Wesak festival in Sri Lanka
Wesak is the biggest festival in Sri Lanka after the Sinhalese new year festival. Not only Sri Lankan Buddhists, but Buddhists in all over the world celebrate it. Celebration customs can be different from one country to another, but the meaning of the festival is same everywhere. With this short article, I’m going to tell you some Wesak festival customs in Sri Lanka and how Sri Lankan Buddhist people celebrate it.
Every year full moon day of May, Buddhists celebrate lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death (parinirvana). This festival called “Wesak” in Sri Lanka. Usually Sri Lankan people get two days holiday for this Buddhist festival. Here are some customs of it. Before few days of the festival, people start to build Wesak lanterns. They look like the one you see above. But have different colors and shapes. What you see above is the most common Wesak lantern that you can see in Sri Lanka. If you need to see more lanterns, please Google it.
Other than these lanterns, people decorate their homes by colorful paper buckets, bulbs, oil lamps and flowers. If you go to streets, there are more bigger lanterns and big light decorations called “thorana” in Sri Lankan language. Those are made by town councils, city councils, temples or groups of people. You can go to see these big lanterns and light decorations for free. However if you like, also can give them some money as a contribution.
On the Wesak day, All Buddhist temples have special programs. Lot of people go to participate for them. Few times, when I was in Sri Lanka, I also participated. Mostly these programs conducted by elderly monks and teach participants to meditate and give lectures about Buddhism. There’s another Wesak custom in Sri Lanka, it is free food and drinks giveaways. Most of the time, groups of people organize this kinda Wesak campaigns. In the evening or at night, all Buddhist people go to temples and honor their spiritual teacher, “Lord Buddha” by offering flowers, lighting oil lamps and incense.
Wesak Day 2012 in Asia Celebration!The Buddhist festival of Wesak (also commonly written Vesak) is one of the biggest religious celebrations in Asia! Colorfully decorated temples, beautifully adorned women, white-robed devout Buddhists, fragrant flowers, decked up statues of the Buddha and the soft chanting of hymns: this is just a bit of what Wesak day is actually like!
If you’re looking to embrace your inner positivity and release negative energy and remind yourself that life, like everything else, has a sell by date, then you definitely want to be in Asia during the Wesak Day festival!
What’s Wesak Day?As a tourist in Asia, you might not be aware of the significance of Wesak Day to the Buddhists. Buddhism, being one of the key religions of the Southeast, has one very special day that commemorates the birth, the enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. Wesak day is also commonly known as Buddha’s Birthday, or Buddha Day.
To the Buddhists, this day is a big deal, which is why devout Buddhists opt to wear complete white and reach the temple before dawn to hoist the Buddhist flag as well as to sing hymns that honor the triple gem; The Buddha, The Dharma (His Teachings) and The Sangha (His Disciples).
On Wesak Day, temples are thronged not only by Buddhists but also tourists keen to see and experience the incredible peace associated with the concept of Buddhism. If you’re going to be in Asia during Wesak 2012, you might want to be a part of this festival which requires abstaining from killing any animals (even insects) and drinking.
This festival is all about peace, bringing happiness to other people and paying homage to the teachings of the Buddha, which is why all tourists are expected to maintain a sense of decorum in the temples as well as the city during the festival!
On Wesak Day, one traditional is similar through the countries of Asia where Buddhism is practiced: that of placing a statue of the baby Buddha-to-be, Prince Siddhardha, in a basin brimming with water and decorated with flowers. Generally, the devotees pour water over this statue, to signify removal of bad karma as well as to re-enact the events that occurred when the Buddha was born.
Which Asian Countries Celebrate Wesak Day?Almost all Asian countries whose people follow Buddhism celebrate Wesak Day. As a tourist, you might even come across Wesak day without knowing what it is! This is because different countries have different names for Wesak Day! Let’s take a look at these:
- Cambodia – Vesak Bochea
- Laos – Vixakha Bouxa
- Thailand – Wisakha Bucha
- Malaysia – Hari Wesak
- Singapore – Vesak Day
- Nepal – Buddha Jayanti
- Japan – Hanamatsuri
- Korea: Seokka Tanshin-il
- Indonesia – Waisak
- Bangladesh – Bud-dho Joyonti
- Vietnam: Phat Dan
- Tibet: Saga Dawa
Wesak Day Food!If you’re in Asia for the Buddha’s Birthday, don’t forget to visit the Buddhist temples and partake of the scrumptious vegetarian cuisine! Meat is not allowed on Wesak Day, as slaughtering of all animals is forbidden. Forget the lamb chops, and embrace the mixed vegetable curry on this day!
Wesak Day Celebrations All Over AsiaWesak Day is celebrated all over Asia with pomp and splendor. If you’re in Asia in the month of June this year, you might want to check out the amazing celebrations and festivals that commemorate the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha.
Let’s take a look at how some of the Asian countries celebrate Wesak Day!
Wesak Day in JapanFalling on April 8th, Wesak Day in Japan is celebrated in all Buddhist temples. This day is also known as the Flower Festival, as devotees fill the temples with fresh, fragrant flowers to remember how the Buddha was born. After arrival at the temples, devotees pour ama cha, which is a special tea from the juices of Hydrangea flowers on the statue of the baby Buddha. Programs involving talks on the Buddha’s teachings are also organized.
Wesak Day Festivals in MalaysiaIn Malaysia, Wesak day festivals are always vivid and colorful! Saffron robed monks chanting sutras, lit up joss and incense sticks lending sweet fragrance to the air, donations of alms to the poor: Buddhists in Malaysia go all out to celebrate the day in style and ruminate over the Eight Precepts, following it all up with a candle procession! Wesak Day in Malaysia is a public holiday, so if you’re here, you may find the shopping areas of your choice closed for the day!
Wesak Day in Sri LankaThere’s perhaps no country in Asia where Wesak Day is celebrated with as much vigor as it is in Sri Lanka! One of the best Asian countries where tourists can view Wesak Day and all its symbolisms, Sri Lanka celebrates this day with a week-long festival of religious and cultural events!
Giving of alms is encouraged, while all butcheries and places that sell alcohol are closed. Toranas, which are lit to tell a story from the 550 Life Stories of the Buddha, dot many locations within Sri Lanka, and almost every home and shop has lit lanterns at the doors which symbolize the light of enlightenment (nirvana).
Wesak Day 2012 Dates for Different Asian CountriesTraditionally, Wesak day is meant to be celebrated according to the lunar system, which is why the date changes every year. It’s supposed to be on the first full moon day of the month of Visakha (Indian calendar), which translates into different days for different Asian countries that do not follow the Gregorian calendar. Some countries, like Japan, have a fixed date for Wesak Day while for most Asian countries; the lunar cycle dictates the day! Let’s take a look at when Wesak Day 2012 will happen in Buddhist countries in Asia!
- 8th April 2012 – Japan
- 28th April 2012 – China
- 5th May 2012 – Singapore, Laos, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma)
- 6th May 2012 – Indonesia, Nepal and India
- 4th June 2012 – Thailand