Buddhist Festivals

One cannot emphasize enough the importance religious festivals have in the lives of common people and it is no different for the Buddhist people. These festivals signify the coming together of the Buddhist people to commemorate the events in the lives of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. There is religious fervor and a sense of gaiety on such occasions. People come alive, renewing their beliefs in the teachings of the Buddha and celebrating with festivity and joy.

Buddhism is spread across a number of countries and the beauty of the religion is that it blends itself effortlessly with the local cultures of the regions. This explains the difference in dates and methods when each festival is celebrated in different countries. These countries can broadly be categorized into two types: Mahayana and Therevadin countries.

Mahayana Countries

Countries that are known as the Mahayana countries are: China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal.

Therevadin Countries

Countries that are known as the Therevadin countries are: Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.

Festivals

Some of the common festivals celebrated across most Buddhist countries are:

  • Buddha Day or Vesak
  • Buddhist New Year
  • Magha Puja Day<
  • Uposatha
  • Ullambana

Buddha Day

One of the most significant Buddhist festivals is celebrated in the month of May. It is called the Buddha day and commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. The festival is celebrated on the full moon night. On this day, people flock to Buddhist temples to offer their prayers and listen to the teachings of the Buddha. The also offer food to the monks and distribute grains to the poor.

Buddhist New Year

Buddhist New Year marks the beginning of a new life for the Buddhist people. It signifies the renewal of the Buddhist people’s belief in the Buddhist religion. People come out in large numbers to partake in the celebrations. On this day, statuettes of the Buddha are bathed and worshipped by devotees.

This is also an occasion for great celebration. People, dressed in their best outfits, visit friends and relatives, exchange gifts and sit themselves to delicious meals. You can also witness dazzling fireworks in the evenings.

Magha Puja Day

Another important Buddhist festival is the Magha Puja day. This festival pays homage to the Buddhist Sangha. It is also a day when the Buddhist people reaffirm their faith and commitment to the religion. For the Buddhist clergy, the day marks observance of meetings and discussions on different aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.

Uposatha

In many Buddhist countries, Uposotha is observed to mark the celebration of the Eight Precepts. Two or four days are set aside for this ritual, depending on the region. Typically, full moon day, new moon day and the two quarter moon days are observed for this purpose. During this time, the Buddhist people reaffirm their faith, visit monasteries for their offerings. Likewise, the Buddhist clergy undertake rigorous meditation. They also need to confess to any other Sangha member if they have not adhered to any monastic rule.

Ullambana

The Ullambana festival is also known as the Ancestors festival. It is a festival that pays homage to one’s ancestors. It is also said that offering food during this festival time relieves souls that are suffering.

Apart from the festivals mentioned above, the Buddhist people also celebrate the following festivals.

  • Dhamma Day, also known as the Asalha Puja Day
  • Pavarana Day
  • Kathina Day
  • Abhidahamma Day
  • Songkran
  • Loy Krathong or the festival of floating bowls
  • Ploughing Festival
  • Elephant Festival
  • Festival of Tooth
  • Avalokitesvara’s Birthday

However, not all these festivals are celebrated in all Buddhist countries. Depending on whether the country is Mahayana or Therevadin, they felicitate the occasion. Also, for many festivals, only the clergy are involved.

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