Buddha Purnima is the main festival of Buddhism. It marks the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha – The founder of the Buddhist Religion – and is celebrated worldwide 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 is 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; he later became Buddha – An enlightened Soul – and came to be known as Gautama Buddha. He was one of the greatest spiritual masters ever and established the Buddhist religion.
Although Gautama Buddha’s actual 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 the age of 80 in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Places like Lumbini, Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya, and Sarnath have special importance in the Buddhist religion as these places deeply relate to Gautama Buddha’s life. Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, whereas Kushinagar is the place where he died. While Bodh Gaya is where he attained Enlightenment, and Sarnath are 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 Siddhartha Gautama’s birth, an astrologer named 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. Suddhodana made sure that Siddhartha never ventured outside the palace premises as he wanted his son to become a great king upon hearing this prophecy.
However, despite his father’s efforts, Siddhartha ventured outside the palace grounds at 29. He encountered a series of sights known as the famous “four sights” in Buddhist literature, transforming his life. These sights – an older man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic holy man – prompted him to renounce royal life and go on a spiritual quest.
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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 29, he renounced his princely and prosperous life and went outside, searching for truth or nirvana. His quest for truth led him to wander like an ascetic. He did extreme penance to realize truth and enlightenment. At 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 are important as it marks the birth anniversary and enlightenment of one of the World’s greatest spiritual masters – Gautama Buddha. It is celebrated every year on full moon day in 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. The Buddhists organize prayer meetings and fairs, which usually last for three or more days, to celebrate this event.
Bodhidroom Melas are arranged, and Buddhist organizations distribute Buddhist holy books, scriptures, and magazines among people. On this occasion, special programs and messages are aired on radio and T.V. channels to learn about Gautama Buddha and Buddha Purnima celebrations. People from all parts of the World come to Bodh Gaya to participate in this auspicious festival. Besides 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 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.
Buddhists follow the custom of helping poor people by giving them money, food, and other valuable goods. Caged animals are freed to spread the essential message of Buddhism that freedom is the basic right of each living creature.
Buddhist Temples, especially the Mahabodhi temple, are 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 flower bathing, wearing white clothes after a holy bath, preaching the teachings of Gautama Buddha, distributing sweets, etc.
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Clean drinking water stalls are also set up in public places. Buddha statues are decorated with spring flowers after they are bathed in holy waters. Buddhist people also decorate and enlighten their houses with oil lamps. Devotees visit monasteries and listen to sermons and stanzas from Buddhist scriptures.
They offer poor and needy people food, clothes, money, and other useful things. They also worship Bodhi Tree by offering milk and water and placing clay or artificial diyas around it. Buddhists adhere to the five principles of Lord Buddha, known as “Panchsheel,” and peacefully participate in the Buddha Purnima festival.
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 2023
Buddha Purnima Date: 5th May 2023, Friday
Purnima Tithi Begins: 11:44 PM on 4th May 2023
Purnima Tithi Ends: at 11:03 PM on 5th May 2023
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