The Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival
One of the most popular and remarkable festivals in Phuket, the Vegetarian Festival is one not to be missed when you find yourself on the island in September. Originating from Taoism in China, this annual 9-day festival on the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar involves not only refraining from eating meat but also some quite bizarre self harming rituals by devotees, which are meant to show their devotion to the Nine Emperor Gods. This year it starts on September 25th.
History of the Vegetarian Festival
The most commonly accepted story is that the Vegetarian Festival came to Phuket from China because a nomadic Chinese opera group fell ill with a malaria epidemic in the 19th century. At that time, malaria was a deadly disease. One of the group was sent back to China to invite the Nine Emperor Gods to follow him to Phuket. In the meantime, the Chinese group followed the tradition of abstaining from meat, alcohol, sex, quarrels, or telling lies in order to purify their bodies and minds and praying for the arrival of the gods. Miraculously, the entire opera group made a full recovery and the people of Phuket have celebrated this event ever since.
The Nine Emperor Gods are believed to arrive via waterways; hence processions are held from the Chinese temples and shrines to water, seashore or rivers to invite them. The processions are not quite for the faint-hearted and involve anything from worshippers piercing their tongues and cheeks with sharp objects to running over a bed of burning coals. Also, keep your distance from the fire crackers that surround the processions; it can be pretty loud and dangerous. On the 9th and last day of the festival – October 5th – a send-off procession sends the gods home. This is a unique event and is definitely worth a visit.
Food, customs and venues
Near the shrines you can find all kinds of food stalls that offer an array of vegetarian food; mostly fried noodles, deep-fried items, and tofu shaped like meat. Many of the restaurants in Phuket Town change their menus during the festival and serve only vegetarian food. Traditionally, people are dressed in white attire for the duration of the festival. There are more than 40 Chinese shrines in Phuket, with the oldest of the shrines being the colourful Jui Tui, Bang Neaw and the Kathu Shrine. While all of the Chinese shrines parade through Phuket Town, the two biggest processions come from Jui Tui and Bang Neaw.
Read more about the Vegetarian Festival here. Our Rock Stars are happy to organise your transport to and from the festival.
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