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Buddha Purnima, also known as Vesak, Buddha Pournima, or Buddha Jayanti, is one of the most important festivals of Buddhism. It is believed that Gautam Buddha, the eighth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and the founder of the Buddhist religion, was born as well attained enlightenment and salvation (nirvana) on this day. Vesak has thus come to be celebrated on his birth anniversary, commemorating his teachings, principles, and ideology.

So when is Buddha Purnima? How will it be celebrated? Keep reading to know more about Buddha Purnima (Vesak) in 2024

Buddha Purnima 2024 date and time

Buddha Purnima is celebrated annually on the first full moon of the month of Vesakha, which usually falls in May or early June. As a result, the exact date of Vesak changes from year to year, depending upon the lunar calendar.

For the year 2024, Buddha Purnima will be commemorated on Thursday, May 23. The Buddha Purnima tithi begins at May 22, 6:48 pm – May 23, 7:23 pm

Buddha Purnima history and significance

Although the exact year and time of Lord Buddha’s birth and death are undisclosed, he is thought to have lived between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. In Lumbini, Nepal, he was born Prince Siddhartha. He was predicted to become a great king or philosopher long before he was born, according to tradition.

Siddhartha was sheltered from the hardships of human life until he was in his late twenties, having grown up in royal privilege. When the 29-year-old prince was confronted with sickness, old age, and death, he chose to flee from his royal palace and embark on a mission to discover the source of all pain.

He examined many different teachings over the next few years but was unable to discover the enlightenment until one night when he went into a great meditation and awoke with all the answers he had been seeking. This is how Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha or the Awakened One at the age of 35. He preached the Dharma for the rest of his life in order to guide others on the path to Enlightenment. At 80, Gautama Buddha passed away in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.

All three major events in Gautama Buddha’s life — his birthday, awakening, and salvation – are said to occur on the same day of the year. The day has great significance in Buddhism as a result of this convergence. The World Fellowship of Buddhists decided in May 1960 to commemorate Buddha’s birth anniversary on the first full moon day of Vaisakha.

How is it celebrated around the world?

India

Many devotees in India visit Bodh Gaya in Bihar on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti. The Mahabodhi Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site located in Bodh Gaya, is where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Indian Buddhists visit Viharas or monasteries to pray for the Enlightened One. Full Sutras are held in his honour while Monks talk about Buddha’s life and teachings.

Followers of Buddhism dress in white robes on Vesak as a reflection of Buddha’s principle of non-violence and peace. Non-vegetarian food, onions, garlic, chives, and scallions are avoided on and around the sacred day. Instead, kheer, a sweet porridge made with milk, rice, jaggery, saffron, and dry fruits, is savoured.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has more elaborate, week-long festivities of Vesak, consisting of religious and charitable activities participated in by people of different religions. Electrically-lit pandals illustrating stories from Jataka tales, known as thoranas, are built at Colombo, Kandy, and Galle by donors, religious societies, and welfare groups.

Vibrant, multi-coloured lanterns called Vesak kuudu are hung by Sri Lankans in their homes and on the streets, giving the country a warm glow during Vesak.

Sri Lankan Thoran – Image © picture.lk

Tibet

Buddha Purnima goes on even longer here, with traditional celebrations lasting for a month. This is the time for Tibetans to go on pilgrimages to Lhasa and Ngari. Special emphasis is laid on doing philanthropic acts, as it is believed that the merits of the good deeds done during this month are many times more. Buying and freeing animals to spare them from slaughter or being caged is just one example.

Nepal

Vesak or Buddha Jayanti, as it is commonly called, is an official holiday. Devotees from across the country flock to Swayambhu (that is, the Monkey Temple), as Vesak is the only day this holy temple opens its doors to visitors. Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, is also visited by many in his memory.

China

The home to the largest population of Mahayana Buddhists observes Vesak as fódàn. The celebration in China mainly revolves around the ceremony of Yùfójié, that is, the Bathing of the Buddha. Monks pour scented, blessed water on a statue of baby Buddha, whose right index finger points towards the heavens and left index finger points towards earth, symbolizing the prince’s birth.

Thailand

The prayers of Visakha Pujao resonate from every corner of the country.

Malaysia

The Buddha Purnima or Vesak ceremonies commence at early dawn when devotees gather at the temples to meditate, pray and partake in candle processions.

Indonesia

Buddhists have some very special traditions for the day. As a part of the Pradaksina ritual, they walk around their temple while repeating the mantras and meditating. Pindapata is another common practice for monks, requiring them to ask for charity, signifying their humility.

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