The festival of Buddha Jayanti
Buddha Jayanti is the most important Buddhist festival. Also known as ‘Buddha Poornima’, it is celebrated on the Poornima or full moon day of the Month of Vaisakh (April/May). This day marks three important events in the life of the Buddha, his birth, attainment of Gyan and his moksha.
Buddha is also considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and regarded as ninth of Dashavataras.
Buddha Jayanti day is hugely celebrated in many parts of the world, predominantly Lumbini, Nepal – the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. Buddha’s Enlightenment is highlighted and teachings of Buddha preserved in pali canon become more popular in this period among Buddhists who follow the Theravada.
Buddha Purnima is also known as Buddha Jayanti, Vesak, Vaishaka and Buddha’s Birthday.
Buddha’s birth and moksha
The time of Gautama Buddha’s birth and death is uncertain. However, most historians date his lifetime between 563-483 BC. Most people consider Lumbini, Nepal as birth place of Buddha. Buddha died at the age of 80 at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.
Rituals on Buddha Jayanti
Activities include prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation, processions, and worship of the statue of Buddha.
At Bodhgaya, the Mahabodhi Temple wears a festive look and is decorated with colorful flags and flowers. Special prayers are organized under the Bodhi Tree (the tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment).
The National Museum in Delhi also brings the mortal remains of Buddha (what are believed to be some of his bones and ashes) out for public viewing on Buddha Jayanti.
Many Buddhists visit temples on Buddha Jayanti to listen to monks give talks and recite ancient verses. Devout Buddhists may spend all day in one or more temples. Some temples display a small statue of Buddha as a baby. The statue is placed in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. Visitors to the temple pour water over the statue. This symbolizes a pure and new beginning. Other statues of Buddha are worshiped by offerings of incense, flowers, candles and fruit.
Buddhists pay special attention to Buddha’s teachings Buddha Jayanti. They give money, food or goods to organizations that help the poor, elderly, and those who are sick. Caged animals are bought and set free to show care for all living creatures, as preached by Buddha. The usual dress is pure white. Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is also commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge.
Stamp issued by Indian postal department
In 2013, Buddha Jayanti falls on May 25.