This Thai festival is an annual event taking place for nine days during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is certainly not for the faint hearted.
The festival dates back almost 200 years when a Chinese opera used to travel to Thailand to perform to the Chinese immigrant miners that worked in the tin mines. The Vegetarian Festival (or Jia Chai in the local Hokkien dialect) has changed a great deal since then to not only include a strict vegetarian diet but also sacred rituals that are believed to bestow good fortune upon the local community. The main rituals include forms of self harm and self mutilation when devotees, known as Mah Song, or “horses of the gods”, become possessed by one of the many Chinese gods and provide them with powers that enable them to feel no pain. It is said that if the Mah Song inflict pain upon themselves while in a state of trance, not only will they feel no pain, they will also be taking away future pains that would otherwise have been felt by the community in some other way.
** WARNING THIS GALLERY CONTAINS IMAGES OF SELF HARM **