Buddha Purnima, also known as Vesak or Buddha Day, is a significant festival celebrated by Buddhists all over the world. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha, who is considered the founder of Buddhism.
The exact date of Buddha Purnima varies from country to country, as it is based on the lunar calendar. In India and Nepal, it is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Vaisakha, which falls in May. However, in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, it is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Vesakha, which usually falls in May or June. This variation occurs because the Buddhist and Hindu lunar calendars can be interpreted differently, resulting in different dates for the full moon.
During Vesak, Buddhists reflect on the life and teachings of Buddha and participate in various religious activities. The festival is typically marked by prayer, meditation, and acts of generosity and kindness. In some countries, like Sri Lanka, it is also a public holiday.
Buddha Purnima, also known as Buddha Jayanti, commemorates the birth of Prince Siddharta Gautama, who went on to become known as the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The festival takes place on a full moon day during the month of Vaisakhi in the Hindu/Buddhist lunar calendars. The name 'Buddha' was given to Siddharta after he attained enlightenment, which is also known as 'bodhi' or wisdom.
Although Buddha's followers did not officially celebrate his birthday, festivals to honor Buddha were held for centuries. The celebration of Buddha Purnima was only formalized in modern times, at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in May 1950. It was agreed upon that the day of the full moon in May would be an auspicious time for the celebration, as Buddha attained nirvana on a full moon day.
Buddhism's popularity can be attributed to its teachings of non-violence, respect for life, and a more egalitarian approach to the role of women, which resonate with both traditional and modern ideas of progress. As a result, many countries around the world, especially in Asia, became primarily Buddhist nations. Buddhism has also adapted to different cultures and evolved into various sub-sects. Today, it is practiced in different forms all over the world, and its philosophical nature makes it inclusive of people of different beliefs.
Buddhists in India refrain from consuming meat and undertake pilgrimages to significant sites in Buddha's life. In China, the celebration involves visiting pagodas and illuminating incense, candles, and lanterns. Japan observes the Flower Festival, or Hanamatsuri, during which Buddha statues are adorned with flowers and bathed in unique flower juice. South Koreans distribute complimentary food and light up lotus lanterns to commemorate the occasion. Thai Buddhists assemble at temples to recite prayers in unison. The dharmacakra, a wooden wheel comprising eight spokes, is a prevalent emblem during Vesak, symbolizing Buddha's teachings on the noble eightfold path of Buddhism.