Phuket Vegetarian Festival (or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival)
There are 2 commemorations of the Nine Emperor Gods or Vegetarian Festival in 2014 due to the intercalary month in the Chinese lunar calendar (or the leap month).
1. From 24th September 2014 to 2nd October 2014.
2. From 24th October 2014 to 1st November 2014.
This is the migrant festive with renewal and purification that Inherits from the past, to the present and pasts to the future with participation.
“Commemorative, Migration, communal Temple Festival”
“Good Fortune-3 personified needs of human kind= Success, Prosperity, Longevity”
10 Rules of Body Cleansing to Acquire Supernatural Power during Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods:
1. Abstain from killing living things.(Abstain from eating meat product. )
2. Abstain from stealing.
3. Abstain from telling lie.
4. Abstain from alcoholic drinks.
5. Abstain from adultery.
6. Abstain from gambling.
7. Abstain from bedecking jewelry and leather goods.
8. Wearing white attire is preferable during the festival.
9. Mourner, women in menstruation and pregnancy should avoid participating in any kind of rituals.
10. Kitchen utensils and containers should be kept solely for the festival.
The Rituals of the Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival
The Invitation Ritual or the Tall Lantern Pole Raising Ritual
The ritual takes place in the afternoon and evening of the day preceding those nine days – namely on the last day of the eighth lunar month of the Chinese calendar to invite the Jade Emperor (Yok Ong Tai Te) and the Nine Emperor Gods(Kiu Ong Tai Te).
The demarcation and consecration of the shrine’s compound are conducted by the principal medium after the Yok Ong has descended from the heaven. In anticipation of the festival, devotees begin to wear white garments, eat vegetarian food (che) and abstinence from the 5 Buddhist Precepts a few days prior to the opening ritual in order to achieve the body purification. In religious terms, it is considered as an act of contrition or expurgation for the sins incurred by the killing and consumption of animals in the course of the past year. It is also a test of one’s power of endurance, self-discipline and penance.
The Ritual of Food-Offering to Heavenly Warriors
The ritual, performs in the early afternoon, pays respect to the spirits of warriors and their horses, many of the rank-and –file spirit mediums participating in this festival are possessed by these spirits, who are believed to entertain a position in the celestial hierarchy beneath the gods, but above the ghosts. Vegetarian food, tea and rice liquor are prepared for the spirit warriors and grass is for horses.
The chanting of Taoist North Star Canon (Pak Tao Keng) takes place 2 times a day after the Invitation Ritual of the Jade Emperor (Yok Ong Tai Te) to the shrines – morning and evening incantations. The prayer leader (Huat Kua) reads the names of contributors (Thark Sor) to the festival in front of the Nine Emperor Gods in every evening only.
The Propitiation of the Seven Stars
The ritual takes place on the fifth day of the festival to propitiate the Big Dipper or Seven Stars (Chit Chaen). The Big Dipper has 2 invisible and 7 visible stars. The mediums distribute auspicious charms (Hu) to devotees in order to repel evil spirits.
Firecracker is widely used for the entire festival. It is believe that lighting firecrackers before the Sedan Chairs and Palanquin is to welcome the Nine Emperors Gods .
Once the sedan chairs and Palanquin pass by worshippers lit firecrackers to bid farewell the Nine Emperors Gods.On the contrary, no firecracker is supposed to lit on top of the Ceremonial Umbrella.
The Street Procession
This is the most spectacular event of the Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival., which became iconic of the festival as a whole. The processions offer an opportunity for the householders and the general public along the streets to receive the blessings of the gods possessing the spirit mediums. The inhabitants set up altar in front of their houses, decorated with Chinese embroideries table apron (Tok Ui), placing on them lit candles and incense sticks , flowers, fruit, sweets and tea.
The processions are usually preceded by a vehicle of the shrine association followed by school children carrying banner with the name of the shrine, flags and banners “with the gods’ or goddesses’ names in Chinese characters”. These are followed by several Chinese percussion bands of floats or motorcycles. Sedan chairs (Tai Pian)with the gods’ are carried in the center of the processions with position orderly in the celestial hierarchy. After by Niu Sew (ceremonial umbrella “Traditional Chinese”) in front of The carrying of the Nine Emperor Gods (Kiu Ong) incense urn is considered a great honor and it is carried by the priest’s assistant (Lor Chu) or censer-master, and tightly held under the Kiu Ong. The explosion of firecrackers over the palanquin (Tua Lian)of the Nine Emperor Gods reaches a climax
The Fire-Walking Ritual
The Fire-Walking Ritual takes place on the sixth day of the festival. “Fire overcomes impurity and repels evil influence. As men purify themselves with fire, they expiate transgressions and thus overcome yin”. In fire- walking, it is believed that only those that are cleansed will be void from being seriously burns.
The Ceremonial Bridge-Crossing Ritual (Koi Harn)
The ritual takes place on the ninth day of the festival, just before the Farewell Ritual that sends the gods back to the heaven. The main idea of devotees crossing the bridge is believed to be cleansed from impurities and misfortunes that may fall upon them. Once crossing the bridge, a red stamp of the Nine Emperor Gods’ seal (or imperial seal) will be stamped at the back of the devotees to signify that they are purified from sins and calamities that might happen to them.
The Farewell Ritual
The Vegetarian Festival or the Nine Emperor Gods Festival culminates in the farewell ritual for the Jade Emperor and the Nine Emperor Gods on the evening of the ninth and last day, and comes to close with sending off the Kiu Ong at midnight back to the heaven.
The ritual is divided into 2 parts : the Jade Emperor is bade farewell at the lantern pole in the shrines’ yards by burning the paper palace for the Jade emperor; then the Nine Emperors are sent off at a body of water, mainly conduct close to the sea – Saphan Hin or river, with a huge heap of gold paper and multi-colored “imperial” paper costumes.