Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima is the most sacred and significant day for Buddhists across the world. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Vaisakha and is one of the major festivals in Nepal.
Buddha Jayanti commemorates the three most important events in Gautama Buddha’s life – the day when he was born, the day he attained enlightenment and the day he passed into Nirvana. Hence, it is considered a thrice blessed day.
In Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha in the western Terai plains, thousands of devotees from Nepal and abroad gather and offer worship. A traditional ceremony is conducted at the Swayambhunath Stupa, the most sacred Buddhist monument in Nepal. The ashes and relics of the Buddha are brought out of the stupa and displayed on this auspicious day. Devotees circumambulate the shrine and make offerings of butter lamps, flowers, incense, candles and rice.
At the Boudhanath Stupa, which is another world heritage site in the Kathmandu valley, a large procession is taken out with an image of Lord Buddha mounted on an elephant. Hundreds of lights illuminate the stupa and present a wondrous sight to all the devotees.
Buddhist families decorate their houses for this joyous occasion and prepare a special altar with a statue or picture of Lord Buddha. Colorful flags in red, blue, yellow and white are put up on the rooftops.
Buddhists read and recite the scriptures, sutras and other important teachings of Lord Buddha. They reaffirm their faith in Panchsheel or the five precepts, comprising the basic teachings of conduct. These include respect for life (no killing), respect for others’ property (no stealing), respect for one’s pure nature (no sexual misconduct), respect for honesty (no lying) and respect for a clear mind (no intoxicants).
Caged birds and animals are bought and freed from confinement in accordance with the Buddhist teachings of ahimsa or non-violence. Acts of charity such as donating food and clothes to the needy are carried out on this day.
Buddha Jayanti is not just an occasion to celebrate the birth of Lord Buddha, but also a wonderful opportunity to imbibe his virtues and teachings into our everyday materialistic lives.