Buddhist Festivals - The followers of Buddhism commemorate various pious events throughout the year. The important dates are followed as per the Lunar Calendar, but the dates are also region-specific. Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition prominently figure in the celebration. The centrality of the Buddhist philosophy in Buddhist teachings as given in the Dhamma also determines the nature of the celebration. Buddhist Festivals have an important element of serenity and formal celebration such as visiting monasteries, making symbolic offerings, reflecting on Buddha's teachings and committing to the moral precepts as propounded in the Dhamma.
The Buddhist festivals are auspicious days to involve oneself in offering food for the poor, supplies for the temple (Giving), reinforcing moral precepts (Virtue), sitting in meditation and listening to sermons.
The most significant celebration which is held on the full moon night in May is the Buddha Day also called 'Vesak'. This day commemorates the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha. Buddhist followers offer food to monks, listen to sermons and circumambulate a stupa three times symbolically to pay respect to the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha. Meditation and chanting are an integral part of this festivals. Sri Lankan Buddhists put up lighting depicting the Buddha's life, while in Singapore, Buddhists decorate temples and follow the tradition of setting caged birds free.
Magha Puja was held during Buddha's life. The actual event related to this puja involves Buddha's visit to Rajagaha city. While he was there, he accosted 1250 'Arahats' or enlightened saints who had gathered in a monastery in a fourfold Assembly to meet him. This day is also called the Fourfold Assembly.
Asalha Puja Day (Dharma Day)
Asalha Puja coincides with the 8th lunar month which is July. This day is observed to honour Buddha's dissemination of his teachings at Sarnath near Varanasi. It is also called the 'Turning of the Wheel'.
This is an important day as the Rains retreat (vassa) concludes on this day and also robe and other essentials were offered to the Sangha during the kathina ceremony that follows.
This day is also associated with the end of the same retreat (vassa), when Buddha taught breathing techniques of meditation.
In the Burmese tradition, Buddha is believed have gone to the Tushita Heaven to meet his mother the Abhidhamma. As per the Burmese lunar year, this day occurs in April.
Losar is the New Year that falls in the 1st month of the lunar calendar observed by the Tibetan and Sherpa Buddhist and is a joyous occasion.
Loy Krathong (Festival of Floating Bowls)
The Loy Krathong Festival which takes place in all parts of Thailand on the full moon night of the Twelfth Lunar month, is a day when people float candles and incense to ward off evil energies. In India, the traditional version is followed which is to pay homage to the holy footprint of the Buddha on the shores of the Narmada River in India.
The Elephant Festival
It is a purely symbolic festival which uses the analogy of a wild elephant which has the potential to be trained. In Buddhism, it means that a novice should seek the support of an older initiated Buddhist. This is the essence of the Elephant Festival that happens in the third Saturday of November.
This day four monthly holy days - new moon, full moon, and quarter moon days. Sri Lankan Buddhists observe this day as Poya Day.
This is a festival held in recognition of Buddha's visit to the fields to watch the plough at the age of seven, and is held in May.
The Festival of the Tooth
This festival is linked to the keeping of the tooth of the Buddha in Kandy, Sri Lanka. In August, a procession is held in its recognition.
In the Mahayana tradition this festival coincides with the first fifteenth days of the eighth lunar month, when ancestors souls are believed to visit the earth. It culminates on the fifteenth day, when people customarily go to the cemetery to pay their respects to the departed ancestors by making offerings to appease their souls. Cambodia, Laos and Thailand also observe this festival. Ullambana is also recognised in the Japanese tradition Obon, which is observed in July.
China and Tibet celebrate this festival in honour of Avalokitesvara, the embodiment of compassion, in March.
Buddhist Calendar 2017
|January 2017||12||Thursday||Mahayana New Year|
|February 2017||15||Wednesday||Nirvana Day|
|March 2017||12||Sunday||Magha Puja Day|
|April 2017||11||Tuesday||Theravada New Year|
|May 2017||10||Wednesday||Wesak - Buddha Jayanti|
|July 2017||09||Sunday||Asala - Dharma Day|
|December 2017||08||Friday||Bodhi Day|