Buddha’s Birthday is also traditionally known as Vesak or Visakah Puja. Vesak is the most celebrated of all the Buddhist festivals as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment Nirvana and death of Buddha. Vesak is held on the first full moon day in May apart from a leap year when the festival is then held in June.
The annual holiday of Vesak is observed by Buddhists mainly in South Asia & South East Asia in countries such as Nepal, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Pakistan and India.
Sri Lanka – Also called the Buddhist Festival of Light, in Sri Lanka, colorful bamboo-framed lanterns are hung in houses and there are light displays on the streets and Bhauddoloka Mawatha, the main street in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, has a magnificent light display. Sri Lanka also celebrates Vesak with prayers, processions and street performances.
Malaysia – Vesak is celebrated before dawn at temples throughout Malaysia with prayers, chanting and giving. It is said that good karma can be obtained for those who release caged animals on this day and frogs, birds and tortoises are set free from cages from the steps of temples throughout Malaysia.
Singapore – Crowds gather at temples throughout Singapore to celebrate Vesak where monks chant holy sutras. Caged birds are released as a mark of respect to living creatures and in the evening there are candlelit processions through the streets of Singapore.
Thailand – Thai Buddhists celebrate Vesak by gathering at temples to hear the monks’ sermons, give donations and say prayers. Thai people also increase their chances of positive karma by doing good deeds.
Vietnam – The capital of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, really goes to town on Vesak and lavishly decorate their pagodas, particularly the Nghia An Hoi Quan Pagoda. There are huge coils of incense burning and the temples sport colorful lanterns and the monks hold processions through Ho Chi Minh.
India – Mumbai in India celebrates Vesak at the Buddhist temples and many devotees spend the day worshipping at the temples. People also decorate their houses, give up eating meat and perform charitable acts such as buying caged birds specifically to set free.