Buddha Jayanti/Buddha Purnima

Buddha Jayanti is the celebration of the anniversary of the three major events in the life of Lord Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Also known as Buddha Purnima, the celebration of the birth, enlightenment, and attainment to Nirvana of Lord Buddha is the most important event of the year for Buddhists. This sacred celebration takes place around the world on the full moon of the fourth lunar month, which for Nepal is the month of Baisakh, corresponding with the Indian lunar month of Vaisakh. In 2008, Buddha Jayanti falls on 20 May 2008 according to the Gregorian calendar.

Buddha Jayanti is day which is seen as being thrice blessed, as Buddhists remember Lord Buddha’s birth in 623 BC, his enlightenment or attainment of supreme wisdom in 588 BC and his realization of Nirvana at the age of 80. As a triple celebration, Buddha Jayanti is an elaborate occasion and Buddhist monasteries all around the world resound with sermons, prayers and recitals of Buddhist scriptures throughout the day. These are offered in front of a statue of Lord Buddha.

Celebrations continue on the following day when, according to Buddha Jayanti custom, a gigantic figure of Lord Buddha is displayed to followers, and numerous small shrines are venerated. The roofs of the homes of worshippers are decorated with colorful white, yellow, red and blue flags twisting and turning in the breeze, adding to the festive atmosphere of the occasion. People gather into large groups to parade through the streets while chanting prayers to the Lord Buddha to thank him for all his generous provisions.

A Buddha Purnima tradition requires that followers and monks offer candles, flowers and a variety of fruit to the statue of Lord Buddha, while the smoke of burning incense fills the air. People from all over the world travel to visit the Mahabodhi tree, the site where Buddha attained enlightenment. Colored flags are tied to the tree and fruit and candle offerings are made to it as well.

Festivals and celebrations are a way of life in Nepal and visitors traveling through this fascinating country are likely to witness one of these occasions. Certainly the celebration of Buddha Jayanti/Buddha Purnima is a joyous and colorful occasion which will leave a lasting impression.