Written by Dhanendra Kumar
Buddha Purnima, or Vesak (derived from Baishakhi) is celebrated in India and around the world, especially in South and Southeast Asia, as the birthday of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, as in Singapore and other countries. . Gautama Buddha as Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born on the full moon day of 563 BC in Kapilvastu (modern Nepal) in Lumbini, where Prime Minister Modi is visiting on the full moon on May 16, Buddha. In Hinduism, Buddha is worshiped as the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, with huge followers among Buddhists as well as Hindus. There are huge followers in Singapore, China, A, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Thailand, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Taiwan etc.
This day is especially significant because three major events took place on this day in the life of Gautama Buddha. First, Prince Siddhartha was born in Lumbini on a full moon day in May. He condemned his royal life when he became an ascetic for 30 years and after six years of extreme hardship, attained enlightenment under the Bodhisattva tree in Bodhgaya (India) and became Gautama Buddha on the full moon day of May. Third, he died in Kushinagar on the full moon day of May, at the age of eighty, 45 years after the spread of his message.
His teaching had such a wide and universal appeal that it spread spontaneously without effort or violence on the basis of peace, empathy and universal brotherhood. It was based on seven principles – right attitude, right determination, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort and right mindfulness.
On this day, devotees of the Buddha visit the temple, light candles and incense sticks, offer prayers and offer sweets and fruits in front of the statue of Lord Buddha. Lectures on the life and teachings of the Buddha were held and the congregation participated extensively. People usually wear white clothes and do not eat non-vegetarian food. Some devotees release caged birds on this day as a symbol of sympathy and compassion for all living beings. In India, a large fair is held at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, a major Buddhist pilgrimage site where the Buddha is said to have delivered his first sermon after his enlightenment. Special flights are arranged due to high demand and thousands of tourist trips from neighboring countries.
The life and principles of the Buddha form an important cultural link between India and these countries which sees India as the source of Buddhism. There is a huge demand for Buddha relics from India to be sent there for special exhibitions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal on Buddha Purnima is also a symbol of these connections.
In India, there are many important cultural sites including Bodh Gaya which is a World Heritage Site. Cultural tourism is being promoted in the Buddhist circuit and special measures are being taken for the development of tourism infrastructure and facilities. Nalanda University, the ancient academic pride of India, the most sought after Buddhist university in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern Bihar) that attracts students from all over the world. One thousand years after it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji, it is being revived in its full glory in Rajgir. Sarnath, near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, where the Buddha taught important lessons on The Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and the Nobel Atfold Path. Kushinagar, the place of Buddha’s Parinirvana, has many places of prayer and meditation. Saffron pile at Champaran in Bihar; Sanchi Stupa in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India. Monasteries like Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Rumtek in Sikkim, Durpin in West Bengal are also important places of worship and tourist attractions. Dharamsala, a town in Himachal Pradesh, is the seat of the Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader of Buddhism.
After all, this special festival, extending beyond India to the whole region and the world, reminds us not only of the religion and teachings that were established 2500 years ago, but India’s special cultural connections also spread with wide appeal to these countries. . As a world leader, India has always conveyed the message of peace, love, tolerance and universal brotherhood. In this conflict-ridden world, the eternal teachings of the Buddha are more relevant than ever.
(The author is a former secretary, culture and executive director of the World Bank in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan. The views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of Financial Express Online.)