Vesak Full Moon Poya Day in Sri Lanka
Vesak Full Moon Poya Day, also known as "Vesak Poya" in Sinhalese, is an important religious holiday in Sri Lanka. The day is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. The date of Vesak Full Moon Poya Day varies each year, as it is based on the lunar calendar. It usually falls in the month of May, on the day of the full moon.
The celebration of Vesak Full Moon Poya Day in Sri Lanka dates back to ancient times. According to historical records, the day was first observed during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BCE. The king, a devout Buddhist, introduced Vesak Poya to the island after embracing Buddhism under the influence of Arahat Mahinda, the son of Indian Emperor Ashoka. Since then, the country has continued to celebrate this day with great devotion and enthusiasm.
National customs for Vesak Full Moon Poya Day in Sri Lanka
Vesak Full Moon Poya Day is a public holiday in Sri Lanka, and the entire country engages in various religious and cultural activities to mark the occasion. Devotees visit temples to offer prayers, meditate, and participate in religious discussions. Many Buddhists observe Sil, which is the practice of upholding the Eight Precepts, a more rigorous set of ethical guidelines than the common Five Precepts.
The streets and homes are decorated with colorful lanterns, known as Vesak Kudu, which symbolize the light of Buddha's teachings. People also create temporary structures called pandals, which are adorned with intricate artwork and lights, depicting stories from Buddha's life or Buddhist teachings. Additionally, there are numerous dansalas, or free food stalls, set up by locals to offer free meals, drinks, and snacks to the public as an act of generosity and kindness.
Local customs for Vesak Full Moon Poya Day in Sri Lanka
In different regions of Sri Lanka, unique customs and traditions are followed during Vesak Full Moon Poya Day. In the city of Kandy, the famous Temple of the Tooth, which houses the sacred tooth relic of Buddha, organizes a special ceremony and procession to mark the day. In the coastal town of Beruwala, devotees participate in a special ritual called "Kiri Ahara Pooja," where they offer milk rice to the temple as a symbol of purity and devotion.
In rural areas, communities come together to engage in acts of charity and compassion, such as cleaning the local temples, releasing captive animals as a symbol of liberation, and organizing blood donation camps.
Vesak Full Moon Poya Day is a significant occasion in Sri Lanka that brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. With its rich history and diverse customs, this day holds a special place in the hearts of Sri Lankans, strengthening their devotion to Buddhism and fostering a spirit of unity and compassion across the nation.