Date 15 - 23 Oct 2012
Phuket Island seems like a curious place for a vegetarian festival, but the Phuket Vegetarian Festival has become world renowned for its food and its curious religious rites. Held during the 9th Chinese lunar month, typically September or October, the vegetarian festival spans the first nine days of the lunar month. During that time, Buddhists of Chinese descent follow a strict vegetarian diet, wear white clothing, and observe a set of rules that are intended to purify their bodies and minds.
All that seems well and good, but what has drawn the greatest publicity (other than the outstanding vegetarian food of course) is the unique manner in which some attempt to purify themselves during a procession of asceticism. On the 6th day of the vegetarian festival, after fasting for several days, devotees known as “soldiers of god” commit feats of self mutilation and tests of intense pain, including piercing themselves with needles and knives and walking across hot coals.
Around Phuket, in addition to large flags hung in honor of the event, 9 lanterns are lit up and placed aloft on Ko Teng poles to symbolize the presence of the deities throughout the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. On the last day, there is a “Koi Han” ceremony to exorcize ill fortune, and a finally a farewell ceremony for the deities at night.