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What Is Buddha Purnima & How To Celebrate It?

Buddha Purnima is the celebration to mark the birth anniversary of Siddhartha Gautam or Gautam Buddha. It is the major festival of Buddhism and is celebrated with enthusiasm and zest throughout not just India but around the globe wherever the Buddhist population resides. On this auspicious occasion, people who follow Buddhism around the world offer their respect to Lord Buddha by performing puja and visiting holy shrines.

History of Lord Buddha

Gautam Buddha was born as Siddhartha to Suddhodana and Maya, king and queen of the Shakya clan. Long before his birth, it was foretold that he would either be a great ruler or a monk. So he was confined in the palace by his father until the age of 29 when he finally went out. He saw three sights, an old man, a sick man, and a dead body which deeply moved him and made him realize that life is full of sorrow. He understood that everything is temporary in this world. After this incident, he spends the next six long years in a forest to study the doctrines and yogic austerities.

It is said that he spent seven weeks in the shade of a Bodhi tree until he reached enlightenment or Nirvana. He then later barked on the journey to preach his wisdom and message of peace for 45 years. He finally left the world at the age of 80.

Significance of Buddhism Purnima

Buddha Purnima is the celebration of Buddhism which stands for peace, non-violence, and harmony. Buddha Purnima celebrates  Gautam Buddha’s birthday, enlightenment, and death. It is the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha who was the founder of Buddhism. The day also honors the philosophers, spiritual guides, religious leaders, and mediators who got liberated from the cycle of birth and rebirth.  It is a celebration of love and compassion.

Buddha Purnima falls on a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh (April/May) according to the Hindu calendar. According to Hindu mythology and beliefs, Buddha was the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

How to celebrate Buddha Purnima?

Devotees of Buddhism visit temples, and light candles, and incense sticks. They pray and offer sweets and fruits before the statue of lord Buddha. Many Buddhists go to viharas to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, akin to a service. The dress code is generally pure white. Sermons and teachings of Buddha are held and attended by followers of Buddhism all over the world to celebrate and honor this auspicious occasion. And, devotees obtain from consuming non-vegetarian food as well.

There is a ritual/tradition of distributing and consuming kheer as the Buddhist lore, a woman named Sujata offered Buddha a bowl of milk porridge on this day. Kheer is first offered to Lord Buddha as Prasad. Along this, sweet dishes and fruits are consumed and distributed to celebrate the occasion. Followers of Buddhism keep a statue of Buddha in a bowl filled with flower petals and water. They offer honey, Joss sticks, candles, fruits, and flowers while singing hymns.

In many parts of the world, devotees release birds, animals, and insects from cages as a “symbolic act of liberation, empathy, and compassion for all living beings”. This is one of the important teachings of Buddha. The relics belonging to Gautam Buddha are taken out for public display in a procession for devotees to view on this occasion.

In India, large fairs take place in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, a major pilgrimage site where Buddha is said to have delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Bodhgaya, a major Buddhist site, celebrates the auspicious occasion with much enthusiasm. Buddha Purnima is essentially the celebration of Gautam Buddha and his universal teachings that are still relevant. The day brings people together in unity to spread the message of love, compassion, and empathy.

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