Every year, Buddhists around the world celebrate Wesak day with full fervor. It is the holiest day for them, and it is celebrated once a year on Sunday that is closest to the full moon, in May. The date usually varies depending on the country. Apart from Malaysia, it is also celebrated in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, and many other countries.
In Malaysia, after Islam, Buddhism is the second most followed religion, and hence this day is celebrated with pomp and pageantry.
Wesak Day is also a national holiday.
Origin and history of Wesak Day
Buddhism is one of the ancient religions in the world to have existed, and even today, many people follow the path laid out by Gautam Buddha. Wesak day marks the birth of Buddha, his awakening, and also his death. Buddhists all around the world celebrate the teachings of empathy and dedication to serving humanity. In the year 1950, the decision to celebrate Wesak as Buddha’s birthday was taken at the World Fellowship of Buddhists conference held in Srilanka.
Buddhism that had started in India had slowly spread its teachings to other foreign cultures, and hence Wesak is celebrated differently in different parts of the world. The essence is the same: to celebrate Gautham Buddha’s teachings, whose contributions have been one of the greatest to mankind.
Born into Nepal’s royal family, Gautama Buddha left his privileged life when he realized people’s sufferings. He wanted to find the essence and actual meaning of life and hence left his abode in the quest to find the answers to his questions. He traveled to various places, and he learned yoga under several gurus and fasted in order to gain enlightenment, but unfortunately, fasting didn’t help increase his knowledge. When he was sitting under a tree, a woman offered him food, which made him realize that fasting or overindulging won’t answer his questions about life, and that realization was his enlightenment. That was the day when he became known as the enlightened one.
Buddha taught his followers not just to offer him flowers and incense but follow the path laid by him honestly.
When is Wesak 2023 in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, Wesak day 2023 will be celebrated on 4th May.
How is Wesak Day Celebrated?
Wesak Day celebration is one of the most significant days in the Buddhist Calendar. At the rise of dawn, all Buddhists gather in the temples and meditate on the Buddhist ordinance. The devotees who follow the ordinance should respect life, be empathetic, embrace chastity and choose their words wisely. They should also avoid alcohol and consume food only at definite times. Those who follow the ordinance should also refrain from listening to music, should sleep less, and not adorn their bodies too much. Many Buddhists head to the Malaysian Buddhist Association to wash the Buddha’s statue with fragrant water thrice, which they believe will help them purify their souls and let their minds attain peace and wisdom while forgoing greed. Devotees also visit monasteries to water the sacred Bodhi trees with scented water in clay pots to ensure that the trees that hold importance in Buddhism don’t die in the summer season.
People attending the services on Wesak Day make generous donations and prayers. They also present flowers and candles. The flowers wilt and candles melt, signifying that nothing in this world is permanent. The monks recite the enlightening teachings of Buddha, and the Buddha Flag is hoisted in the temples. Many people also hang the flags in their homes. Candlelight processions are carried out, and people light incense sticks and give donations and food to the needy. People abstain from eating non-veg and strictly eat only vegetarian food.
The tradition of releasing birds, insects, and animals from their captivity is also practiced by many, and it is known as the ‘act of liberation’. It is symbolic of the fact that those held captive against their wishes and are being tortured should be released. People dress up in crisp white clothes and take part in the processions.
Highlights of Wesak Day 2023
The Buddhist temples are bathed in beautiful colors and lights, making it a view to remember. The celebration of Wesak Day in Kuala Lumpur is a sight to behold. The day usually ends with a parade in the South Western part of the country. The parade has beautifully decorated tableaux, and there is a tableau with a big statue of Buddha. People walk along holding lotus-shaped candles.
After the parade comes back to the temple, a sermon on Wesak day’s importance and an open-air blessing ceremony are also performed.
The rest of the night is spent praying, chanting, and meditating. The monks put on their sacred saffron robes and offer prayers to Buddha.
If you’re a tourist traveling to attend the celebrations, make sure to dress appropriately for the day and also follow Covid rules to keep yourself and others safe.
How to reach the Wesak Day venue?
Wesak Day is celebrated in almost all the states in Malaysia, but here are few places that are worth visiting and from where you can make the most of the celebrations.
The Kek Lok Si temple is one of the biggest and spectacular Buddhist temples situated on a hill in Penang island.
Read more on Penang Travel Guide
Getting to Penang -
You can take a bus from Kuala Lumpur, TBS ( Terminal Bersepadu Selatan ) To Penang Sentral.
It is a 5-hour bus journey, and there are buses available in the morning around 11:15 AM.
For more details about the bus online ticket and booking, you can check the redBus app. All the bus routes are mentioned along with the timings. You can also book bus tickets on the redBus app and website.
To witness the spectacular celebration of Wesak day, book your tickets on the redBus app and avail yourself of maximum discounts.