Vesak Festival / Buddha Purnima

Vesak Festival is also known as Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day. Vesak Festival or Buddha Purnima is a holiday specially observed by Buddhists on different days in different countries.

Vesak Festival or Buddha Purnima is mostly celebrated in countries like India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar and also in other places all over the world.

Vesak Festival or Buddha Purnima is also called as the “Buddha’s Birthday”, which actually signifies the birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and death (Parinirvana) of Gautam Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.

Vesak Festival / Buddha Purnima History

The formal decision to celebrate Buddha Day was first taken at the conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (W.F.B.) in 1950 which was held at Sri Lanka. The resolution which was passed was –

“That this Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists, while recording its appreciation of the gracious act of His Majesty, the Maharaja of Nepal in making the full-moon day of Vesak a Public Holiday in Nepal, earnestly requests the Heads of Governments of all countries in which large or small number of Buddhists are to be found, to take steps to make the full-moon day in the month of May a Public Holiday in honour of the Buddha, who is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest benefactors of Humanity.”

In 1999, the United Nations resolved to internationally observe the day of Vesak at its headquarters and offices.

Vesak Festival / Buddha Purnima in Other Countries

Vesak Festival / Buddha Purnima is celebrated in many parts of the world like Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Vesak Festival in Japan

In Japan, Vesakha or hanamatsuri is also known as Kanbutsue, Goutan’e, Busshoue, Yokubutsue, Ryuge’e and Hanaeshiki. It is not a public holiday. It is based on a legend that a dragon appeared in the sky on the Buddha’s birthday and poured soma over him.

Vesak Festival in Nepal

Vesak, commonly known in Nepal as “Buddha Jayanti” is widely celebrated all across the country, predominantly, Lumbini – the birthplace of Buddha, and Swayambhu – the holy temple for Buddhists, also known as “the Monkey Temple”.

In Nepal, Buddha is worshipped by all religious groups, therefore “Buddha Jayanti” is marked by a public holiday.

Vesak Festival in Sri Lanka

Vesak is celebrated as a religious and a cultural festival in Sri Lanka on the full moon of the lunar month of Vesak, for about one week. During this week, the selling of alcohol and fresh meat is usually prohibited, with abattoirs also being closed. Celebrations include religious and alms-giving activities.

In addition, colourful lanterns called Vesak kudu are hung along streets and in front of homes. They signify the light of the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.

Vesak Festival in Korea

In South Korea the birthday of Buddha is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Korean lunar calendar (as well as in Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam) and is an official holiday. This day is called Seokga tansinil, meaning “Buddha’s birthday” or Bucheonim osin nal meaning “the day when the Buddha came”.

Vesak Festival in Laos

The Vixakha Bouxa festival is the Lao version of the Thai Visakha Puja, which it closely resembles. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha, which are all said to have happened on the same date.

Vesak Festival in Vietnam

Before 1975, the birthday of Buddha was a national public holiday in South Vietnam It was a public festival with float and lantern parades on the streets.

However, after the Fall of Saigon, the day was no longer a public holiday.

Vesak Festival in Malaysia

Celebrated by Buddhists to mark three momentous events in Buddha’s life – his birth, enlightenment, and his departure from the human world, the Wesak celebration in Malaysia begins at dawn when devotees gather at Buddhist temples nationwide to meditate on the Eight Precepts.

Vesak Festival in Indonesia

This significant and traditional holy day is observed throughout Indonesia where it is known as Waisak Day. At Borobudur, thousands of Buddhist monks will join together to repeat mantras and meditate as they circuit the temple in a ritual called “Pradaksina”.

Vesak Festival in Singapore

In Singapore, Vesak Day was made a public holiday only in 1955 after many public petitions. In the early decades of the 20th century, Vesak Day was associated with the Ceylonese community which then celebrated it along with their National Day in a two-day event.

After World War II, there was a movement to make Vesak Day a public holiday, with the Singapore Buddhist Association leading the petitions.

No matter what religion, culture you follow, where you have been born and brought up in, Buddha’s teachings are universal. The Top 5 Buddhist Teachings That Will Change Your Life


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