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From India to Vietnam, Buddha’s light shines across Asia on Buddha Purnima

Buddha Purnima celebrated in a temple (Pic Courtesy Twitter/@airnewsalerts)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led by example to celebrate Buddha Purnima on Friday — a step that echoes strongly across the length and breadth of a rising Asia.

PM Modi conveyed his greetings to the people on the occasion on Twitter.

The Prime Minister, who has been championing India as a civilizational state has gone all out to revive Buddhism in India. He has been advocating travel by tourists and pilgrims along the Asian Buddhist circuit, starting from Lumbini in Nepal, Bodh Gaya where the spiritual leader gained enlightenment, to Sarnath where he delivered his first sermon to Kushinagar, where Buddha passed away.

As the event commemorating the 5th century birth of Buddha is based on the Asian lunisolar calendar, it is celebrated in different countries on various dates. While the date is ever-changing it generally comes in April or May as per the Gregorian calendar.

In India, Buddha Purnima or Vaishakh Purnima is an official public holiday. Believers and devotees go to a Buddhist monastery or vihara and attend the Buddhist sutra or service. Both elders and children wear new clothes, eat sweets and pray in different Buddha temples.

Many who reside in New Delhi visit the National Museum to worship the holy remains of Buddha.

Buddha Purnima Nepal
Devotees thronging to offer prayers at Lord Buddha’s statue in Nepal (Pic. Courtesy visitnepal.com)

Nepal, India’s immediate neighbour celebrates this festival in a gentle and serene manner. People prefer to dress in white and attend prayer meetings in the viharas and while abstaining from non-vegetarian food they prepare kheer or sweet rice porridge.

Buddha Purnima Sri Lanka
A torana or free standing ornamental gateway made on the occasion of Buddha’s birthday in Piliyandala, Sri Lanka (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

Celebrated on the first full moon day in May, in Sri Lanka people decorate homes and streets with paper and bamboo lanterns and candles while decorative gateways called torana are erected everywhere. Free food and drink are offered by devotees.

Buddha Purnima Bhutan
A statue of Lord Buddha in Bhutan (Pic. Courtesy pmlholidays.com)

In the Land of the Thunder Dragon or Bhutan, Buddha’s birthday is a public holiday and it comes the Sawa Dawa month during which devotees and followers strictly follow vegetarian diet. They visit monasteries wearing national dress to pray and light butter lamps.

Buddha Purnima Bangladesh
Buddha Dhatu Zadi in Bandarban City is the second largest Buddha statue in Bangladesh (Pic. Courtesy wikimedia commons)

Though Islam is the main religion in Bangladesh, Buddha’s birthday is a public holiday during which priests and monks adorn temples with candles and decorations. Large fairs are held from noon onwards in and around the temples and viharas and vegetarian food is sold there along with toys and clothes. Performances from Lord Buddha’s life are presented for people to enjoy and learn from.

Citizens of Myanmar commemorate Buddha Jayanti by watering the Bodhi tree and chanting. Music and dance performances are held in large pagodas.

Called Visakha Puja in Thailand, on this public holiday people congregate at temples to pray and hear sermons. Giving donations is an important ritual practised by people on this day. Likewise in Cambodia too this day is a public holiday where monks carry the Buddhist flag, lotus flowers, incense and candles to symbolise the day. People offer money liberally to monks on this day.

Buddha Purnima Vietnam
Devotees in Vietnam on the occasion of Buddha Purnima (Pic. Courtesy vietnam.travel)

Vietnamese on this day hold celebrations in temples which are decorated along with pagodas. While it is not a public holiday, people enjoy floats and lantern parades in the streets.

Even though the day is observed on different dates, the main theme is common as it celebrates charity, goodness of heart and purity of intentions.