Wesak, also spelt Vesak, is a day celebrated by Buddhists around the world. The termVesak comes from the name of a month in the Indian calendar.
Wesak Day is one of the most important festivals in the Buddhist calendar as it commemorates three significant events in Gautama Buddha’s life – namely his birthday, his enlightenment and his passing away.
During this festival, devotees bring offerings of flowers, joss-sticks and candles. This is to remind them that, just as flowers wither and die, and joss sticks and candles burn away, so too is life – temporary.
Besides this ritual, local temples carry out special services and various welfare activities such as providing vegetarian meals to the poor and needy. In some countries, Buddhists set free some captive birds as a sign of liberation from captivity. The ‘Bathing the Buddha’ ceremony is important and often a part of the celebration where water is poured over the shoulders of the Buddha. This serves to remind fellow Buddhists to purify the mind from greed, lead noble lives and practise morality and kindness.
At the end of the day, a candle procession is held and this includes the traditional dragon and lion dances. This is the highlight of the public holiday as people of different races and religions gather to watch the procession.
Different countries may celebrate Wesak Day in different ways but in all places it is a celebration of much colour and joy. It is considered a public holiday in most of the South East Asia countries like Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.