Buddha Purnima or Vesak marks the birth anniversary of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The date for the celebration of Buddha Purnima varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May. Buddha Purnima 2018 or Vesak 2018 falls on April 30.
Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in a royal family as a prince, one spotted a diseased man, an old man, a corpse during his long journey. This disturbed him deeply. Upon asking, his charioteer replied that such is the fate of every man, and no amount of material comforts could help one avoid the miseries of life and old age. It was at that instant, Prince Siddartha pledged to leave all his princely comforts behind strive for moksha. He headed towards the forest to lead a life of an ascetic.
It is believed that Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment underneath a Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya in Bihar. He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath.
Countries like Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Nepal, Korea, Indonesia, Laos and Malaysia celebrate Buddha Purnima with great fervour. Followers of Buddha visit the holy shrines of Buddha, his birth place and the Mahabodhi tree. People also absorb themselves in meditation, chant mantras and scriptures associated with various sects of Buddhism. Some people observe fast as it is combined with the full moon day (Purnima). Vesak is a day of prayers and people sit down to pray to him for peace, serenity and tranquility.
Many people also donate money, food or goods to organisations that help the poor, the elderly and those who are sick. Caged animals are bought and set free to display care for all living creatures, as preached by Buddha.
Since the auspicious occasion falls on a full moon day or Purnima, the occasion is referred as Buddha Purnima in India. Buddha Purnima is a gazette holiday in India.
Buddha Purnima is significant as the day commemorates the birth, death and the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, all of which is said to take have taken place on the same day.