Buddhism is not only a religion, it is the ‘way of life’ or the philosophy of life and that philosophy means ‘love of wisdom’. It is a religion followed by about 300 million people around the world. Buddhism is derived from the word ‘budhi’ which means ‘awaken’. It came into existence about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha who is known as the Lord Buddha, was himself enlightened or awakened. Buddhist can be a path to lead a moral life, to develop wisdom and understanding, and to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions.
A New Year is a very special time for everyone, every either person do new beginnings, make some new resolutions and plans to make of the most out of the fresh New Year. Similarly, in Buddhism, a new year has its own special significance. However, the time and method of celebrating New Year varies from place to place.
The New Year is one of the biggest festivals of the Buddhist community; it is a time of great joy and celebration. The Buddhist devotees bathed statues of Buddha in a ceremony and worship them. Candles and lamps are lighted in the temples to give honour to their gods. Similarly like any other festival in any other religion; clean house, new dresses, sweets, visits to the relatives and friends and exchange of gifts and wishes. Delicious and tasty traditional dishes are prepared and served to all. Huge amounts of firework on streets add an extra bit of charm to the festival.
Different people have different belief, myths and reasons about the New Year celebrations. To understand its history majorly, we would need to go a little back. As every other festival, this too is related with celebration of life, it too is associated with the fertility of the harvest, giving birth to many customs, rituals and ceremonies. In medieval times, these both religions Hinduism and Buddhism existed side by side. They both were historically connected and their philosophies were running parallel to each other.
The concept of New Year was interpreted and practiced by the Hindus and there is no big contradiction in the New Year customs and rituals found among the Hindus and Buddhists. Methodological backdrop of Buddhist New Year is probably plotted on Hindu Literature. Happiness and peace on the earth is ensured by the ‘Prince of Peace’ called ‘Indradev’, who comes down in his white carriage wearing a white floral crown on his head which is seven cubits high. He does rain and breaks the earth’s gravity, giving it live and breaking it into the sea of milk.
Modern day New Year celebrations are based upon the auspicious time given by the astrologers. Hence, the New Year celebration can be taken as a complex mix of Astrological, Indigenous, Hindu and Buddhism traditions. In Theravada countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, Lao and Cambodia, the New Year is celebrated for three days from the first moon day in April and in many other countries, called ‘Mahayana countries’ it is celebrated from the first full moon day in January.