Vesak also known as Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day, is a holiday observed traditionally by Buddhists on different days in India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar and in other places all over the world. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday“, it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (Buddhahood), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition. Thousands of Buddhists from Indonesia and across the region will congregate at the magnificent Borobudur Temple in Central Java to take part in the series of rituals and ceremonies which this year will take place from 9 – 11 May 2017. While, the pinnacle of the ceremony will occur during full moon on 11th May 2017.
A drive to Borobudur tmeple take one hour from the popular student city of Yogyakarta or in total takes about 2-3 hours from the airport of Yogyakarta. The route from Yogyakarta is closer still from Central Java’s capital city, Semarang. From the top level of the monument you will experience a breath-taking sunrise over the green valleys below, that slowly lights up the shadows of stupas that surround each level of this magnificent temple.
The event is preceded by a rite to obtain holy water from the pristine springs at Jumprit in the Temanggung district, on 9thMay 2017. On the same day, this ritual will be followed by igniting the Vesak torch whose flames are taken from the natural eternal flames at Mrapen in the village of Grobogan, in the Purwodadi district, Central Java. The flame and holy water will then be kept in the Mendut Temple to be paraded and used during the ceremony at Borobudur on the actual Vesak day celebrations.
On the following 11th May, the final of Vesak ritual will commence at the Vihara Githa. Devotees will continue with pradaksina or the ritual of prayers circling three times around the Borobudur temple, moving clockwise from east to west. Then, the lighting up of candles and chanting of the Ghata Visaka Puja by the congregation. Nearing the final second of Vesak, all devotees will meditate spirituality followed by blessings given by the Mahathera Bhikkhu and Mahasthavira Bhiksu.
The second episode is the enlightenment (nirvāṇa) in which Prince Siddharta became the Buddha in Bodhgaya at the age of 35 in 588 BC, and the third is the passing (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha at Kusinara at the age of 80 in 543 BC. Therefore, Vesak is also known as simply Budhha’s day.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhists commemorate events of significance to Buddhists of: The birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. As Buddhism spread from India it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently Vesākha is celebrated in many different ways all over the world. In India, Vaishakh Purnima day is also known as Buddha Jayanti day and has been traditionally accepted as Buddha’s birth day.