Buddha Purnima is the most holy time in the Buddhist calendar. It is also known as Vesak or Visakah Puja in India, while it is called Visakha Bucha in Thailand, Waisak in Indonesia, and wesak in Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
Buddha Purnima is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautam Buddha the three important events in the life of Buddha. It is celebrated on the first full moon day in May, except for the leap year when this festival is celebrated in June.
This festival is celebrated throughout South-east Asia, but the ways of celebrating it vary from country to country and region to region. In Thailand it is celebrated with mass release of caged birds, sacred chants, fasting and other religious practices.
In Singapore, devotees make donations to the temple and in exchange are allowed to place gold leaf on to a small statue of the Buddha. At the end of the day, the statue of the Buddha is almost entirely covered in a fresh layer of gold leaf.
In Indonesia, people gather at the temple of Borobudur, and observe various festivities. In Japan people celebrate Hanamatsuri or Flower Festival to commemorate the birth of the Buddha.
In Hong Kong, Macao and South Korea, the 8th day of the fourth moon in Chinese calendar is a public holiday, which commemorates the Buddha’s birthday.
The festivities of Buddha Purnima include prayers, sermons and nonstop recitations of Buddhist scriptures before the Buddha’s Statue. Incense, flowers, candles and fruits are offered to the statue of the Buddha.
People as a part of their celebration sprinkle milk and scented waters on the roots of the Banyan tree popularly called the Bodhi tree and light rows of lamps around it. Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and Bodh Gaya in Bihar are the main centres of celebration.