October 1, 2015
Where the act of blood-letting is accompanied by the deafening noise of exploding gun powder
Post revised 27/08/2016
When: 1st – 9th October 2016
Where: In and around Phuket Town. Phuket. Southern Thailand
Vegetarian festivals have a long tradition in Thailand and are believed to be based on the Chinese ‘Nine Emperor Gods Festival’. This year’s festival starts and finishes as always with the same ritual when in the late afternoon of the first day “go teng lantern poles” are raised at the participating Chinese shrines. The nine Chinese gods are said to descend down the poles into the shrines, the same gods are then able to ascend the same poles before they are removed on the last night of the festival.
The activities in most parts of the Kingdom are not on the scale of Phuket where the festivities encompasses more unusual rituals. In this event religious devotees will perform ritualized mutilation upon themselves and one another, while under a trance-like state, including but not limited to: impaling through cheeks, arms, face, legs, back etc. With everything from small needles to long swords and other objects such as fire arms and umbrella’s, in fact the size of the item is only restricted to the ability of the pieced person to carry the object.
The blood-letting does not stop there, it also includes partial skinning, thankfully the skin is not removed, just cut and flipped over (sounds less painful not!), if that does not make you want to rush in and join the fun there is also, slashing of limbs, chest, stomach and especially the tongue with swords, axes and knives. If all that was not enough to leave you feeling a bit squeamish then you can always take stroll to witness people walking bare foot on hot coals, or climbing up and down, barefoot, a stepladder with a total of 72 crosspieces made of sharp iron blades. All in all this part of the festival is not for the faint of heart amongst us.
This noisy colourful festival is not all about gore and there is lots more to see and do at the participating Chinese Temples and the multitude of demonstrations and shows all around the town and of course this being Thailand there will always be a vast array of stalls selling local products and even more selling delicious food.
While the celebrations go on for the full 9 days the first real possession does not take place until a few days into the event, while the last full night on the 9th is possibly the busiest and certainly the loudest. It is without doubt a pyromaniac’s dream come true, when the noise from what can only be literally tons of black powder is vented from thousands and thousands of firecrackers and fire-works, which in turn light up both the heavens and the pavements, with the result that this crescendo of noise leaves you deafened and slightly shell shocked – and at times slightly scorched, best to wear something more than just flip-flops and shorts.
For more on what is involved for those who participate in the more spiritual elements of the festival, including adherence to gin je, and what is ‘je food’, plus locations of the main festivals across Thailand click here for our post on the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
A big thanks to Jamie Monk for the use of his pictures. To see a full schedule of the festival click to see his brilliant blog
Again a big thanks to Jamie Monk for the use of his pictures. To see a full schedule of the festival click to see his brilliant blog
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