Vesak in Sri Lanka (Vesak / Wesak Festival In Sri Lanka)
Vesak is considered as both a religious and cultural festival in Sri Lanka. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon in May. Vesak Day is one of the biggest days of the year in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world. Buddhists commemorate the important events that took place in the life of Lord Buddha on this Vesak Full Moon Poya Day. First comes the birth of Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini in Nepal which took place under the arbor of Sat trees where queen Mahamaya gave birth to him. The second event was Siddharta Gautam's supreme attainment as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. The third event was Lord Buddha's Parinibbana over 2500 years ago at Kusinagar.
Apart from Sri Lanka, many Asian countries including India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Nepal celebrate Vesak. Many religious activities are organized during this period in Sri Lanka such as Sil campaigns, Bodhi Poojas, Dansalas (Freely giving foods, coffee, tea from people), Vesak devotional songs (Bakthi Gee), pandols (thoran) and lanterns.
Many temples are filled with Atasil devotees and pilgrims all over Sri Lanka to mark this great event. In temples Buddhists worship, offer flowers, light lamps and burn incense. These traditional observances, in essence, have their value in satisfying the religious and emotional needs of the people. As it is mainly a religious event, for devout Buddhists, religious observances form the main activities of the festival. They generally wear white dress and go to the temple and participate in the traditional ceremonies there. Many of them spend the whole day in the temple and reaffirm their determination to follow the teachings of Buddha. On this holy day the Dana plays an important role. Every devotee gives alms. This is a sign of sharing with joy and peace with people. During the Veask Festival week, the selling of alcohol and flesh is usually prohibited, with abattoirs also being closed.
Other than the exclusive religious aspects of the festival, the Buddhists of Sri Lanka, decorate their houses and public places and arrange for various cultural events to bring happiness to everyone on that day.
Vesak Festival Highlights
Birth of Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini
The Siddharth or lord Buddha, the divine creature inquired about five affairs before expiring for the final birth: right time, right area, right continent, right caste and right mother. Then, as any Buddhist knows, the fully mindful divine being entered the womb of Queen Mahamaya. A prince was born on a Vesak Poya day to the Queen and King Suddhodana and was named Siddhartha, one who has found meaning of existence. The Queen passed away seven days after the prince's birth.
Siddharta Gautam's supreme attainment as the Buddha
Gautama Buddha was trained in various mental skills under many teachers, only to get disillusioned that they do not have the truth he looked for. The right way to achieve the truth dawned on him one day. He directed the mind in the right meditation path. Moments later he reached Enlightenment and conquered the world of sorrows on a Vesak Poya day.
Lord Buddha's Parinibbana
80-year old Gotama Buddha then announced His passing away, Parinibbana, would take place on the third watch of the night at Sal grove of Malla royal family, and it happened to be a Vesak Poya day.
Vesak / Wesak Pandols (Thorana) in Sri Lanka
In Vesak Season in Sri Lanka, Electrically lit Vesak pandols called toranas are erected in various locations in Colombo and elsewhere, most sponsored by donors, religious societies and welfare groups. Each pandol illustrates a story from the 550 Jathaka Katha or the 550 Past Life Stories of the Buddha. While watching illuminated thoranas the recitation of Sinhala verses to the beat of the rabanas throughout the night became popular.