Friday, May 24, 2013

Wesak Day


Wesak day or Vesak day is the holiest of Buddhist holidays. This special day commemorates three major events, Gautama Buddha’s birth, his attainment of enlightenment (nirvana) and his passing on or death (Parinirvana). Buddhism is a major religion in Asia and hence, Wesak day (also known as Vesak day) is observed in many countries of the region like Thailand, India, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia.

In countries that follow the order of Theravada Buddhism, all three anniversaries are marked on the full moon of Vaisakha (the second month of the Hindu calendar) which usually falls in the month of May. In countries like Japan, where Mahayana Buddhism is followed, the three anniversaries are usually observed on three separate days, Buddha’s birth on April 8th, the attainment of enlightenment on December 8th and his passing on in February.

About 20% of Malaysia’s population follows Buddhism and ‘Hari Wesak’ is routinely designated as a national public holiday in the country. In 2013, Hari Wesak is to be observed on Friday, 24th May. The celebrations associated with Wesak day, usually commence at the break of dawn at various Buddhist temples located all over the country. Devotees gather to meditate on the eight main precepts of Buddhism as monks attired in saffron robes chant  in unison.

Prominent Buddhist temples in Malaysia usually schedule various events to commemorate this holy day. For instance, the Buddhist Maha Vihara located in the Brickfields area of Kuala Lumpur has scheduled an Eight Precepts Observance program for the celebration of Wesak day, this year. This will be accompanied by an exhibition produced by its Sunday school. The temple will also beautifully adorned and illuminated for the occasion .  Additionally, it is estimated that more than 150000 devotees will visit the Vihara for its Wesak day celebrations. The temple will also offer free vegetarian food to members of the public on the day.

Other Buddhist temples around Malaysia will be similarly conducting their own celebrations for Wesak Day. These celebrations usually consist of making various religious offerings, releasing doves and conducting rituals like ‘bathing of the Buddha’ along with the chanting of Holy Scriptures and the lighting of joss sticks.  Aside from making temple visits, many Malaysian Buddhists also offer free food to monks and other needy folk as a part of their observance of Wesak Day.

Come nightfall grand parades featuring large floats and candle-light processions are taken out from various Buddhist temples located in major Malaysian cities like Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, Melaka, Johor Bahru and Seremban to commemorate the event..

The Wesak Day celebrations and processions are definitely worth experiencing, if you happen to be visiting the country during the time of the festival.

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