Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who is popularly known as Gautama Buddha, was the founder of Buddhism. His birthday is a holiday that is traditionally celebrated in many countries in Asia. Celebrated in South and Southeast Asia as Vesak, the day highlights the enlightenment and the birth of Buddha. While the exact date of Buddha’s birthday varies as per Asian lunisolar calendars, it usually falls in the month of April-May. However, during the leap year, it shifts to June.
According to the earliest collection of Buddhist writings – Theravada Tipitaka scriptures – Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, in the year 623 BC. It is believed that at the age of 35, he attained enlightenment underneath a Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya and died in Kushinagar, India. There are many countries around the world that follow Buddism and celebrate the occasion as per their own traditions.
The countries in Asia that celebrate the occasion are Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. It is also celebrated by decorating Buddhist temples with incense sticks and candles. Here’s how the celebrations vary in different parts of the world.
Known as Buddho Purnima here, Buddhist monks and priests adorn the temple with colourful decoration and candles on the auspicious occasion.
Buddha’s birthday is celebrated as Visak Bochea in Cambodia. It is also a public holiday where monks carry flags, lotus, incense and candles to commemorate the occasion around the country.
Known as Waisak, the birthday of Buddha is celebrated with a large procession in Indonesia. It begins at the Mendut in Java ends at Borobudur, which is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.
The people in Japan call the celebration as Kanbutsu-e or Hanamatsuri and it is commemorated on April 8 as the birth of Buddha is noted according to the Buddhist calendar.
Buddha’s birthday, which is celebrated as Wesak Day in Malaysia, is also a public holiday. On the day, not only are the temples decorated across the country, but there is also a ritual of setting caged animals free.
Celebrated as Ikh Duichen, the birthday of Buddha is determined by the Mongolian lunar calendar in the country. Although the occasion quite popular and is commemorated with much enthusiasm, it is not a public holiday.
People in North Korea honour the birthday of Buddha as a traditional holiday. Known as Chopail, it is a festival that celebrates the culture of the Buddhist population.
Celebrated according to the Korean lunar calendar, the birthday of Buddha is known as Seokga tansinil. For the occasion, people hang lotus lanterns in temples as well as home and streets.
Known as Visakha Puja, Buddha’s birthday is a public holiday in Thailand to commemorate the occasion. On the day, people gather to hear sermons and give donations.