How did it become a global holiday?
In the year 1999, the General Assembly put forth a resolution to observe the Vesak Day globally to recognize the contribution of Buddhism, one of the oldest religions in the world towards humanity and spirituality. Thousands globally follow the tenets of Buddhism and on the Vesak Day honor the birth, the enlightenment and the death of Lord Buddha. Peace, understanding and a nonviolent vision of humankind are some of the teachings Buddhists follow.
Now that you know the importance of this, don’t you think experiencing a celebration is apt? Well, since celebrations vary in different countries, Skyscanner picked a few that you can add to your travel calendar especially if you plan on a holiday around “Vesak Day.”
Top 6 International Destinations for Vesak Day
Vesak Day in Indonesia has been celebrated at the UNESCO World Heritage Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Java since 1983. Vivacious colours, ample festivities and many spectacular sights are what you can look forward to when in Borobudur. Many monks get together before dawn to chant hymns and meditate while performing a Pradakshina while offering flowers to signify the cycle of life and death.
Another important moment is Pindapata when monks go about asking for contributions from the Indonesians. In the evening sky lanterns, birds, small animals are released. The full moon sky is lit with lanterns, a view you must see to experience it.
Called the Visakha Bucha Day, all of Thailand celebrates this national holiday. Most residents including monks travel to the capital city for this day. Most visit the temples to pray, take part in the rituals, donate and in a few cases recommit to the tenets of Buddhism. Sale of alcohol is prohibited on this day.
The three most important temples you can visit are the Wat Pho -the oldest Buddhist temple, Wat Phrathart Doi Suthep -where a large candlelight procession is held each year. Devotees prefer wearing white and circle the temple’s ‘Bhote’, clockwise carrying lotus buds and incense. Don’t forget the Wat Phra Kaew -known as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. It is also home to the famous Emerald Buddha.
Also called Buddha Purnima, Buddha Jayanti, and Vaisakh Purnima, the Vesak day is celebrated in Nepal with much fervour. People celebrate this day wearing white while avoiding meat. Rice porridge on Vesak has special importance. It is said that a girl, Sujata offered Buddha a bowl of porridge, which he had before bathing in the river Neranjara.
While bathing he threw the bowl saying if it flows upstream he was becoming Buddha and if it sank then he was not. Of course, the bowl flowed upstream right in the middle of the river. People tell stories of how Gautam Buddha gave up his materialistic life to follow asceticism to attain nirvana.
Though not a national holiday, Japan observes this day following the Buddhist calendar. All temples around Japan hold prayer services to honour and remember Lord Buddha. The first prayer service in Japan was held in Asuka-Dera in 606. Small statues of flower-bedecked Buddha are bathed in the ‘ama-cha’ people offer made from a variety of hydrangea.
Millions from all walks of life gather in Malaysia to celebrate the soul of Buddha. Keen followers await their turn at the Malaysian Buddhist Association to cleanse the Buddha statue, in a special procedure that symbolizes the cleansing and purging of one’s soul. Devotees can also light lotus-shaped candles at the shrine and seek blessings.
The celebration is incomplete without a vegetarian dinner and non-alcoholic drinks. Another event not to miss is the Vesak Day parade, which begins at 7 pm from the Buddhist Temple Maha Vihara, in Brickfields to finish at Bukit Bintang area
Saka Dawa, as Vesak is known as in Tibet occurs in the 4th-lunar month and is one of the 4 divine commemorations in Tibet. Everywhere countries celebrate the one day as Vesak day, but Tibet’s celebrations last for the entire month. Tibetans go on journeys, often to Lhasa and Ngari. There are several devotees circling through Barkhor, the Potala Palace, and Lingkor, or climbing the Gephel Ri, the mountaintop behind the Drepung monastery, to burn juniper incense.
In the west Tibet, people perform a holy ceremony of bringing down the old prayer flagpole (Darpoche) and erect a new one in its place. Many believe the rewards of your good deeds during the Vesak Day i.e. Saga Dawa tend to grow as much as a hundred million times more