Saturday, December 25, 2010

Buddhist Festivals

Buddhist New Year, Vesak, Magha Puja Day, Asalha Puja Day, Uposatha, Pavarana Day, Kathina Ceremony, Anapanasati Day, Abhidhamma Day, Songkran, Loy Krathong, the Ploughing Festival, the Elephant Festival, the Festival of the Tooth, Ulambana, and Avalokitesvara’s Birthday are some special occasions and festivity times for the Buddhists. Magha Puja Day and Asalha Puja Day both are celebrated on full moon days. The Ploughing Festival takes place when the moon is half full. It is a beautiful festival when you find two oxen pulling a gold-painted plough and two girls in white dresses following while scattering rice seeds on to the ploughed fields. Ulambana is one of the special Buddhist festivals for paying homage to the respected ancestors or forefathers.

Buddhist New Year is celebrated for three continuous days starting from the first full moon day in the month of April in the Theravadin countries. The Chinese, Japanese and the Koreans celebrate New Year in the month of January or February. The Tibetans celebrate another month later. Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha on the first full moon day in the month of May. The festival is again celebrated in the month of June in a leap year. Anapanasati Day marks the end of the one-month extended retreat of the monsoons. This festival is also observed on a Full Moon Day. The Buddhist festival of Kathina Ceremony is also called robe offering ceremony. This festival is celebrated by offering robes to monks.

Songkran is a unique Thai Buddhist festival, which is celebrated for several days in the month of April. The main highlights of this festival are cleaning of houses, washing of clothes and sprinkling of perfumed waters on people, splashing water on each other on river banks or sea shores, and rescuing fishes to be put in bigger water bodies. The Elephant Festival is celebrated on the third Saturday in the month of November. Similarly, the Festival of the Tooth is also an interesting festival in which a procession is arranged in the month of August on a full moon night in the beautiful city of Kandy in Sri Lanka where a relic of Buddha, His tooth, is kept inside many caskets in a temple on a small hill.

Among the Buddhist community, many of these festivals are celebrated as birthdays of Bodhisattvas of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. Festivals are joyous occasions where mostly the people go to the temple or monastery to offer food to the Buddhist monks and listen to religious talks. It is also a ritual to distribute food among the poor in the evening and then perform the ceremony of circumambulation thrice around a stupa to pay respect to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

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