Buddhism, being a nontheistic religion holds into itself a diversified amalgamation of practices, beliefs, traditions and teachings, attributed to its founder, Siddhartha Gautama. With Theravada and Mahayana as the two major sects of Buddhism, the religion is mainly practiced in Asian countries, such as, China, Japan, Singapore, Tibet and Mongolia etc. The worldwide number of followers is estimated to be in between 350-550 million.
Festivals in Buddhism
The Buddhist community enjoys a handsome number of holidays (holy days) in its course. Most of the holidays are related to the birthdays of the Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. Buddhist New Year, Vesak, Asalha Puja Day, Magha Puja Day, Kathina Ceremony, Uposatha, Anapanasti Day, Songkran, Abhidhamma Day, Loy Krathong, The Ploughing Festival, The Elephant Festival, Ulambana, The Festival of the Tooth, and Avalokitesvara’s Birthday are some of the famous festivals in the precise and pure Buddhist community.
Vesak or Visakah Puja or The Buddha Day
The Buddha day is celebrated on the eve of Gautama Buddha’s Birthday. Standing as one of the most significant and ritualistic festival for the Buddhists, the festival corresponds to the celebrations on account of his birth, his enlightenment and his death. It is known as Vesak and Visakah Puja since the month in which the festival is celebrated, is duly known as Vesak in the Indian Calendar.
Buddha’s exact birthday date is precisely based on the lunisolar calendars of Asia. India and Nepal celebrate this day on the full moon day of Vaisakha. The Buddhist Calendar of the Theravada countries marks the celebrations on the full moon Uposatha Day, i.e. the 5th or 6th lunar month. Korea and China celebrate the festival in the fourth month and on its eighth day, in accordance with the Chinese calendar.
On this very day, the Nepali women go to the Viharas, to observe the full Buddhist sutra. Kheer is served with the recall of the story of Sujata. Indians seek the same rituals in their celebrations as that in Nepal. In Japan, all the Buddhist temples hold the Kanbutsu-e (Flower Festival). They pour ama-cha beverage on the small statues of Buddha. Koreans cover the entire temples with lotus lanterns and provide free meals and tea to the local folks and the visitors. The meal sanchaebibimbap is served. Sri-Lankans engage themselves in religious observances. They decorate houses and streets and provide free meals. Incorporation of vesakthorun and singing of ‘bhakthigeetha’ takes place. Some countries mark the festival as a public holiday.
The teachings and the messages of Gautama Buddha have remained unaltered and unaffected even with the immense expansion of knowledge. His intellectual thinking and messages to the mankind are considered to be the first enunciated. With universality and deep cognizance of insights, his teachings have broadened the basic grounds of fraternity, equality and understanding. Heedfulness and deliverance are his underlying manifestos of acceptance and assimilation. The Buddha Day seeks the celebration of that very pious entity on the earth.