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Phuket Vegetarian Festival blasts into 2011

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: Devotees at Chinese shrines across Phuket raised their go teng poles at dusk last night and began reciting incantations to invite the Jade Emperor and Nine Emperor Gods to descend from the heavens.

Among the VIPs joining Kathu Mayor Chai-anan Sutthikul in declaring the Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2011 officially open at the Kathu Shrine – the “original home” of the Vegetarian Festival – were Culture Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Prarop Laovanich and Pheu Thai Party spokesman Phrompong Nopparit.

Fireworks lit up the sky and lion dancers paraded in celebration of the return of the annual festival.

At midnight, nine lanterns were hung from each go teng pole at participating shrines to mark the traditional start of the nine-day festival.

The festivities begin in earnest today, with most shrines observing at least two days of prayers and ceremonies to make offerings to the gods, ahead of a full schedule of traditional activities to invoke purification of the mind, body and soul.

First to get ablutions underway on Friday will be devotees, called mah song (“spirit mediums”), at Tae Gun Tae Shrine in Baan Pasak, Thalang, where participants will bathe in hot oil from 8pm.

At the same time, devotees at Choor Su Goong Naka Shrine, south of Phuket Town, will bathe in hot water.

With purification by liquid complete, the true testaments of faith follow on the program.

On Sunday, devotees will climb bladed ladders at Bangkoo Shrine from 7:45pm. Other devotees will walk through fire at Tha Reua, Yokkekeng and Jang Ong Shrine (opposite Vachira Phuket Hospital) from 8pm; at the Tae Gun Shrine in Baan Nabon, Wichit, from 8:30pm; and at Sui Boon Tong Shrine (also called “Lor Rong Shrine“) and Sapam Shrine from 9pm.

The climbing of knife ladders will continue on Monday (October 3) at Cherng Talay Shrine from 7:59pm; at Bang Neow Shrine and the Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine in Samkong from 8pm; at Tae Gun Tai Tae Shrine in Baan Pasak from 8:30pm; and at Bangkoo Shrine from 8:45pm.

A more family-oriented ceremony will be observed at Tha Reua Shrine from 8:45pm. After devotees bathe with hot oil, a ceremony will be held during which blessed strings will be tied onto children’s wrists as a mark of purification.

“Bridge crossing” ceremonies to further confirm purification will be held at Sapam Shrine and Jang Ong Shrine from 8pm, while devotees at the Tae Gun Tai Tae Shrine in Baan Pasak, Thalang, will bathe in hot oil from 8:30pm.

The festivities continue on October 4, with a bridge crossing ceremony at Jui Tui Shrine at 8:09pm and bladed-ladder climbing at Jang Ong Shrine at 8pm.

Fire walking will be performed at Bang Neow Shrine, Lim Hu Tai Su Shrine in Samkong, Tae Gun Tai Tae Shrine in Baan Pasak and Gim Su Ong Shrine – all at 8pm, and at Cherng Talay Shrine at 8:09pm and Bangkoo Shrine at 8:30pm.

October 5, the final day of the festival, marks a day of prayer and ceremonies to bid farewell to the gods, before a massive bonfire sendoff at Saphan Hin at 11:45pm and a rousing racket of fireworks through to midnight – the official closing time of the festival.

The shrines go into cleanup mode on October 6 and before sunset, sometime between 4:30pm and 6pm, depending on the shrine, the go teng poles are lowered to mark that the gods have returned to the heavens… until next year.

Click here for a schedule of the street processions to be held during this year’s Phuket Vegetarian Festival.

 

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