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Buddha Purnima is the holiest festival of the followers of Buddhism. It is also known as Buddha Jayanti and Vesak in India. This day is celebrated to memorialize the three main events in the life of Gautam Buddha. It is believed that it was on this same day that Lord Buddha was born, gained enlightenment, and finally passed on to achieve Nirvana. Lord Buddha was the founder of Buddhism and is considered to be the ninth incarnation Lord Vishnu. This festival reminds us of the sacrifices made by Lord Buddha to learn the eternal truth and to preach everyone about it. He is worshipped as a symbol of wisdom, peace and non-violence among his followers.
Lord Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautam in Lumbini, current day Nepal, around 563 BC. His father, Suddhodana, was the king of the Shakya clan and he was born as the prince of the Shakalyas. At the age of sixteen, he was married to princess Yashodhara and had a son named Rahula. However, one day prince Siddhartha ventured outside the palace walls and was devasted to see the suffering of the common man like old-age, disease and death. He then saw a sage who looked calm while meditating under a tree. The impact of this event was so huge that one day Siddhartha decided to renounce everything and went on a journey to seek the ultimate truth of life. He became a wandering ascetic, and at the age of thirty-five, he arrived at Bodh-Gaya. There, he sat under a Peepal tree and meditated for complete forty-nine days, until he gained enlightenment. From that day onwards, he was regarded as Buddha, The Enlightened. During his lifetime, he travelled across India and preached about the ultimate truth of life. At the age of eighty, Buddha entered his final meditation and achieved Nirvana, end of rebirth cycles.
As per the Hindu calendar, Buddha Purnima is celebrated on the full moon night in Vaisakha month, and that’s why it’s also known as Vesak. According to the Gregorian calendar, this day falls in April or May.
Buddhists celebrate this festival throughout South-East Asia. However, the main celebration on this day takes place at Bodh Gaya, Bihar where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. It is also an important pilgrimage site for the followers of Buddhism. This festival is celebrated differently in different places. In India, the Buddhist temples are decorated beautifully on this day, and candles are lit in front of Buddha statues. People visit monasteries and engage in group meditation and recital activities. The day begins with prayers and offerings. Finally, food and sweets are distributed among the poor. The Peepal tree is also worshipped on this day, under which Lord Buddha had meditated for days to achieve enlightenment. In China and its neighbouring countries, people start their day by washing the statue of Buddha and lighting incense in front of it. They also light lanterns in temples and offer food to the monks. In Japan, people decorate the baby Buddha statues with flowers and ask for blessings. In many places, the monks wear only white clothes on this day. In places like Singapore, huge donations are offered to the monasteries. At other places, people observe fast on this day and engage in activities like freeing the caged birds or chanting mantras all day long.
Buddha Purnima is a festival that reminds us of the teachings of Lord Buddha and the peaceful way of leading life. This day also signifies the importance of dedication and the curiosity of learning in one’s life. This day also teaches us about the principle of peace and non-violence, with which Lord Buddha lead his life.