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A statue of the child Gautama Buddha as depicted in his apocryphal story of birth
|Official name||Fódàn (佛誕)
Chopa-il (초파일, 初八日)
|Also called||Buddha's Birthday|
|Observed by||Mahayana Buddhists|
|Significance||Celebrates the birthday of Gautama Buddha|
|Date||8th day of the 4th lunar month
April 8 or May 8 (Japan)
|2014 date||May 6 |
|Vietnamese alphabet||Phật Đản|
Buddha's Birthday, the birthday of the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, is a holiday traditionally celebrated in Mahayana Buddhism. According to the Theravada Tripitaka scriptures[which?] (from Pali, meaning "three baskets"), Gautama was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE, and raised in Kapilavastu.
According to this legend, briefly after the birth of young prince Gautama, an astrologer named Asita visited the young prince's father—King Śuddhodana—and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king or renounce the material world to become a holy man, depending on whether he saw what life was like outside the palace walls.
Śuddhodana was determined to see his son become a king, so he prevented him from leaving the palace grounds. But at age 29, despite his father's efforts, Gautama ventured beyond the palace several times. In a series of encounters—known in Buddhist literature as the four sights—he learned of the suffering of ordinary people, encountering an old man, a sick man, a corpse and, finally, an ascetic holy man, apparently content and at peace with the world. These experiences prompted Gautama to abandon royal life and take up a spiritual quest.
The exact date of Buddha's Birthday is based on the Asian lunisolar calendars and is primarily celebrated in Vaisakha month of the Buddhist calendar and the Hindu calendar, and hence it is also called Vesak. In India and Nepal, which is considered the birth-country of Buddha, it is celebrated on the full moon day of the Vaisakha month of the Hindu calendar. In Theravada countries following the Buddhist calendar, it falls on a full moon Uposatha day, typically in the 5th or 6th lunar month. In China and Korea, it is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. The date varies from year to year in the Western Gregorian calendar, but usually falls in April or May. In leap years it may be celebrated in June.
Nepal, Sri-Lanka, India, Myanmar
In Nepal and neighboring South-east Asian countries, Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the full moon day of the Vaisakha month of the Buddhist calendar and the Hindu calendar, which usually falls in April or May month of the Western Gregorian calendar. The festival is known as Buddha Purnima, as Purnima means full moon day in Sanskrit. Its also called is Buddha Jayanti, with Jayanti meaning birthday in Nepali and Hindi.
The corresponding Western Gregorian calendar dates varies from year to year:
- 2014: May 14
- 2015: May 3
East Asia except Japan
In many east Asian countries Buddha's Birth is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese lunar calendar (in Japan since 1873 on April 8 of the Gregorian calendar), and the day is an official holiday in Hong Kong, Macau, and South Korea. The date falls from the end of April to the end of May in the Gregorian calendar.
The primarily solar Gregorian calendar date varies from year to year:
- 2013: May 17
- 2014: May 6
- 2015: May 25
As a result of the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in lieu of the Chinese lunar calendar in 1873. In many Japanese temples, Buddha's birth is celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar dates, and rarely on the orthodox Chinese calendar dates.
Celebrations in each country
In Nepal, Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the full moon day of May. In 2013, the holiday occurs on May 25. The festival is known by various names, Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Vaishakh Purnima and Vesak. Purnima means full moon day in Sanskrit. Among the Newars of Nepal, the festival is known as Swānyā Punhi (स्वांया पुन्हि), the full moon day of flowers. The day marks not just the birth of Shakyamuni Gautam Buddha but also the day of his Enlightenment and Mahaparinirvana. But as a gentle effect of the West, the event of the birth is given paramount importance.
The event is celebrated by gentle and serene fervour, keeping in mind the very nature of Buddhism. People, especially women, go to common Viharas to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, as something like a service. The usual dress is pure white. Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who, in Gautama Buddha's life, offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge after he had given up the path of asceticism following six years of extreme austerity. This event was one major link in his enlightenment.
It is said that the Buddha originally followed the way of asceticism to attain enlightenment sooner, as was thought by many at that time. He sat for a prolonged time with inadequate food and water, which caused his body to shrivel so as to be indistinguishable from the bark of the tree that he was sitting under. Seeing the weak Siddhartha Gautama, a girl named Sujata placed a bowl of milk in front of him as an offering. Realising that without food one can do nothing, the Buddha refrained from harming his own body.
Buddha Purnima or Tathagata is celebrated in India, especially in Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Bodh Gaya, various parts of North Bengal such as Kalimpong, Darjeeling, and Kurseong, and Maharashtra (where 73% of total Indian Buddhists stay) and other parts of India as per Indian calendar. Buddhist People go to common Viharas to observe a rather longer-than-usual, full-length Buddhist sutra, as something like a service. The usual dress is pure white. Non-vegetarian food is normally avoided. Kheer, a sweet rice porridge is commonly served to recall the story of Sujata, a maiden who, in Gautama Buddha's life, offered the Buddha a bowl of milk porridge. Informally called "Buddha's Birthday", it actually commemorates the birth, enlightenment (nirvāna), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada tradition.
