May 2019


Vesak: The Light Of Wisdom
May 2019




Queen Mahamaya gave birth to Prince Siddharta in Lumbini under a sal tree on a Vesak full moon Poya day.
Photo credit: D. William Pedris Colombo

The full moon dawns in the month of May, and with it, the thrice blessed day of Vesak. The country is seeped in spirituality as devotees from all corners unite as one to celebrate the most significant religious event in the Buddhist calendar.

Words: Roomini Wijayarathne.
Photography: BT Images.

The thrice blessed festival of Vesak commemorates the Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment, and Parinibbana. Devotees all over the country practise ‘Prathipaththi Pooja' and ‘Amisa Pooja' in reverence for the day that is marked with utmost significance for Buddhists.

A time of great spirituality, Vesak is observed with religious practices. Devotees flock to temples, observing sil following the Buddha's teaching that the supreme act of pooja towards him is to follow the path to Nibbana. ‘Prathipaththi Pooja' is this act of directing oneself towards Dhamma.

‘Amisa Pooja' is to make an offering, be it flowers, incense, light, food or clothes to anyone, including the Buddha, Maha Sangha, and disciples. Many Buddhists make pilgrimages to places of historical and religious significance such as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and Ruwanweli Maha Seya in Anuradhapura, the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, and Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. The sight of thousands of white-clad devotees is humbling, their devotion is inspiring.

Buddhists practise generosity to celebrate the spirit of Vesak, and the act of giving takes on different forms. Many offer alms to the Maha Sangha and to those who observe sil. But a way of alms that is most popular in the season is ‘Dansal'. Halls of alms, or Dansal became a practice hundreds of years ago, in the days when Vesak pilgrims traveled on foot along unfrequented paths. Dansal came into being as a benevolent gesture to provide the travel-weary pilgrims with sustenance as they traversed long distances. And during the Vesak season, Dansal frequent many a roadside, offering alms in the same manner to the countless devotees who make their way to places of worship. It has become a way of generous giving, as people from all walks of life visit Dansal.

Many Buddhists make pilgrimages to places of historical and religious significance such as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and Ruwanweli Maha Seya in Anuradhapura, the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, and Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara.

Amisa Pooja adds to the splendour of Vesak. Cities and towns are bedecked with Vesak decorations. Lanterns of various shapes, colours and sizes adorn store fronts. Buddhist flags weave in and out of city centres, instilling spirituality. Lanterns and oil lamps are lit in households. The illumination signifies the light of wisdom dispelling the darkness of ignorance, celebrating the Buddha's enlightenment over 2500 years ago.

As the night falls, pandols light up in a hundred brilliant colours. Illuminated in them are tales from the Buddha's life and from Jathaka Scriptures. Citizens from all walks of life and from all faiths come together to witness the light of Vesak.

In Colombo, the Gangaramaya Temple is aglow with ‘Buddha Rashmi’, the annual Vesak festival where the entire area surrounding the Beira Lake is lit.

On the Poya day, thousands of devotees visit the historical Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya to observe sil or to worship amidst the spirituality of the grounds sanctified by the Buddha's third visit. In Colombo, the Gangaramaya Temple is aglow with ‘Buddha Rashmi', the annual Vesak festival where the entire area surrounding the Beira Lake is lit.

Vesak inspires devotees to follow the path towards Nibbana. The religious practices remind the seekers of truth that the light of wisdom that Buddha shined with, still continues to illuminate the world.

 

 

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    On Vesak Poya, thousands of devotees flock to temples and engage in religious practices.

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    People from all walks of life visit Dansal during the Vesak season.

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    Devotees visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya, sanctified by the Buddha's third visit to the island.

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    Colourful and illuminated pandols highlight various Jathaka stories from the past lives of the Buddha.
    Photo credit: Mithra Weerakone

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    Intricate lanterns of many shapes, colours, and sizes are created.

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    Lanterns symbolize the light of wisdom that the Buddha bestowed upon the world.

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    Seemamalakaya at the Beira Lake lights up for 'Buddha Rashmi,' the annual Vesak festival organized by the Gangaramaya Temple.

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