Buddhist festivals in India

Buddhist festivals in India

A note on the important Buddhist festivals in India.

Across the globe, different countries celebrate different festivals associated with the Buddha and his religion. India is one of the main centers of such celebrations as it is the country of origin of this religion.

1. Buddha Jayanti/ Purnima: According to legend, Prince Siddhartha took birth, attained enlightenment and accepted Parinirbana on the same day of the year at the interval of several years. This day is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Vaisakha (April/May).

2. Losar: The Tibetan New Year is celebrated with almost equal enthusiasm in India too. Dressing up, going to temples and visiting relatives are common features. The Chaam dance performances in the monasteries are very popular and signify the victory of good over evil.

3. Hemis Fair: Named after the Hemis monastery of Ladakh in J&K state, this festival celebrates the birth of the Indian sage Guru Padmasambhava who had spread Buddhism in Tibet. It is celebrated for two days and the main attraction is the sacred mask dance, Chaam, performed by the monks.

4. Ullambana: On the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, this festival is celebrated. The Gates of Hell are said to open during this time and the deads are believed to visit Earth. People give offerings to the dead and perform charitable deeds.

5. Samgha Day/ Magha Day: In the month of Magh as per Indian calendar the spontaneous gathering of 1250 Arahants took place at the Veruvana Monastery in the Rajgaha city after the first Rains Retreat. Buddha who delivered his sermon, or recitation of the Patimokkha. It honors the Samgha and had taken place in the month of Magha, hence the names.

6. Asalha Day: On the full moon of the eighth lunar month of Asalha (Ashadha) Buddha was supposed to have given his first sermon to a group of five friends. This day celebrates that event and is also called Dhamma Day. It also marks the beginning of the three months long Rains retreat during which monks stay confined to their monasteries and concentrate on their meditation.

7. Pavarana Day: This marks the end of the three months of Rains Retreat or vassa. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the 11th lunar month and coincides with October-November of the Gregorian calendar.

Besides the above, there are some other festivals too that are celebrated outside India in countries like Tibet, S-E Asian countries, etc. where Buddhism is prevalent.
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