Honouring the Buddha – Vesak Festival in Sri Lanka

Vesak that commemorates Gautama Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and ‘parinirvana’ is one of the holiest days for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. The day for the commemoration has been determined according to the Buddhist Calendar and falls on the first full moon day in May, the 6th lunar month. Vesak was the Pali and Sanskrit name given to the lunar month falling between April and May. The day itself is an Uposatha day which is dedicated to meditation and practicing the Buddha’s teachings.

Buddhists in Sri Lanka commemorate Vesak according to traditions laid down by hundreds of years of observing this holy day. Many Buddhists start the day by joining other worshipers at temples around the country for the first prayers. Offering flowers, lighting candles and joss sticks in front of a Buddha statue is usually the way Buddhists honour the Buddha. Some spend the whole day at the temple meditating and listening to sermons. Bars and abattoirs are closed some days ahead of Vesak in an effort to curtail alcohol and meat consumption among Buddhists. Distribution of food and clothing among the destitute and to inmates of charitable homes on Vesak day is thought to be a meritorious action by many Buddhists in the country.

As Vesak in Sri Lanka is commemorated according to local traditions the cultural aspect of it is as important as the religious one. Homes, public places even whole streets are decorated with Buddhist flags, bunting, coloured electric lights, paper lanterns of all shapes and sizes and oil lamps. The ‘torana’ which is an integral part of this Buddhist commemoration is found in towns throughout the country with pictorial depictions of Buddha’s many lives illuminated in imaginative ways and set to music.

Hundreds if not thousands of people queue up alongside these ‘toranas’ to view them and listen to devotional songs. Another cultural tradition is free food stalls by the roadside and in towns throughout and country offering everything from soft drinks to ice cream and complete traditional Sri Lankan meals. Another more recent phenomenon is groups of people singing devotional songs on public and even mobile stages. Vesak is also the time when a tide of people goes on pilgrimage to the holy cities of Anuradhapura and Kandy and to worship at other famous holy places.

Walker Tours have been in the forefront of delivering excellent service in handling in bound and out bound tours for visitors and Sri Lankans for many years. As one of premier tour operators in the country they deliver excellent Sri Lanka Beach Resorts for groups and individuals that encompass many unique aspects of local culture. Experience Kalpitiya Hotels that are fun and informative and stay at some of the best accommodation available in the country.

Chandrishan Williams is a travel writer who writes under the pen name, Caleb Falcon. He specializes in writing content based on the many exciting world adventures that await intrepid travellers. Google+