Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh has special significance because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment (nirvana), and attained parinirvana (nirvana-after-death of the body) when he died. Buddhists around the world are gearing up for Buddha Purnima 2018, or Vesak, which falls on 30th April this year.
In India, Buddha Purnima is celebrated by paying a visit to common Viharas, where Buddhists observe a longer than usual and full-length Buddhist sutra, which is similar to a service. Buddhists refrain from eating non-vegetarian food. Kheer is one of the most widely prepared delicacy of the day. Hard and pungent spices are also avoided in the preparation, so are ingredients like onion and garlic.
On Buddha Purnima, the statue of Buddha is placed in a basin filled with water and decorated with flowers. Devotees also sing hymns, praising Buddha and his teachings and principles. They bring along humble offerings like flowers, joss sticks and candles. Following the Buddhist ideals of non-violence and compassion, devotees refrain from killing of any kind on this day. They eat simple vegetarian food. In some parts of Sri Lanka, liquor shops and meat shops are also shut on the occasion of Vesak. In some countries, a ritualistic practice of releasing birds, insects and animals as a ‘symbolic act of liberation’ is also carried out on Buddha Purnima.
Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical founder of Buddhism, was born in India 3,000 years ago. There are various opinions concerning the exact dates of his birth and death, but according to Buddhist tradition, he is said to have been born April 8, 1029 BC and died on February 15, 949 BC, although other Buddhist scholars place his birth five hundred years later.
Shakyamuni Buddha was the son of the king of the Shakyas, a small clan whose kingdom was located at the foothills of the Himalayas, south of what is now central Nepal, fifteen miles from Kapilavastu.
Shakya of Shakyamuni is taken from the name of this tribe and muni means sage or saint. His family name was Gautama (Best Cow) and his given name was Siddhartha (Goal Achieved) though some scholars say this is a title bestowed on him by later Buddhists in honour of the enlightenment he attained.