Photo Essay: The Gods Among Us At Navaratri Festival

By Gerrit Phil Baumann

On 4 October, Thais from across the country gathered in Bangkok to participate in Vijayadashami,  the dawn-til-dusk celebration that ends the nine-day Hindu festival of Navatri.  Khaosod English photographer Gerrit Phil Baumann brought his camera to follow the procession in Bangkok, which featured Brahmin priests, sacred powders, and spirit-possessed dancers. 

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The half-moon night of Vijayadashami ends Navaratri, one of the holiest festivals in the Hindu religion. Although 96% of Thais identify as Buddhists, many of them also worship Hindu gods and holidays. 

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Devotees come to Bangkok from all corners of the kingdom to receive a blessing. Shrines are organized by groups of friends and neighborhoods.

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 In Thailand, it's especially common for artists and creatives – such as this professional dancer – to worship Hindu deities.

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A Brahmin priest arrives to bless the crowds with sacred powder.

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Devotees wait with offerings for the another Brahmin to pass.

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The Brahmins walk by in a trance-like state, appearing to feel no pain from the spears piercing their cheeks.

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After the Brahmins pass, a marching band heralds the arrival of a wagon carrying a statue from inside a Hindu temple on Silom road.

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Devotees queue up to present offerings to the statues.

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The offerings contain fruits, nuts, spices, and flower garlands. 

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Security officers hectically order people to vacate the pedestrian bridge as no human is supposed to stand above sacred object.

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The statues are guarded by military police. In 2006, the statue of Phra Phrom was destroyed by a mentally ill man who was then beaten to death by angry bystanders.

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Brahmins collect garland offerings from believers. 

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A group of fortune tellers perform a rite inviting the deities to take over their bodies.

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The gods have taken over and the mediums dance and speak in their voices.

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Once the gods choose to leave the body of the mediums, they collapse in total exhaustion.

 

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