Buddha Purnima, also known as Vesak, is the most important festival for the followers of Buddhism across the world. This auspicious day marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and is celebrated by Buddhist sects with much fervour. The festival falls on the first full moon day (Purnima) of the Hindu month of Vaisakha, which corresponds to April-May in the Gregorian calendar. Buddha Purnima will be observed on 18th May in the year 2019.
Background of Buddha Purnima
Although the date and time of Lord Buddha’s birth and death are uncertain, assumptions are that he lived between 6th and 4th century BC. He was born as Prince Siddhartha in Lumbini, Nepal. According to legends, he was prophesised to become a great king or a great sage, much before his birth. Grown up with princely luxury, Siddhartha remained shielded from the hardships of human life till he was in his late 20s. Upon encountering sickness, old age and death, the 29-year-old prince decided to leave his royal palace and set out on a quest to find an answer to the cause of all suffering.
Over the next few years, he investigated many different teachings but could not find liberation until one night he went into deep meditation and woke up with all the answers that he had been seeking. This is how at the age of 35, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha or the Awakened One. For the remaining of his life, he preached the Dharma to lead other people along the path of Enlightenment. Gautama Buddha breathed his last at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.
It is said that all the three important events in the life of Gautama Buddha – his birth, enlightenment and salvation – fall on the same day of the year. Owing to this happenstance, the day holds immense value in Buddhism. The decision to celebrate Buddha’s birth anniversary on the first full moon day of Vaisakha was taken by the World Fellowship of Buddhists in May, 1960.
Buddha Purnima Celebrations across India
On the occasion of Buddha Purnima, many devotees visit Buddhist shrines and spend the day there reciting hymns and sermons about the life of Lord Buddha and his teachings and principles. Flowers and candles are offered to worship the Buddha’s idol, which is placed in a basin full of water.
Buddha’s teachings are followed with sincerity on this day and thus, devotees avoid non-vegetarian food, offer goods and kheer to the poor, and generally wear white clothes to maintain purity.
Best Places to Observe Buddha Purnima in India
- Arunachal Pradesh