Buddha Purnima is the main festival of Buddhism. It marks the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha – The founder of Buddhist Religion – and is celebrated all over the world with great joy and enthusiasm. The festival is also known as Buddha Jayanti, Vaishakh Purnima, and Vesak Day. It is celebrated on the full moon day in May and has the status of being a gazetted holiday in India.
Traditionally, Buddha Purnima was celebrated by the Mahayana sect of Buddhism to commemorate the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha. His childhood name was Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Buddha – An enlightened Soul – and came to be known as Gautama Buddha. He was one of the greatest spiritual masters of all time and established Buddhist Religion.
Although Gautama Buddha’s real date of birth is not known. However, it is estimated by many historians that he was born around the year 563 B.C. in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal to the King Suddhodana (King of Kapilavastu) and Queen Maya Devi. He died at an age of 80 in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Places like Lumbini, Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Sarnath have special importance in Buddhist Religion as these places have a deep relation with the life of Gautama Buddha. Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha whereas Kushinagar is the place where he died. While Bodh Gaya is the place where he attained Enlightenment and Sarnath is the place where he first gave sermons to his disciples. Now, these places have become important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from all over the world.
According to one famous legend, shortly after the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, an astrologer by the name of Asita visited Suddhodana and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king or would renounce the world to become a great spiritual master or holy man. Upon hearing this prophecy, Suddhodana made sure that Siddhartha never ventured outside the palace premises as he wanted his son to become a great king.
However, despite his father’s efforts, Siddhartha ventured outside the palace grounds at the age of 29 and encountered a series of sights known as famous “four sights” in Buddhist literature which transformed his life. These sights – an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic holy man – prompted him to renounce royal life and go on a spiritual quest.
Some Important Facts about Gautama Buddha
Gautama Buddha was born into a royal family. His father, Suddhodana was the king of Kapilavastu. However, Gautama was never inclined to lead a princely life. He was married at the age of 16 and had a nice son. At his 29, he renounced his princely and prosperous life and went outside in search of truth or nirvana. His quest for truth led him to wander like an ascetic. He did extreme penance to realize truth and enlightenment. At his 35 he reached Bodh Gaya where he meditated beneath a Bodhi Tree. It is said that after 49 days of deep meditation, he finally attained nirvana or got enlightenment and became a Buddha, an enlightened soul. He is regarded as the founder of the Buddhist religion.
Buddha Purnima Celebrations and Rituals
Buddha Purnima Celebrations assume special importance as it marks the birth anniversary and enlightenment of one of the greatest spiritual masters of the world – Gautama Buddha. It is celebrated every year on the full moon day in the month of April or May. Buddhists from all over the world celebrate this festival with tremendous enthusiasm and devotion.
Buddha Purnima celebrations are marked by special religious, cultural, and social events. Prayer meetings and fairs are organized by the Buddhists which usually last for three or more days to specially celebrate this event.
Bodhidroom Melas are arranged, and Buddhist holy books, scriptures, and magazines are distributed by the Buddhist organizations among people. On this occasion, special programs and messages are aired on radio and TV channels so that people get to know about Gautama Buddha and Buddha Purnima celebrations. People from all parts of the world come to Bodh Gaya to participate in this auspicious festival. Apart from these ceremonies, Buddha Purnima celebrations also include prayer recitation, lectures on Gautama Buddha’s life and religious speeches by monks on Buddhist scriptures.
Buddha Purnima celebrations also involve worshipping of Lord Buddha’s statues. Meditation camps are organized, and processions are carried out in which people participate with great devotion and joy. People go to Buddhist temples and worship Buddha statues by offering holy water, flowers, incense, candles, and fruits.
Buddhist people follow the custom of helping poor people by giving them money, food, and other useful goods. Caged animals are freed so as to spread the most essential message of Buddhism that freedom is the basic right of each and every living creature.
Buddhist Temples, especially Mahabodhi temple is decorated with beautiful flowers, flags and other things. Some of the unique rituals practiced by the Buddhist people on the day of Buddha Purnima include flowers bathe, wearing white clothes after a holy bath, preaching the teachings of Gautama Buddha, distribution of sweets, etc.
Clean drinking water stalls are also set up in public places. Buddha statues are decorated with spring flowers after they are bathed with holy waters. Buddhist people also decorate and enlighten their houses with oil lamps. Devotees visit monasteries, listen to sermons, and stanzas from Buddhist scriptures.
They offer foods, clothes, money and other useful things to poor and needy people. They also worship Bodhi Tree by offering milk and water and by placing clay or artificial diyas around it. Buddhists adhere to the five principles of Lord Buddha, which are known as “Panchsheel” and participate in the Buddha Purnima festival peacefully.
All-in-all, Buddha Purnima is an important festival that reminds us of Lord Gautama Buddha and his teachings of universal brotherhood, peace, harmony, and tranquility.
Buddha Purnima Date 2020
Buddha Purnima Date 7th May 2020, Thursday
Purnima Tithi Begins: 07:44 PM, 6th May 2020
Purnima Tithi Ends: 04:14 PM, 7th May 2020
Buddha Purnima Date