Buddha Jayanti: How Nepal Celebrates birth of Lord Buddha

Nepal is a small landlocked county in South Asia. Located between the two giant nation, i.e. China and India, Nepal is mostly known for the Himalayan ranges. Nepal has been a tourist destination for millions of people around the world in these recent years. People visit Nepal to witness and experience the exhilarating feel by doing the thrilling sports like trekking, bungee jump, sky diving, mountain climbing and so on. Also, with the unique physical feature, tourist loves to visit Nepal.

To such a small nation the geographical diversity that Nepal has is amazing. But, this is not it; Nepal is also the landmark of Hindu culture. In Nepal, there are some major heritages and monuments, whose existence dates back to the thousand years back. Pashupatinath of Nepal is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus. Buddhist is next most followed religion after Hindu in Nepal and Nepal has some Buddhist monastery and stupas like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath, which are sacred in the whole word.

Although Nepal is a Hindu country with a major number of followers, Nepal is also a prominent place for the Buddhist, because Nepal is a birthplace of Gautama Buddha. Being the birthplace of Buddha, Nepal celebrates Buddha Jayanti with programs and rallies all over the country.

Buddha Jayanti

About Buddha Jayanti

Buddha Jayanti is the day of Buddha’s birthday. It is a traditional holiday celebrated in the most of Asia to remember the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Gautam Buddha and founder of Buddhism. As per the Theravada Tripitaka scripture, Buddha was born in Lumbini on ancient India now modern-day Nepal. He was born in 563 B.C., according to the Nepalese account and raised in Kapilvastu. Siddhartha Gautama left the palace and all the luxury behind in search of enlightenment, and he achieved the enlightenment at the age of thirty-five underneath a Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya (India). He also delivered his first sermon in India in a place called Sarnath. Gautama Buddha died at Kushinagar, India at the age of eighty. The exact date of Buddha Jayantiis based on the Asian lunisolar calendar. So, the date of Buddha Jayanti differs every year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but it generally falls in April or May. It may be celebrated in June in leap years.

Buddha Jayanti in Asia

Buddha Jayanti is celebrated on the full moon day of Baisakha month of the Buddhist calendar and the Hindu calendar by South Asian and Southeast Asian countries as well as Mongolia. Baisakha month usually falls in April or May. The festival is also referred as Buddha Purnima, and “Purnima” means full moon in Sanskrit. Also, in Buddha Jayanti, “Jayanti” means birthday in Sanskrit.

However, in several of East Asian countries, the birthday of Buddha is celebrated on the 8th day of the fourth month of Chinese lunar calendar (in Japan since 1873 on April 8 of the Gregorian calendar). This day is the official holiday in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Macau. Buddha Jayanti falls from end of April to the end of May.

All the Asian countries celebrate this festival with joy and excitement. They decorate the monastery with candles, light incense stick and offer donations and food for monks in the monastery. Almost every country in Asia declares this day as a public holiday.

United Nations has also been observing the day of Buddha Jayanti as a public holiday since 2002. Also, Buddha Jayanti is celebrated by non-Asian countries as well as the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Australia.

Buddha Jayanti in Lumbini

When is Buddha Jayanti celebrated?

The date of Gautam Buddha birthday is based on the Asian lunisolar calendars and most celebrated in the month of Baisakh of Buddhist calendar and the Bikram Sambat of Hindu calendar. In Nepal and India, where Gautam Buddha lived, this day is celebrated on the full moon day of Vaisakha month as per the Buddhist calendar. In the countries of Theravada following Buddhist calendar, the day falls on a full moon of Uposatha day, mostly in the 5th or 6th lunar month.

However, Buddha Jayanti is celebrated in the 8th day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar by China and Korea. The date always varies from year to year, usually in April or May. In Tibet, Buddha Jayanti occurs on the 7th day of the fourth month as per the Tibetan calendar, which is the month of May.

Birth and Life of Buddha

Gautam Buddha was born in 563 BC in Lumbini as Prince Siddhartha Gautama to King Suddhodana and Queen Mayadevi. Buddha was born as Kshatriya and Gautama is his family name. According to the legend, Gautam Buddha took seven steps right after Mayadevi gave birth to him. There is belief that such remarkable act represented that he was born supreme and some believed that it indicated his preaching would be known worldwide.

Siddharta Gautama married at the age of 19 to Yasodhara and had a son named Rahul. He was always a gentle and thoughtful person. One day while roaming in his kingdom, he came across a deceased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. He felt devastated by encountering those inevitable stages of life. Then at the age of 29, he left his family and life full of luxury behind and strove to overcome aging, sickness aging and death by living as an ascetic.

Then Siddhartha Gautama started to meditate and spread his teaching by traveling to many places. Gradually, he gained followers. The path to enlightenment was very hard, but he continued his journey, and finally, he gained the enlightenment under a tree of Bodhi tree and died at the age of 80 after several years to teaching to his disciples. Buddha had announced that he would soon reach parinirvana or final deathless state and abandon his earthly body. Buddha died after having to have his last meal from a blacksmith named Cunda. Buddha’s death has nothing to nothing with his last meal; he rather died of old age.

Buddha Jayanti in Nepal

Buddha Jayanti is one of the most auspicious festivals which is not only observed among the Buddhist but among the Hindus too. In Nepal, this festival goes by many names like Buddha Purnima, Vaishakh Purnima, Saga Dawa and Vesak. Being the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, Nepal celebrates Buddha Jayanti by declaring the day as a holiday and organizing several program and rallies around the country to spread the teaching of Buddha of peace, harmony,and non-violence.

This day holds special essence among the Newar community of Nepal, especially to the Shakya clan of Newars because they consider it as a continuation of the sage of Sakyas – the clan that Gautam Buddha’s family belonged to. That’s why they celebrate this festival, which in their language is known as “Swanya Punhi” meaning “full moon day of flowers.” This day marks great importance not just as the day of Buddha’s birthday but also as the day of his enlightenment and mahaparinirvana.

Buddha Jayanti is celebrated by gentle and serene fervor, keeping the teaching of Buddha in mind. People visit the nearby monastery to observe full-length Buddhist sutra. Places like Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Rishi Pattan and Kushinagar gets a large number of devotees, as these are the four main pilgrimage site of Buddhist. Lumbini is the place where Buddha was born, Bodhgaya is the place where he achieved the enlightenment, in Rishipattan he started giving sermons and Kushinagar is the place where he took his last breath. In Nepal, apart from Lumbini places like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath gets flooded by thousands of devotees. People also visit several other Buddhist shrines near Kathmandu valley like Kapan Gompa, Namo Buddha and so on to pay homage to Lord Buddha.

In Nepal, the government first declared Buddha Jayanti as a public holiday on May 22, 1951. Following the teaching of Buddha, animal sacrifices are prohibited on this day in Lumbini since February 19, 1956.

When is Buddha Jayanti in Nepal in 2019?

This year’s Buddha Jayanti has been celebrated on April 30 of Monday. But you can witness this peaceful festival in Nepal, in 2019 on May 18 of Saturday, which will be the 2,563rd birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha. Make sure you visit the nearby Buddhist shrines to witness the festival which starts from dawn to the late night.

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