Buddha Purnima also known as Buddha Day or Vesak commemorates the birthday, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha. The day is typically observed by Buddhists and some Hindus in Asian countries including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Vesak or Wesak falls on the day of the full moon between April and May. Buddha Purnima 2019 falls on May 18. Devotees of Buddha observe the day by listening to his teachings, remembering his compassion towards humanity and engage in charitable deeds.
Significance of Buddha Purnima
While every full moon day is auspicious for Buddhists, the most important one is the full moon in May as all three major events of the life of Buddha took place on this day in different years. In the chronological order of events, firstly, Prince Siddhartha (before he became Buddha) was born at Lumbini Grove on the full moon day in May. Secondly, he attained enlightenment under the shade of the Bodhi tree and became Gautama Buddha at Bodh Gaya also on the full moon day of May. Thirdly, at the age of 80, after teaching the Truth, he passed away, on the full moon day of May.
In India, Lord Buddha is considered as the eighth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, hence the day sees a lot of festivities. The day is celebrated widely in India and Nepal as it is believed that Lord Buddha was born in the Lumbini region of Nepal and attained salvation in Kushinagar of India. Followers of Buddha dress in white clothes, visit Buddha temples and distribute kheer. According to the beliefs, it became a tradition after a woman named Sujata offered kheer to Gautam Buddha on this day. Other countries that also observe Buddha Purnimal include Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Vesak is derived from the Sanskrit word Vaisakha which is the name of the lunar month used in ancient India that falls between April and May. In 2000, the United Nations decided internationally observe the day of Vesak at its headquarters and offices. While Buddhists observances are centuries-old, the decision celebrate Wesakha or Vesak as the Buddha’s birthday was officiated in 1950, at the first conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka. The resolution was thereafter adopted at the World Conference. As the Vesak full moon day is the most important day for the followers of Buddhism, believers go to the pagodas in procession to pour water at the foot of the sacred tree in remembrance of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. While many go to Buddha shrines, people also flock the Mahabodhi Tree in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya.