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Extreme piercing at Thai vegetarian festival

GRAPHIC WARNING: Contains images which some viewers may find disturbing. 

David Longstreath / EPA

Devotees of the Chinese shrine of Ban Tha Rua shield themselves as fireworks explode while they carry a shrine during a street procession at the annual Vegetarian Festival on Phuket Island, southern Thailand, on October 19, 2012.

The traditional vegetarian festival in Phuket is founded on the local Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of their calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind, Reuters reports. 

According to Phuket.com, one of the rituals at the festival sees participants "puncture their cheeks with various items including knives, skewers and other household items. It is believed that the Chinese gods will protect such persons from harm."  

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Damir Sagolj / Reuters

A devotee of Ban Tha Rua Chinese shrine with a gun pierced through his cheek takes part in a procession celebrating the annual vegetarian festival in Phuket on October 19, 2012.