Jia Chai – The Vegetarian Festival, Phuket, October 2011

14 December 2011
hereAccording to popular legend, in 1825 a traveling Chinese opera company, ngiu in Thai or pua-hee in Hokkien dialect, came to perform in Naithu Village, Kathu. After a time, many of the performers became terribly sick, and they decided that the cure was to eat only vegetables as they had done in China, in an act of contrition or expurgation for the sins incurred by the killing and consumption of animals. The ill members of the group were miraculously healed, and so the Chinese immigrants arranged for a festival to be held again the next year, and every year since. Thus, many believe holding it helps prevent illness, death and the loss of innocent lives in the community by promoting physical and spiritual recovery through ritual practices that cleanse the body and mind while strengthening the faith.In preparation for the Festival, each shrine burns incense sticks to purify the surroundings, bringing forth an assembly of buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods and angels, and driving away demons from the holy grounds.Most shrines in Phuket conduct a Pangkun Ceremony, representing the sending of one’s soldiers in different directions to watch over and guard the perimeter of the city holding the Vegetarian Festival. Each direction has a colour, defined by a flag, black for northern troop, red for southern, green for eastern, a white flag for the western troop and yellow for the royal troop.

A.A. Mangkling’s Ngaben, Bali, September 2011

13 December 2011
The Hindu-Balinese believe the body is impure, a temporary shell, having no significance at all, except as a container of the soul and its anchor to the earth. All thoughts at the time of death are concentrated upon the spirit and its passage to heaven. The body is just there to be disposed of, and, instead of grieving, the Balinese prefer to throw a great celebration, in the process hastening their dead friend’s soul to oneness with god.The village community members banjar work together to make the bamboo stretcher for the first ritual, nyiramin layon the bathing of the corpse.The head of the family, and assistant to the priestess, is making the sandalwood effigy, which is then wrapped in a cloth and decorated.