India is the land of colorful festivals. Throughout the year, there is one or the other festival being celebrated in the country. Some of these festivals are celebrated throughout the country while others are celebrated in specific states, regions or even small villages. These festivals bring alive the splendid culture of the country and see a whole lot of people coming out to participate in them.
Buddhist festivals of India are no exception to these. Being the land of the Buddha, India celebrates all those days as festivals that mark important days in the life of the Lord. Apart from this, there are also festival days that celebrates Buddha's teaching and spiritual community.
The Buddhist festivals in India are a joyful time for the Buddhist community. It is for them a time to dance and rejoice. You can be a part of this celebration if you plan your trip to the country around the date of these festivals. This section on Buddhist Festivals tries to introduce you to all these festivals. It gives you the details of the festivals, why and how they are celebrated and also the upcoming date of that festival.
So, come, be a part of these festivals in your coming vacations to India. You will not only have fun, but will also learn a lot about Buddhist religion on the whole.
Buddhist Festivals of India
Buddha Jayanti / Purnima :Buddha Jayanti or the Buddha Purnima celebrates the birth of Prince Siddharta on the full moon night in the month of Vaisakh (April/May). Years later, on the same day, Prince Siddharta attained enlightenment and beacme the Buddha. Finally, on the same day, he attained parinibbana. Thus, Buddha Purnima marks not just the birth but also the death of Lord Buddha.
The festival falls on the full moon day in the month of Vaisakha, which usually falls in April or May according to the Gregorian calendar. It is a time for Buddhists to reflect on the teachings of the Buddha and to renew their commitment to the path of enlightenment.
On this day, Buddhists typically visit temples and monasteries to offer prayers, light candles, and make offerings of flowers and incense. They also participate in meditation and other spiritual practices, and listen to teachings on the Buddha's life and teachings.
Another important aspect of Buddha Purnima is the practice of "dana," or generosity. Buddhists are encouraged to practice acts of kindness and charity, such as donating food, clothing, or money to those in need. This is seen as a way of cultivating compassion and empathy, two key values in Buddhist teachings.
Buddha Purnima is a time for Buddhists to come together, to reflect on the Buddha's teachings, and to renew their commitment to the path of spiritual growth and enlightenment. It is an important opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of one of the world's most revered spiritual leaders.
Losar : Losar, or the Tibetan New Year is celebrated with much gaiety in various parts of India. Buddhists dress up well, visit their relatives and offer worships in temples to seek blessings of various gods. Also, of special significance is the Chaam dances that are performed in the monasteries in India. The dances portray the victory of good over evil. Losar is an important festival celebrated by Tibetans and other ethnic groups in the Himalayan region.
The word "Losar" means "new year" in Tibetan. The festival is typically celebrated over a period of two weeks, with the first three days being the most important. The first day of Losar is known as Lama Losar, which is when Tibetans pay homage to their spiritual leaders. The second day is known as Gyalpo Losar, which is when Tibetans celebrate the secular New Year. The third day is known as Choe-kyong Losar, which is when Tibetans make offerings to protectors and deities.
Losar is a time for families and friends to come together, share meals, and exchange gifts. It is also an important opportunity for Tibetans to preserve their cultural heritage and pass it down to future generations.
Hemis Festival :Celebrated in the Hemis Monastery in Ladkah, J&K, the Hemis festival/fair is one of the most famous Buddhist events of the country that attracts tourists from both India and abroad in large numbers. The festival celebrates the birth of Indian sage, Guru Padmasambhava who was also responsible for spreading Buddhism in Tibet. The festival is celebrated for two days and has a portrait of "Dadmokarpo" or "Rygyalsras Rimpoche" held on display for people to worship. The highlight of the festival is the sacred mask dances, Chaams that are performed by the monks. The beating of drums, clashing of cymbals and the spiritual wail of pipes add a mystic touch to the festival.
Ullambana is a Buddhist festival that is also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival. It is celebrated in several countries, including China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, and is based on the Buddhist legend of Maudgalyayana, a disciple of the Buddha. Along with other countries above Malaysia & India, too celebrate Ullambana. The festival is the time when, it is believed, the Gates of the Hell open and the dead are allowed to pay a visit to their loved ones on earth. Because of this, on this day, the Buddhists make offerings to the deads and perform charitable deeds so as to gain spiritual merit. The festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.
According to the legend, Maudgalyayana used his supernatural powers to see his deceased mother suffering in the realm of hungry ghosts. He asked the Buddha how he could alleviate her suffering, and the Buddha instructed him to make offerings of food and other items to Buddhist monks and nuns.
The Ullambana festival is therefore a time for Buddhists to make offerings to the Sangha, or the community of Buddhist monks and nuns. It is believed that by doing so, they can help alleviate the suffering of their deceased ancestors and other beings in the realm of hungry ghosts.
Overall, the Ullambana festival is a time for Buddhists to remember their ancestors, to make offerings to the Sangha, and to cultivate compassion and generosity. It is an important opportunity to connect with Buddhist teachings and to deepen one's spiritual practice.
Asalha Day :Asalha or the Dhamma Day celebrates the first teaching of the Buddha which He delievered to a group of five friends. Asalha or Dhamma Day is a significant Buddhist festival that celebrates the Buddha's first sermon, known as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which he gave to his disciples after attaining enlightenment. The day also marks the beginning of the three months long Rains retreat during which monks remain confined to their monasteries and focus on their meditation. The day is celebrated on the full moon of the eighth lunar month of Asalha which usually falls in July according to the Gregorian calendar.
The sermon laid out the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which are the foundation of Buddhist teachings. It is an important day for Buddhists to reflect on the teachings of the Buddha and to renew their commitment to the path of spiritual growth and liberation. On this day, Buddhists typically visit temples and monasteries to offer prayers, light candles, and make offerings of flowers and incense. They may also participate in meditation and other spiritual practices, and listen to teachings on the Buddha's life and teachings.