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Buddhists across the globe celebrate Vesak Festival

A Buddha statue within a Sri Lankan temple. (Photo: Kasmir Nema)

Several countries, during the full moon in May, celebrate the Vesak festival, which is one of the most important festivals among millions of Buddhists across the globe.

Also known as the Day of Buddha, it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvana, likened to an experience of heaven), and death of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

The festival usually falls on the full moon in the month of Vesakha, which takes place in May or June in the Gregorian calendar.

Sri Lanka, in South Asia, celebrates it for a week, attracting visitors and allowing them to immerse themselves in the country's religious and cultural traditions. For the country, it serves as the equivalent of Christmas in the West.

Buddhists perform devotions such as visiting temples, making offerings to Buddha statues, and chanting sutras (the Buddha's words).

Known as the festival of light, people light candles and lamps and display Vesak lanterns.  People get together, rejoice, have entertainment, and reflect on Buddha’s teachings, who pursued spiritual development and enlightenment with acts of generosity and compassion.

There is almsgiving for the unfortunate, including the elderly, the handicapped, and the sick. Buddhists donate cash and goods to various charitable homes across the country.

On the roadside, stalls give away free refreshments to passersby, and there are some mime and street theater performances staged on high platforms throughout the cities and towns near the temples. 

People's faces reflect contentment.

Every home hangs lanterns made from bamboo frames covered in colored paper, and illuminated displays adorn the streets. There are also Vesak lantern competitions in a number of cities and towns, with prizes for the winners.

While Vesak is commemorated in various Buddhist traditions and cultures, the core is honoring Buddha in his life and teachings, as well as nurturing peace, unity, and good will among all.


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