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Buddha Purnima - The most important and sacred day for the followers of Buddhism

By Nischhal Pradhan at
buddha jayanti
"An important festival in the Buddhist calendar."

Buddha Purnima or Sambuddhatva jayanthi or Buddha Jayanti festival is the most important and sacred day for the followers of Buddhism. The most important festival in the Buddhist calendar, Buddha Purnima is celebrated and observed by millions of Buddhist followers across the globe with equally great enthusiasm. Although every full moon is sacred for the Buddhist followers, the full moon of the month of Baishakh (April-May) has a special meaning as on this special day, the Buddha was born as a prince, attained enlightenment and also attained Parinirvana. This is also a reason for the Buddha Purnima to have a great significance for the Buddhists.

swayambhunath temple nepal

Celebrations

Buddhist pilgrims and followers visit various Buddhist temples, monasteries and Stupas to attend the Buddha Purnima celebrations on Buddha Purnima. They observe the festival by having prayer meets, sermons on Buddhist principles, religious discourses and recite ancient verses along with the monks. The devout Buddhists may visit various temples in a single day to offer their prayers. Some temples also display a small statue of Buddha as a baby. This statue is put in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. The pilgrims pour water over the statue symbolizing a pure and new beginning.

The Buddhists also mark this day by having kheer (rice cooked in milk and sugar) and also share them with the poor. Similarly, stalls offering clean drinking water to the other pilgrims and people are also common sight. As Buddhist pay special attention to the teachings and principles of Buddha, their generosity can also be seen as they donate plenty of goods to organizations and to people who need them. They show care to all the living beings as non-vegetarian food items are strictly avoided on the day. Likewise, Buddhist reveres the Bodhi tree as the Buddha attained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India. The branches of the tree are decorated with garlands and colored flags. The tree is surrounded by the rows of lamps, and the followers sprinkle milk and scented waters on its roots.

The pilgrims and followers reaffirm their faith in the Panchasheel, the five principles of the Buddha. They are:

  • Not to take life
  • Not to steal
  • Not to lie
  • Not to consume intoxicants
  • Not to commit adultery

Similarly, many countries with a majority of populations as Buddhist observe this day as a public holiday. Stores and other businesses and organizations may be closed or have reduced opening hours. Transport is usually unaffected as many locals travel for religious celebrations.

As three main events of the Buddha’s life happened on the same day of Baishakh Purnima, the Buddha Purnima can also be termed as the Thrice Blessed Festival.