Lucky to live here on Phuket…. where many age-old traditions are still practised… Many festivals and rituals have come into the present from the past but they do not lose their popularity in today’s life on Phuket.
The Vegetarian Festival started about 150 years ago in the Kathu district, where the majority of the Chinese tin mine workers were settled in Phuket. They formed such a large portion of the community that a group of Chinese opera performers were hired to entertain them and their families. During the Chinese ninth lunar month, Phuket was hit with an epidemic of a fatal disease and the loss of many lives.
Eventually, they realised they had forgotten to pay homage to the Nine Emperor Gods (Kiu Ong Iah) in the first nine days of the month. Thus, one of the performers was sent to China to invite the Kiu Ong Iah to Phuket. The next year the Chinese followed the tradition of refraining from eating meat, drinking alcoholic drinks, engaging in sex, quarreling, telling lies or killing. The epidemic ceased, and, every year since, the people of Phuket have continued to celebrate the festival.
Visitors are perhaps most impressed with the spectacle of people, ostensibly possessed by gods, piercing their tongues, cheeks, and other parts of the anatomy with sharp implements. Adepts apparently feel no pain, and show little or no sign of real injury.
During a period of nine days, those who are participating in the festival dress all in white and kin che which has come to be translated as abstinence from eating meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products. Vendors and proprietors of restaurants indicate that che food is for sale at their establishments by putting a yellow flag out with the word (che) written on it in red. However, technically, only food prepared in the sacred kitchen of the Chinese kitchen in the temple in Thailand, called sanchao or am is che, as it must undergo a series of rituals before it can be given that name.
Masong are the people who invite the spirits of gods to possess their bodies. Ma is the word for horse in Thai, and the name masong refers to how the spirits of the gods use the bodies of these people as a vehicle, as one rides a horse. Only pure, unmarried men or women without families of their own can become masong. At the temple they undergo a series of rituals to protect them for the duration of the festival, during which flagellation and self-mutilation is practiced. The masong tradition doesn’t exist in China and is believed to have been adopted from the Indian festival of Thaipusam.
The festivities in Phuket include a procession of masong wearing elaborate costumes who pierce their cheeks and tongues with all manner of things, including swords, banners, machine guns, table lamps, and flowers. While the face is the most common area pierced, some also pierce their arms with pins and fishhooks. Teams of people accompany the masong to keep their wounds clean and to help support the heavier piercings. It is believed that while they are possessed the masong will not feel any pain. They can also be seen shaking their heads back and forth continually, and usually do not seem to “see” their surroundings. At the temple during the festival there is also firewalking and blade-ladder climbing. While large crowds of people gather to watch, the entranced mahsong distribute blessed candy and pieces of orange cloth with Chinese characters printed on them yang . for good luck.
Phuket in such moments is filled with lots of stalls selling vegetarian food and when darkness falls the night sky lights up with beautiful fireworks that certainly are enjoyed by both children and adults.
This bright, unique and unforgettable sight, attracts many visitors from around the world.
Last but not least many, many thanks go to my friend Katie Wellington for the lovely photos she has allowed me to use…Thank you so much Katie………Me incapacitated with a sore toe Playing with water and Saang Chai and this is the result. So like a good Samaritan it was Katie to the rescue and she came up trumps for me…….Great Photos lovely lady xxxxx
Until next time enjoy… love you all xxxx