Vesak Day : Celebrating Enlightenment In Sri Lanka
Vesak day may be referred by different names around the world in different regions, but Buddhists everywhere come together as they celebrate the sacred events in Buddha’s life- birth, enlightenment and passing away. Vesak is the fourth month of the lunar calendar and is usually the first full moon in May.
Buddha was born as Siddhartha, the crown prince of the Sakya tribe in the garden of Lumbini, Nepal. He left his home to join his people when he was 29 and chose the life of an ascetic when he was faced with old age, sickness and death. After practicing for six years, he realized that awakening would come only by meditation. Using grass as a mat, he sat under the Peepal tree in Bodh Gaya, located in India’s present-day state of Bihar, facing east direction. He vowed not to rise until he attained enlightenment. He sat for forty-nine days, and became the Buddha or the enlightened one at the age of thirty-five. A Peepal tree still stands at the same spot behind the main temple. It was planted in the nineteenth century and is believed to be a direct descendant of the original tree. Believers tie prayer flags to its branches and meditate under it. A sense of peace and serenity fills the air, as Buddhist monks sit around the tree to meditate and chant. Vesak is observed by devotees to pay homage to Buddha. They take time to realize Buddha’s wise and compassionate guidance and honor him with respect and joy.
Festival Atmosphere in Colombo
The mood leading up to the first day of the Vesak celebrations is frantic and exciting. Big Vesak lanterns are constructed in many popular places in Colombo city, including Galle Face green, Nawam Mawatha, Gangarama. The lanterns aka (Vesak koodu) are painstakingly made from coconut sticks or bamboo sticks, some fancier than other, and on some occasions bigger really does not seem better.
May 10th and 11th are declared as National holidays in Sri Lanka and many people make long distance visits to their hometowns or to visit the loved ones. Public transport seems fuller than usual. Queues of people patiently lined up outside food stalls set up by local Buddhist devotees. This is known as (Dansals)- the stalls that provides food and drinks to everyone. Some dansalas hands out drinks to cars and buses – passing the delicious juices in through the windows. Loud chanting blasting from loud speakers along the roadside and everyone is in a festive mood.
United Nations Day of Vesak
The 14th UN international Vesak Festival is held Sri Lanka and this years theme is Buddhist Teachings for Social Justice and Sustainable World Peace. The festival will be held from 12th to the 14th of May 2017. The festival will be held in five locations, BMICH, Nelum Pokuna, Diyatha Uyana, Sri Dalada Maligawa aka the Temple of Tooth and Shakya Kingdom. The key note speaker for this event is Emeritus Lewis R. Lancaster who is a native of Virginia and who has taught for 33 years at Berkeley and served for five years as Chair of the Department of Oriental Languages, now called the Department of East Asian Languages and Culture.
Colombo Court Hotel & Spa a leading Luxury City Hotel in Colombo is in the proximity of BMICH, Nelum Pokuna and Diyatha Uyana. Colombo Court Hotel & Spa is the first Carbon Neutral City Hotel in South East Asia and is equipped with all the modern facilities and amenities to accommodate guest needs.
Happy Vesak everone!