Buddha Purnima or Buddha Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the Buddha, is the most important festival of the Buddhists and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. This festival falls on full moon day in the month of April. It was on this same day that Buddha got enlightenment and also attained Nirvana or salvation. So, the Buddhists consider the day to be more auspicious than any other day of the year. It is also believed that Yashodara, Gautam's wife, his charioteer Channa and even his horse Kantaka were born on the same day.
Gautam Buddha was born as a prince in 544 BC in Lumbini, Nepal on a Full Moon day in the month of Vaisakh. When he was born it was predicted that the child would redeem the world. Even as a young prince he was touched by the pain and sickness of others. Later he renounced the world and became an ascetic. At the age of 35, he attained enlightenment on the full moon day of Vaisakh. He traveled far and wide preaching the truth and gained a large following consisting of scholars, sanyasis, rulers of states and others, thus forming the Buddhist community.
On this day the followers of Buddha bathe and wear only white
clothes. They gather in their Viharas for worship and give alms to monks.
Prayers, sermons, and non-stop recitation of Buddhist scriptures resonate
in monasteries and viharas. The statue of the Buddha receives special attention
everywhere, with people offering it incense, flowers, candles, and fruits.
Since Buddha attained enlightenment sitting under a Bodhi (Pipal) tree, special
care is taken in watering and tending Bodhi trees. They light lamps around
the trees and decorate with garlands and coloured flags. They reaffirm their
faith in the five principles called 'Panch Sheel'. The five principles are
not to take life, not to steal, not to lie, not to imbibe liquor or other
intoxicants and not to commit adultery. On this day, the Buddhists free birds
from cages, distribute fruit and clothes to the sick and refrain from eating
Bodh Gaya in Bihar and Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh are the main centers of celebration of this festival. Besides these two, areas with large Buddhist population like Ladakh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh also celebrate this festival with great devotion and enthusiasm.
Festivals - North India