Buddha Purnima 2022: Date, history, significance, celebration of Buddha Jayanti
Also known as Buddha Jayanti or Vaisakhi Buddha Purnima or Vesak, the festival of Buddha Purnima is based on the Asian lunisolar calendar and marks the birth of Gautama Buddha. It is celebrated with great fervour in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and numerous other South East Asian countries including Thailand, Tibet, China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia and Indonesia.
It falls on a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh (April/May) according to the Hindu calendar and this year, Buddha Purnima will be celebrated on Monday, May 16. The Vesak full moon day is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar.
According to the British Library blog, “Every full moon day is an auspicious day for Buddhists, but the most important of all is the day of the full moon in May, because three major events in the life of the Gautama Buddha took place on this day. First, the Buddha-to-be, Prince Siddhattha was born at Lumbini Grove on the full moon day in May. Secondly, after six years of hardship, he attained enlightenment under the shade of the Bodhi tree and became Gautama Buddha at Bodh Gaya also on the full moon day of May. Thirdly, after 45 years of teaching the Truth, when he was eighty, at Kusinara, he passed away to nibbana, the cessation of all desire, on the full moon day of May.”
History and significance:
The birthday of Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is celebrated as Buddha Purnima across the world since he was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama on the Purnima Tithi (full moon day) in 563 BC in Lumbini (modern day Nepal). In Hinduism, Buddha is considered as the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu hence, this day is commemorated by Buddhists and Hindus all over the world
In Theravada Buddhism, it is also observed as the day when Buddha, born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-483 BCE) attained Nirvana (salvation) under the Mahabodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, Bihar, as well as his death anniversary. Gautama Buddha preached Dharma (duty), non violence, harmony and kindness. He left his worldly possessions and princedom at the age of 30 to lead a life searching for the truth, seeking penance in the hopes of liberating himself from suffering (duhkha).
Devotees of Buddha visit temples, light candles and incense sticks, pray and offer sweets and fruits before the statue of Lord Buddha. Sermons on the life and teachings of Buddha are held and attended by followers all over. People usually dress in white, do not consume non-vegetarian food and distribute kheer, as according to Buddhist lore, on this day a woman named Sujata had offered Buddha a bowl of milk porridge.
Many followers also free caged birds on this day as a symbol of empathy and compassion for all living beings, one of the most important teachings of Lord Buddha. In India, a large fair takes place in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, a major Buddhist pilgrimage site where Buddha is said to have delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.
The relics of Buddha are taken out for public display in a procession. Many Hindus also believe Buddha to be the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. This year, with coronavirus pandemic and nationwide lockdown, now in phase 3, the celebrations are likely to look different.