Vesak Poya that commemorates the birthday, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha is observed by followers of Buddhism across countries. Vesak falls on the day of the full moon in the month of May. Vesak 2019 will be celebrated on May 18. While Vesak Poya is celebrated across Asian countries, the observance witnesses various celebrations in Sri Lanka. In the country, various religious activities including Sil campaigns, Bodhi poojas, Dansalas are held. Believers organise events where they sing Vesak devotional songs called Bakthi Gee and light lanterns. Devotees also listen to the teachings of Lord Buddha and engage in charitable activities. Buddha Purnima (Vesak) 2019 Date: Know Significance And Celebrations Associated With Buddha Jayanti.
Full moon day is known as Poya in the Sinhala language. Lunar monthly Buddhist holiday of Uposatha in Sri Lanka is known as Poya. Countries like India, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and Bhutan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia also celebrate Buddha Jayanti. The day is also known as Buddha Purnima or Buddha Day in different countries. Philippines, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam also observe Buddha Purnima with various observances.
Vesak celebrations (Photo Credits: Getty Images)
Significance of Vesak
Although every full moon day is auspicious for Buddhists, the most important one is the one that falls in full moon in May as three major events in the life of Buddha took place on this day in different years. In the chronological order of events, firstly, Prince Siddhartha 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 on the full moon day of May. Thirdly, at the age of 80, he passed away, on the full moon day of May.
Vesak is derived from the Sanskrit word Vaisakha which is the name of the lunar month in ancient India that falls between April and May. While Vesak is an age-old observance, the decision to celebrate Buddha’s birthday was formalised 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. In 2000, the United Nations decided to observe Vesak at its headquarters and offices.
Vesak festivities (Photo Credits: Getty Images)
Vesak Celebrations in SriLanka
Vesak Pondals (Thorana) sprout up in every nook and corner of the country during Buddha Purnima. Each pandol illustrates a story from the 550 ‘Jathaka Katha’ or the 550 Past Life Stories of the Buddha. People clean and decorate their house for the festival. Every household puts up Vesak lanterns called Vesak koodu depicting the poya day. The lighting of the lanterns signifies as an offering to the memory of Buddha. Vesak lantern competitions are also held on the day in the country.
However, owing to the recent church shootings, the celebrations in the island country may be curbed. The Vesak celebrations are observed from May 17 to 21 in Sri Lanka. The United Nations Day of Vesak has begun in Vietnam’s northern Ha Nam province. More than 1,650 international delegates from over 100 countries and regions participate in the events. Reportedly, the opening ceremony of the UN Day of Vesak brought together 20,000 Vietnamese Buddhist dignitaries, monks, nuns and followers.