Many people in Thailand, especially Thais of Chinese origin, are joining the celebration of the Vegetarian Festival which is being held until October 13.
In observing the Vegetarian Festival, they consume meat-free meals and refrain from taking some vegetables with a strong smell. They also dress in white and pay homage to gods in Chinese shrines. In addition, during this period, they will try to purify their minds, conduct good deeds, and make merit.
Vegetarian food plays a major role in this festival. It contains no meat or animal-related products, such as milk, egg, and honey. The symbol for the Vegetarian Festival is a small yellow flag placed at vegetarian food stalls. Several restaurants also include vegetarian dishes on their menu for this festival.
It is expected that more than 40 billion baht will be in circulation during the festival this year. The amount represents an increase of 6.3 percent over that of last year, according to the poll conducted by University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
The festival is celebrated in many provinces in Thailand. In Bangkok, the Chinatown, or Yaowarat, celebrates this occasion on a grand scale, with numerous kinds of vegetarian food offered to visitors. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is well-known for its spectacular procession.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival has become world renowned for its food and its curious religious rites. All that seems well and good, but what has drawn the greatest publicity is the unique manner in which some attempt to purify themselves during a procession of asceticism. On the 6th day of the vegetarian festival, after fasting for several days, devotees known as “soldiers of god” commit feats of self mutilation and tests of intense pain, including piercing themselves with needles and knives and walking across hot coals.