Ullambana Festival

When is Ullambana you might ask? Ullambana 2013 is on 21st of August, Wednesday.

Ullambana festival - Purpose

Ullambana festival is known to be most widely celebrated in the countries of China and Japan. People ardently believe that this day marks the opening of the gates of hell to give a chance to the dead ones to pay a visit to their loved one. Thus this festival mainly concentrates on satisfying the dead spirits and ghosts by means of lavish offerings to restore luck. This festival is mostly celebrated by the Buddhists belonging to the Mahayana sect. Some other countries that are known to celebrate this festival with much fanfare are Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It falls in the month of August.

Significance of the festival

The word Ullambana itself means deliverance from suffering and the main focus of this festival as the name implies is salvation of the dead and suffering souls, anguished and tormented in hell.

The story of Ullambana

[caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignright" width="283" caption="Buddha, Mahayana tradition, Pala Dynasty, 11th century."]Mahatma Buddha India[/caption]

Legend says it that this festival dates back to the era of Lord Buddha. Maudgalyayana was one of the disciples of Buddha. Once while he was meditating, he had the revelation that his mother is in great suffering in hell. He immediately wanted to alleviate his mother’s sufferings and asked for help from Lord Buddha. Buddha asked him to appease the dead soul with food. He ordered five types of fruits, along with incense and provisions for light such as candles, lamps and oil, and also beds and accessories to be offered to the ten Monks, who had gathered there to join in the prayers for his mother. By following the great Lord’s advice, to his joy Maudgalyayana could bring relief to the restless spirit of not only his mother but also others. He was elated. Thus began the tradition and celebrations of Ullambana.

Ullambana - Festivities

First day of the festival marks the entry of the spirits. The spirits are then believed to visit their near and dear ones for a fortnight. The fifteenth day is dedicated to the forefathers and the Buddhists visit the cemeteries as a mark of love, respect, and honor toward their ancestors.

In China and Taiwan the Ullambana festivities are merged with the traditional Ghost festival and celebrated together because both the festivals focus on prayers and wishes for the dead forefathers. The traditions of these two festivals commingle to give rise to a new festival called Chung Yuan Putu. A deep sense of love, devotion and piety for the forefathers make this festival unique and joyous.