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In pictures: No pain, no gain at Phuket's annual vegetarian festival

Swords, knives, skewers, tubes, rods and even guns; these were some of the things devotees pierced themselves with on Monday as part of the festivities that make up Thailand's bizarre Vegetarian Festival.

Throughout the week-long festival devotees display their religious devotion through over the top acts of self-mutilation and pain endurance. These acts even include running over burning coal and piercing their bodies with terrifyingly sharp objects.

While many South Asian communities go off meat for the annual Taoist "Nine Emperor Gods" festival, only Phuket's devotees take their devotion to the extreme level seen in the photos.

Like most practices of this sort, devotees work themselves into a trance-like state during which they are able to withstand incredible amounts of pain.

The tropical island of Phuket, a well known as a tourist destination, boasts a large Chinese population.

Local folklore says that the island began celebrating the vegetarian festival after 1825 when illness struck a visiting opera troupe from China. The diseased adopted a vegetarian diet, paid homage to the Nine Emperor Gods and were miraculously cured.

Participants must adhere to a series of strict rules throughout the festival -- including abstinence from sex, drinking, smoking and gambling.

Text and photo curation by Priyata Brajabasi

 
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