The Dussehra Festival and The Chinese Vegetarian Festival In Bangkok, Thailand

The Dussehra Festival and The Chinese Vegetarian Festival In Bangkok, Thailand

During our stay in Bangkok, we participated in two major festivals that took place in the city.

The Chinese Vegetarian Food Festival was celebrated all over the city.
Major Chinese restaurants offered a vegan menu or special dishes and milk tea drinks made without dairy.

In Icon Siam, a major mall by the river, a whole vegan street food festival was set up for two weeks where you could taste small vegan dishes from stalls, in a clean and air conditioned environment.

In Chinatown, there was a parade with dragons, deities, guardians and demons, as well as music and vegan foods.

This ancient Chinese festival is celebrated to honor the nine Gods of the Northern Dipper stars.
It is believed that if you participate in the festival, it will prolong your life, eliminate calamities, and absolve you of mortal sins and past debts towards your family and others.

In Thailand, this festival is called “Thetsakan Kin Che.” This Vegetarian Festival is celebrated throughout the entire country, but the festivities are at their height in the southern region of Phuket, where over half of the population are Peranakans.

Peranakans are a unique hybridization of ancient Chinese culture with the local cultures of Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Java, Indonesia.

During the festival, food stalls sell traditional Thai and Chinese foods made without animal products.
Noodle dishes, curries and soups are prepared without meat, fish sauce, eggs or dairy.

They use vegetarian meats, soy, tempeh, or seitan instead.
The dishes are prepared without garlic, chili, leeks or strong spices.

Many varieties of tofu are prepared and sold during the festival.
Popular dishes are made with mushrooms to substitute for pork, and fried tofu and fried taro substitute for the much beloved street food of fried chicken.

In addition to eating pure food, festival participants must keep their thoughts pure and wear white as a symbol of purity.
Also to maintain purity, devout participants abstain from sex, alcohol and stimulants during the festival.

The festivities In Bangkok were pretty mild.
In Phuket, participants walk over fire and are doing extreme forms of face piercings and body mutilations.
Luckily we did not see any of these mutilations.

The second festival we participated in was the Dussehra Festival.
We came upon it by accident, when we were simply making our way to the river district.
We asked the people decorating their booths what was going on, and they told us that the street would be closed for the festival that evening.

Dussehra is one of the major annual Hindu festivals that mark the end of the nine nights of the Sharada Navaratri festival.
(The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit.)

The festival is celebrated as the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana.

The Dussehra festival also celebrates the triumph of the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura.

Both stories are symbolic mythical and spiritual stories of the victory of good over evil, representing a personal journey towards the light, overcoming the bonds of darkness and of gaining spiritual knowledge over mortal ignorance.

The long Silom Road was closed to traffic and tens of thousands of people pushed slowly towards Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
This Hindu temple is beautifully decorated with ornate deities and animal sculptures.

The participants erected hundreds of booths along the road, with sculptures of Durga, Lord Rama, tigers and flowers.
There were beautiful multi-headed snakes, created by folding green banana leaves, and vendors selling amulets, foods and drinks.

Walking through a mass of people elbowing our way inch by inch, felt like a hot mess.
The body temperature of thousands of people elevated the already hot temperatures much higher.
It reminded me of seeing a documentary of how penguins survive the harsh winter in Antartica.
They huddle together into a huge ball as a protection from the wind and below freezing temperatures.
At the center of the group, the temperature can reach a toasty 60 degrees Fahrenheit, while at the fringes, the temperatures are so cold that the unlucky penguins there often freeze to death.

We made our way out of the cluster of people and walked the rest of the way on the other side of the road, which was lined with beggars who sat on blankets, looking for donations.

The colorful deities, the huge extravagant flower arrangements and the music were reverberating in my mind long after we returned to our hotel.

With Light, Color and Blessings,

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