting street procession. This is the highlight of the vegetarian festival in PhuketOn the eighth day, there will be an exciting procession from the Taoist Temples through town. The main reason of this procession is the fire-worshipping ceremony (Hiawaient) from Kung Sai Community. A Sedan chair covered with yellow curtains is used to invite Kiu Ong Tah from Sapan Hin. Kiu ong tah's sedan chair is well regarded for important gods and goddesses possessing the spirit mediums. The spirit mediums, most are men will perform the superstitious activities, such as they cut themselves with swords, axes, and spiked ball andd pierce themselves with needles and large iron skewers. Some of them even cut their tongues and walk around the town without being hurt or weary. This street procession is headed by a group of devotees, usually school children carrying flags and banners with the gods 'or goddesses' names in Chinese characters. In the processions, there are devotees playing drums, gongs and cymbals. The people whose houses are along the roads where the procession is due to pass set up an altar in front of their houses Lighted candles and joss-sticks, flowers and offering of fruit and tea are placed on the alter table. When the procession is passing their house, they let off the fire crackers and then invited the gods and goddesses in the form of possessed mediums into their houses. The spirit mediums usually take some the offerings and give them blessing in return.
On the ninth day or the last day of this festival, there will be 'Koy Hoy' or the fire-walking ceremony, which is very thrill for the first time visitors who have no such experiences. The possessed mediums walk barefoot on the burning charcoal without being hurt. The devotees who follow a strict vegetarian diet, abstain from sex and sinful deeds and have faith in Kiu Ong Tah can also walk on fire without hurting themselves.
The Koy Han Or the bridge-crossing ceremony. This ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies. It is in fact a self-purifying ceremony. The participants have to hold a human effigy cut from paper with their names on, and onion-like vegetable, a coin of 25 stangs. On the two sides of the bridge, possessed mediums wave their personal flags to chase away the impurity that may be in the devotees' bodies, sprinkle them with lustral water to clean them and give them blessing. The devotees are also stamped on their back to signify that they have passed the ceremony and are thus purified from sins.
At night, there is a Blade-ladder-Climbing Ceremony. High ladder about 12 meters high with 32 sharp knife steps. During the ceremony, barefoot spirit mediums carefully step up on the very sharp blades till they reach top without cutting themselves.
On last night of the ceremony, there is the farewell ceremony which is performed near the sea or at Sapan Hin. A long procession of spirit mediums and devotees parade through town. The sound of drums, gongs, cymbals and fire-crackers are indispensably heard. Some buildings around Phuket hang firecrackers for 9 floors. When the procession passes, Phuket is then full of smoke and continuous noise of firecracker. When the farewell ceremony ends, on the next day, there will be the tall-lamp lowering ceremony. That comes the end of Phuket's annual vegetarian festival.

Thai Version


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