Your Guide To ‘The Vegetarian Festival’ in Phuket, Thailand

One of the most eclectic, awe-inspiring and interesting festivals in Thailand is the vegetarian festival that takes place in Phuket each year. If you are interested in crazy festival and haven’t yet heard about or been to the vegetarian festival in Phuket, then read on and find out about this zany festival that is about far more than eating vegetarian food.

When The Festival Takes Place

Usually the festival takes place around October time, the dates change as the festival falls in line with the Chinese lunar calendar and hits on the 9th month within that calendar.

What is the Festival All About

The idea of the festival is that the Chinese believe that a 10-day diet of vegetarian food and scared rituals will cleanse the should and earn merits for the afterlife. The festival forms one of the parts of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival that takes place across Thailand.

Rituals and Traditions

During the festival, those practicing must where white during the 10 day period and undergo a strict vegetarian diet. The idea is to a complete cleanse of the body which also means no sex or alcohol. Some are exempt from the festival which includes those who are in mourning and women who are going through the process of menstruation or pregnancy.

Mediums will go into a trance-like state as the channel the deities and serve to rid those practicing of bad luck and bad fortune.

During the festival, people will aim to cleans their bodies by going to extraordinary lengths such as putting spikes through their faces, swelling swords and walking on fire.

Where the Festival is Held

Many of the traditions like fire-walking take place on the streets of Phukets but the majority of the rituals will take place a handful of the 40 Temples throughout the city. The Kathu Shrine is the holiest temple in Phuket and and this is where the origins of the vegetarian festival are. Thousands of practitioners will gather at the Kathu Shrine as they seek to rid themselves of bad luck and evil throughout the festivities.

The Closing of the Festival

At the end of the festival there is a huge fireworks display, this is also when the most ‘grotesque’ acts take place by those observing the festival and the final day of the festival is dedicated to prayer and worship as well as the ‘merit-making’ events. The end of the festival culminates in a party-like atmosphere with singing and dancing.

If you were to look online at this festival you will probably just see images of the gory merit-making that takes place but the festival is about far more than that. If you decide to head down to Phuket for the festival you will need to ensure that you remain respectful to the locals, this is an important festival for them and one which could dictate their future. By all means enjoy the festival, but look to keep your distance.

Your Guide To The ‘Songkran Festival,’ in Thailand

You may have heard of a giant water fight that takes place in Thailand every year,  what you have probably heard about is the incredible water fight that takes place in Chiang Mai each year to celebrate Songkran. Whilst this water festival is a key part of Songkran, the festival itself is much more than that and today we are going to take a look at what the festival is, how it is celebrated and what makes the festival so special to the people of Thailand.

What is Songkrann

Songkrann is a celebration of the Thai New Year, the festival takes place on the 13th, 14th and 15th of April each year and it signifies the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. The etymology of the word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word ‘saṃkrānti’, which means astrological passage and the festival coincides with Aries rising on the charts of astrology. There are a great deal of traditions which take place to herald in the New Year and many rituals which the Thai people make in order to ensure they have the most successful year that they can.

Traditions and Rituals

Some of the symbolic traditions which take place during Songkran are the visiting of temples and taking food to Buddha, pouring water on the statues of Buddha as a cleansing process is also performed and many people who have moved away from their families will return to be with them to signify unity. Pouring water on the hands of elders by the younger members of the family is also something that is heavily practiced by way of showing respect.

The Water Festival

The most famous aspect of the Songkran tradition is the water festival, the one which you may have heard about in Chiang Mai has gained such notoriety as a result of its popularity amongst tourists but these festival take place throughout Thailand.  The water festival is an extension of the cleansing of Buddha statues and signifies the Spring-cleaning aspect of this time of year. In many cities and towns throughout Thailand you will find locals showering each other in water from water tanks and guns or even just throwing buckets of water over each other by way of celebration and purification.

Aside from the water festivals, you may also see chalk being thrown over people. This custom has its origins in the monastery as monks used to place chalk on one another as part of the blessing process.

Influences

The festival of Songkrann is heavily influenced by the Hindu festival Holi, the mixture of chalk and water for example are very familiar to the customs used in Holi and even the names are similar in their traditional languages.

Songkrann is a great festival to be part of and you can join the Thais in heralding in their New Year in style the next time that you are in Thailand.