Buddha Purnima is celebrated every year on the full moon day in the month of Baisakh as per the Hindu calendar. It is also known as Vesak or Buddha Jayanti and commemorates three major events in Buddha's life- his birth, attainment of enlightenment, and death.
Prince Siddharta Gautama who later became Gautam Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. Buddha Purnima is a public holiday so schools and most businesses remain closed.
Buddha Purnima History
Gautam Buddha was born as Siddhartha, the prince of Kapilavastu, in 563 BCE in Lumbini which is in present-day Nepal. He was born to king Suddhodana and Queen Maya Devi. Before his birth, it was predicted that his life was likely to have two outcomes- he would either become a great King or a great monk.
The second outcome made his family fearful. In order to rule out the second probability, they made sure that he remained within the boundaries of the palace. However, it was not for long as Prince Siddhartha witnessed unfortunate things such as old age, sickness, and death in his late twenties. Thus, at 29 years old, he finally decided to leave the royal luxuries behind and find answers to the causes of human suffering.
For the next few years, he was unable to find a solution even after looking into many different teachings. Finally, one day, he was determined to search for a state which was beyond birth and death. This is why he meditated with utmost concentration under the Mahabodhi tree in Bodh Gaya which is in present-day Bihar. A demon called Mara tried hard to disrupt his meditation but it was of no use.
Finally, he attained enlightenment at the age of 35. His enlightenment or awakening is called the four noble truths as he learned about- human suffering, its cause, the truth about the end of this suffering, and the path towards its end. He finally breathed his last in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh at the age of 80.
Apparently, the three major events in Gautam Buddha's life- his birth, attainment of enlightenment, and death occur on the same day of the year. Thus, Buddha Purnima is an important celebration among Buddhists.
The international organization called World Fellowship of Buddhists decided to celebrate this day on the full moon day of Baisakh in May 1960.
Buddha Purnima Celebration
- People visit Buddhist temples on this day to pray and seek blessings. They light candles and incense sticks and offer fruits and sweets to Lord Buddha's idol.
- People usually wear white clothes, avoid non-vegetarian food and give 'Kheer', a popular Indian dessert. This is because it is believed that a woman named Sujata gave Buddha milk porridge on this day.
- Some people also fast and meditate on this day. It is a symbol of peace and enlightenment.
- Followers of Buddha all over the world release caged animals such as insects and birds on this day as an act of liberation.
- The Bodhi Tree or the 'tree of awakening' is an important part of the celebrations as well. People pour water near its base and also donate to the poor and needy.