In Japan, Buddha's birth is also celebrated according to the Buddhist calendar but is not a national holiday. On this day, all temples hold Kanbutsu-e (Japanese: 灌仏会), 降誕会 (Gōtan-e), 仏生会 (Busshō-e), 浴仏会 (Yokubutsu-e), 龍華会 (Ryūge-e), 花会式 (Hana-eshiki) or 花祭(Hana-matsuri, meaning 'Flower Festival'). The first event was held at Asuka-dera in 606. Japanese people pour ama-cha (a beverage prepared from a variety of hydrangea) on small Buddha statues decorated with flowers, as if bathing a newborn baby.
In Korea the birthday of Buddha is celebrated according to the Lunisolar calendar. This day is called 석가탄신일 (Seokga tansinil), meaning "Buddha's birthday" or 부처님 오신 날 (Bucheonim osin nal) meaning "the day when the Buddha came". Lotus lanterns cover the entire temple throughout the month which are often flooded down the street. On the day of Buddha's birth, many temples provide free meals and tea to all visitors. The breakfast and lunch provided are often sanchae bibimbap.
This is one of the major festivals in Sri Lanka. It is celebrated on the first full moon day of the month of May. People engage in religious observances and decorate houses and streets with candles and specially made paper lanterns. some stores give out free meals for people. In specific places, there are buildings made out of light bulbs but from a distance it represents pictures from the Buddha's life. They are called vesak thorun (Pandals). People sing songs called "bhakthi geetha".
United States of America
Among the many practicing Buddhists in the United States, Buddha's Birthday (Hana-Matsuri) is widely celebrated on April 8 of the standard Gregorian calendar.
In 1968 on April 8 in the California Bay Area, the first circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais to celebrate Buddha's Birthday was conducted. The director of the Esalen at Stanford program designed a leaflet and had it distributed to all universities in the Bay Area. Hundreds of individuals participated, some sleeping overnight in Muir Woods to enable an early start up the Dipsea Trail. The session was led by Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg, and involved chanting a different mantra at every station of the clockwise circumambulation.
Starting in 1969 on April 8 (and into the 1970s) at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Hana-Matsuri was celebrated each spring. Dressed in formal black robes, the roughly 70 monks and students formed a formal procession to the Horse Pasture with the leader periodically ringing a small, clear bell. A temporary stone altar was built under a huge oak tree in a gorgeous field of green grass and abundant wildflowers; a small statue of a baby Buddha was placed upon it in a metal basin. Then each person would in turn approach the altar, ladle one thin-lipped bamboo dipperful of sweet green tea over the statue, bow, and walk to one side.
The Buddha's Birthday is celebrated at Nan Tien Temple in Wollongong Australia and other temples in the Fo Guang Shan Nan Tien Temple group in Australia on the eighth day of the fourth month of the China lunar calendar. In Brisbane there is a weekend-long Buddha Birthday Festival which draws over 200 000 visitors. In Melbourne, the weekend-long Festival is called Buddha's Day and Multicultural Festival. It is held at Federation Square around Apr/May.
Some places have a public holiday one week later, on the fifteenth day of the fourth month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, to coincide with the full moon. The names for this festival vary with each country, for instance Visakha Puja in Thailand or Lễ Phật đản in Vietnam. In some countries it is a public holiday.
See Vesākha for more information.
- Public holidays in Nepal
- Public holidays in India
- Public holidays in Hong Kong
- Bun Festival - a festival held on the same day in Hong Kong.
- Public holidays in Macau
- Public holidays in South Korea
- Holidays in Taiwan
- Holidays of Japan
- Public holidays in Myanmar
- Holidays in Vietnam
- Public holidays in Thailand
- Public holidays in Sri Lanka
- Public holidays in Bhutan
- Public holidays in Singapore
- Public holidays in Indonesia
- Official Site of Korea Tourism Org. National Holidays
- UNESCO, Lumbini is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Gethin Foundations, p. 19, which states that in the mid-3rd century BCE the Emperor Ashoka determined that Lumbini was Gautama's birthplace and thus installed a pillar there with the inscription: "... this is where the Buddha, sage of the Śākyas (Śākyamuni), was born."
- For instance, Gethin Foundations, p. 14, states: "The earliest Buddhist sources state that the future Buddha was born Siddhārtha Gautama (Pali Siddhattha Gotama), the son of a local chieftain—a rājan—in Kapilavastu (Pali Kapilavatthu) what is now the Indian–Nepalese border." However, Professor Gombrich (Theravāda Buddhism, p. 1) and the old but specialized study by Edward Thomas, The Life of the Buddha, ascribe the name Siattha/fitta to later sources.
- Camaron Kao (May 14, 2012), "Thousands of believers mark Buddha's birthday", China Post
- Ko Shu-Ling (May 9, 2011), "Sakyamuni Buddha birthday celebrated", Taipei Times, "The legislature approved a proposal in 1999 to designate the birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha — which falls on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar — a national holiday and to celebrate the special occasion concurrently with International Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of May."
- Dunipace, Sujal Jane (May 2003). "Nepal's Buddha Jayanti Celebration". ECS Nepal. Retrieved May 9, 2013.
- "Buddha's Birthday Education Project". International Buddhist Progress Society. Retrieved 12 January 2014.
- "Buddha Birthday Festival". Buddha's Light International Association, Chung Tian Temple. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
- "Buddha's Birthday and Multicultural Festival". Buddha's Light International Association Victoria. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
Buddha's Birthday बुद्ध जयन्ती Buddha's Birthday बुद्ध जयन्ती
- The Folkloric Study of Chopail (Buddha's Birthday), written by Prof. M.Y.Pyeon. Produced by Minsokwon in Seoul Korea 2002.