Commemorating the birth of Lord Buddha or Shakyamuni, a religious leader, an ascetic, and a teacher, Buddha Purnima is celebrated amidst great reverence, devotion, and respect. Lord Buddha took birth as Prince Sidhartha at Lumbini in 623 BC, according to the ancient scripts. It lies in the Terai Region of Nepal. Buddha Purnima is celebrated as per the Hindu Lunar calendar. Today, Lumbini is considered one of the major Buddhist pilgrimage sites. It is also a prominent UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buddha Purnima is also celebrated as Vesak Purnima. It was the day when Gautam Buddha took birth in a royal family, attained enlightenment, and passed away. The common link to all these three major events in the life of Buddha was the bright full-moon day shining in the luminous sky. It is said that, due to his spiritual prowess, he had consciously shed his body in Kushinagar as a realized being.
Celebrated in the month of Vaisakh, Buddha Purnima is also referred to as Baisakh Purnima. It is a very auspicious day. According to the Gregorian calendar, Buddha Purnima 2023 will fall on May 5, and with this, 2,583 years of Buddha’s spiritual legacy on our planet will be completed. This Indian festival holds great importance in both Hinduism and Buddhism. According to Hindu texts, Lord Buddha is considered the ninth Avatar of Lord Vishnu himself. Thus, during the Buddha Purnima festival, many temples across India worship Lord Vishnu by reciting Vishnu Sahasranama. It is prudent to note that Buddhists do not consider Lord Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This day is celebrated by organising events highlighting the life and teachings of the Gautam Buddha. Many people engage in meditation sessions that make them more self-aware.
The birthplace of Gautam Budha is in Lumbini, Nepal. Despite being born as a prince in a royal family in a small kingdom, Buddha or Siddhartha realised the truth of human life at an early age. Belonging to the Shakya clan, his father was warned by the Brahmins about Siddhartha either becoming a great monarch or a great sage. This prophecy was made twelve years before his birth. The King kept his son confined within the walls of the palace to prevent him from becoming an ascetic. Despite growing up in luxury, trained in swordsmanship, archery, running, swimming, and wrestling, his destiny caught up with him. He struggled to get out from the shadow of princely luxuries and find out more about the world. He was curious to know about the circle of life and death. Thus, despite getting married and having a son, he decided to leave the castle walls and venture out into the world. He bid a silent farewell to his wife and son and set about finding answers to questions about birth, rebirth, salvation or moksha. Years later, he became enlightened and became Buddha. It was a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh. Since then, Buddha Purnima is celebrated to commemorate this day.
The festival is also known as Satyavrat Purnima in Hinduism. There is an interesting story as to how it got this name. It happened that one day Lord Krishna asked one of his closest friends, Sudama to keep a fast. As Sudama shared a deep bond of affection with Lord Krishna, he happily agreed despite his deteriorating financial and health condition. Miraculously, as soon as he observed the fast, Sudama’s financial and health condition improved. He himself couldn't believe it but finally understood that it was the divine Maya of his friend Lord Krishna. Since then, it is believed that fasting on this day can help a person overcome issues related to health and finance.
Today, Buddha Purnima is not only celebrated in India but also in other countries of the world, like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bhutan, Thailand, Korea, China, Laos, Mongolia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
1. Prayer Meets and Religious Discourses
On this day, the devotees gather for religious discourses and sermons in the temples, locally. Group meditations are conducted and prayers and chanting are done under the Bodhi tree (in Bodh Gaya).
2. Fairs and Celebrations
In Sarnath, a great fair takes place where the relics of Lord Buddha are carried out in a procession. In Delhi, the National Museum displays the mortal remains of Lord Buddha for public viewing which is a fascinating fact in itself.
In Sikkim, Buddha Purnima is celebrated as Saga Dawa, where the monks take out a procession, carrying the Holy Book of Tsuklakhang Palace Monastery amid the beating of drums and blowing of horns. The air smells of fragrant incense. At various monasteries, folk dance performances also take place.
3. Baby Buddha
There are many Buddhists who visit the temples to listen to monk preachings about the ancient Buddhist verses. However, some temples also display the statue of Baby Buddha, placed in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. The devotees who come to the temple pour water over the statue, symbolizing new beginnings. People also offer incense, flowers, and fruits to the statue.
Buddha Purnima is celebrated with great reverence and devotion all over the world. Here are a few of the best places to witness Buddha Purnima. This is the best day to know more about the teachings of Lord Buddha and how it can make a difference in our lives. Besides people of Buddhist faith, this day is also celebrated by people across different castes and religions.
1. Buddha Purnima in Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Bodh Gaya is one of the major Buddhist sites in India. The Mahabodhi Temple situated here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many other sites worth exploring like Diamond Throne or Vajrasana, the Mahabodhi Stupa, 80-foot Buddha statue, and a lotus pond. It is here where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.
How to Reach Bodh Gaya
2. Buddha Purnima in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
It is located in Varanasi. It is a sacred, Buddhist pilgrimage site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon. Here, he formed Sangha and taught Dhamma to his disciples. The famous Dhamek Stupa which is 128-feet high is also located here.
How to Reach Sarnath
3. Buddha Purnima in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh
It is also one of the prominent pilgrimage sites in Uttar Pradesh. Lord Buddha attained nirvana or mahaparinirvana after death in Kushinagar. Here, the2–feet statue of ‘dying Buddha’ is a major attraction.
How to Reach Kushinagar
4. Buddha Purnima in Sravasti, Uttar Pradesh
It is an ancient city where Buddha spent most of his time after enlightenment. It is believed that it is here where Lord Buddha performed several miracles.
How to Reach Sravasti
5. Buddha Purnima in Rajgir, Bihar
The capital of erstwhile Magadh Empire, Rajgiris another place where Buddha Purnima is celebrated with great gusto. This place is known for its curative hot springs. Here, Lord Buddha used to stay during the monsoon season and delivered sermons to his disciples.
How to Reach Rajgir
Ques 1. Why is Buddha Purnima celebrated?
Ans 1. Commemorating the birth of Lord Buddha or Shakyamuni, a religious leader, an ascetic, and a teacher, Buddha Purnima is celebrated amidst great reverence, devotion, and respect.
Ques 2. When is Buddha Purnima celebrated?
Ans 2. Buddha Purnima is celebrated on a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh, coinciding with the month of May.
Ques 3. In which countries Buddha Purnima is celebrated?
Ans 3. Buddha Purnima is not only celebrated in India but also in other countries of the world, like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Bhutan, Thailand, Korea, China, Laos, Mongolia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
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