Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists. Buddha Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month Vaishaaka (that corresponds to the month of April-May) - a special time in Buddhism as it was on this day that the Buddha was born, gained enlightenment and attained Nirvana when he left the material world. The full moon day of April/May is celebrated as the birthday of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. It is also believed that Yashodara, Gautama's wife, his charioteer Channa and even his horse Kantaka were born on the same day.
All the important occasions related to the lord Buddha are combined in one on the full moon day of Vaishakh. Prayers, sermons, and non-stop recitation of Buddhist scriptures resonate in monasteries, religious halls, and homes. In the monasteries in Sikkim, monks hold daylong reading of the scriptures before the Buddha statue. On the occasion of Buddha Purnima people listen to the recitals, and also offer gifts to the Buddhist monks and pay homage to the statue. The statue of the Lord Buddha is given special attention everywhere, with people offering it incense, flowers, candles, and fruits. The Bodhi Vriksha or the pipal tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment also receives a fair share of garlands and colored flags. People also sprinkle milk and scented waters on its roots and light lamps around it.
Buddhist rituals for celebrating the three-in-one occasion are naturally elaborate. The day falls in the Vaishakh month according to the Indian solar calendar. For the Tibetans, it is the full moon day in the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar. On this day the Buddhists bathe and wear only white clothes. They gather in their viharas for worship and give alms to monks. Many spend their entire day at the vihara listening to discourses on the life and teachings of the Buddha or invite monks to their homes. They also reaffirm their faith in the five principles called Panchsheel-
- (1)Not to take life
- (2)Not to steal
- (3)Not to lie
- (4)Not to imbibe liquor or other intoxicants
- (5)Not to commit Adultery.
On Buddha Purnima, Buddhists refrain from eating meat and eat kheer or rice cooked in milk and sugar, which they share with the poor. They set up stalls in public places to offer others clean drinking water and also show kindness to animals.
Places to Visit
Bodh Gaya in Bihar and Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh are some of the places to visit during this festival, In Orissa Dhauligiri is also a nice Buddhist place. One can see the various celebrations and related rituals in some places related to Buddhism.