Buddhists around the world honoured the birth, enlightenment, and death of their spiritual leader with the bright, colourful festival of Vesak.
Vesak Day (also known as Waisak, Wesak, or Buddha Day around the world), is one of the most important dates on the Buddhist calendar. It is believed to be the day in 567 BC that Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in Nepal. Vesak celebrates all three of these important events in the Buddha’s life ―His birth, enlightenment, and death. All three happened on the full moon of the Indian lunar month, Vesakha.
According to the Pew Research Center, Buddhists account for 7 percent of the world’s total population. The overwhelming majority of Buddhists (almost 99 percent) live in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United Nations marks Vesak Day on May 10, but the festivities, and the exact date of Vesak, vary greatly according to culture and region. In many regions, the celebrations center around Buddhist temples, where people gather to meditate and light lanterns.
In Indonesia, thousands of monks and pilgrims gathered at the Borobodur Temple in Java between May 9 and May 11. They lit candles, chanted and circled three times around the ancient temple, then released some 1,000 lanterns into the sky symbolizing enlightenment for the entire universe.
In South Korea, people celebrated with a month-long Lotus Lantern Festival, which includes parades, performances, and thousands of colourful, glowing lanterns. Many devotees gathered to celebrate at the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul, the center of Korean Buddhism.
In India, pilgrims flocked to Sarnath, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India, where the Buddha gave his first public sermon after attaining enlightenment. Here, devotees wear white clothes, meditate, and leave offerings for Vesak.