The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is on from the 8th to the 16th of October along with the traditional dose of excitement, devotion, and plenty of enthusiasm. The festival is planned following the Chinese lunar calendar and always takes place during the ninth month of it.
Those who are strict observers of the event, typically those with descendents from China, will stick to vegetarian diets throughout the festival and commit the usual rituals to regain health for the coming year, piece of mind, and cleanse their souls of any previous sins that were committed over the past year. To enjoy the festival you do not have to be a strict believer however, as travelers flock to Phuket during the event to take place in the colourful celebration.
It is not known how Phuket Vegetarian week actually got its beginning, but the local myth is that Chinese Opera performer’s fell ill while in Phuket on tour and were only able to recover their health after they followed a strict regime that included abstinence from meat, alcohol, and sex while praying to Chinese gods for strength. The group was said to have forgotten to pray homage to Nine Emperor Gods during the first nine days of the lunar month and needed to cleanse their sins.
Phuket residents were said to have been amazed at their recovery and adopted the tradition of vegetarian dieting. A few members of the opera group were said to have gone to China to bring back holy writings and sacred plaques for a better understand of the rites. Today those who follow the tradition abstain from the same things and are dressed in pure white apparel. The only ones who are exempt are pregnant mothers, menstruating women, and those that are in mourning after the close loss of a loved one.
The festival is great fun to watch given the many different ceremonies that take place such as the inauguration of the festival which includes a lantern pole that is placed straight up so that the Hindu god Lord Shiva can descend down to give observers power and the abilities to take place in many courageous and daring acts. To see the pole go up head to the Jui Tui Shrine near the Phuket Town Fresh Market.
Festivities can be observed everywhere in Phuket during the week with streets and shops brightly decorated and people crowding the streets everywhere to watch fireworks and the many daring performances that take place. It is not rare to find people walking on burning coals, piercing their bodies, or climbing up the sharp rungs of a ladder. It is believed that this daring acts will bring the blessings of God along with their completion.
Although visitors are not expected to take part in the acts; as a sign of respect they can light candles and incense sticks. They may also choose to take food and drinks to the temples just as the locals so that they can feel the positive energy that surges through the temples during the sacred week.