It is generally said that in India you’ve more than 13 festivals in twelve months—and truth be told, we all enjoy the festivals, don’t we? However, there are some festivals which most of us do celebrate (irrespective of our massive North-South division), but without knowing the nitty gritties about them. One such festival is the widely celebrated Buddha Purnima—a festival which is auspicious to the Buddhists as well as to the Hindus. So, in this list, let’s make an attempt to know some of the most interesting facts about Buddha Purnima which, we bet, most of you didn’t know about—
Well, to begin with, let’s know the fact that this festival is known to by two other names—Vesak and Buddha Jayanti. It commemorates not only Gautama Buddha’s birth (623 B.C.) but also his enlightenment as the “Buddha” (588 B.C.) and his death after attaining Nirvana or Moksha, at the age of 80.
Although Lord Buddha initiated a new religion, Buddhism, according to the holy scriptures of the Hindus, he’s the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the supreme Gods of the Hindus and a part of the Holy Trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Maheshwar. He’s looked upon as not only the Supreme Creator but also the Preserver and Destroyer.
Now, coming back to Buddha Purnima, it is indeed an interesting fact to know that Buddha’s wife Yashodhara, Ananda, his first disciple, Channa, his charioteer as well as his horse, Kantaka were all born on this auspicious day, according to the legends. It is believed and known that it was specifically on this day that Buddha started preaching his sermons to all, and even the holy Bodhi tree, under which Prince Siddhartha became Gautama Buddha, was born on this particular day. It might sound strange, but perhaps such are the ways of God!
That Vesak would be celebrated on the auspicious day of Rabindra Jayanti was decided at the first conference of the World Fellowships of Buddhists held in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo in May, 1950.
If you see the Buddhist Calendar, you’ll find it’s a lunar one which can be interpreted in numerous ways. Hence, on those Mays which have two full moon days instead of one, people from different countries celebrate it in any of the two days. This seems quite strange, but then again, strange are the ways of God Almighty!
Although this festival is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur, the mood of this festival is one of tranquility and peace. However, decoration of houses, lanes and illumination of houses along with chanting of Buddhist recites indeed make a part of the celebrations.
Of course, not all the Buddhists sects pray to the idol of Buddha; so, what do you think is the unique symbol of Vesak? Yes, you’re right; it is the Dharmachakra or the Dharma Wheel that you’d see in all the Buddhist monasteries across the world! These specialized wooden wheels have eight spikes which symbolizes Buddha’s teaching towards the path of righteousness and enlightenment. The eight spokes also represents the noble eight-fold teaching that make up Buddhism.
The Bodhi Tree under which Buddha gained his Enlightenment still stands tall amidst all the newer ones; and, every year, on this auspicious day, people decorate and offer prayers to this tree by adorning it with garlands and colorful flags which are symbols of Buddhism. Scented water and milk are still now sprinkled at its roots while lamps illuminate its whole circumference.
Many devout Buddhists also visit temples where Buddha is prayed to in his baby avatar. The statue of Baby Buddha, which is generally placed in a tub of water, decorated with flowers and lamps, symbolizes a new and pure beginning all over again. After praying in these temples, people hope for a rejuvenated beginning devoid of any obstacles and mistakes on their parts!