At the Kathu Shrine, the spiritual home of the festival where the purification rituals were first observed 194 years ago, the crowd of devotees thronged as the Go Teng pole was lifted skyward to the sound of beating drums and firecrackers to keep evil spirits at bay.
Present for the home shrine ceremony was Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Seniam along with Phuket Vice Governor Prakob Wongmaneerung, and Kathu Mayor Chiaianan Suthikul.
The festival will begin ceremonies of offerings to the Gods and the hanging of red lanterns throughout neighbourhoods across the island to mark that the festival is being observed.
The renowned street processions will begin tomorrow (Sept 30), along with an advisory from police for motorists to be wary of the procession routes and itinerary to avoid any unwanted delays. (See story here.)
During the festival, people taking are asked to observe 10 rules:
1. Maintain personal hygiene and cleanliness
2. Clean, use kitchen utensils separately from others not participating
3. Wear white to identify yourself as observing the tradition
4. Be polite (this rule should be followed year round by everyone, anyway)
5. Abstain from eating meat or other animal-based products, including eggs, milk, yoghurt and dairy products in general
6. Abstain from sexual activities
7. Abstain from consuming alcohol and all other fermented foods and substances
8. People in mourning should not take part
9. Pregnant women must refrain from watching the rituals
10. Women undergoing menstruation should not attend festival rituals
The festival also involves a variety of self-purification rituals including hot oil bathing, fire-walking and bladed-ladder climbing. (See official schedule here.)
Phuket Governor this week announced that the festival this year is expected to be a tourism boon for the island with an estimated B2 billion in revenue generated for the island. (See story here.)
Expectations have dropped in recent years. In 2014 the Tourism Authority of Thailand was aiming for B3bn. (See story here.)
The festival will draw to a close on Oct 7 with processions from all participating shrines, this year 30 in total, arriving at Saphan Hin after making their way through Phuket Town for a final bonfire during which thousands of prayers for ancestors and the Gods are burnt as offerings for the Gods.
On Oct 8 the final ceremonies are held with the lowering of the Go Teng poles, formally bring the festival to an end.