The Vesak festival marks the birth, enlightenment and passing away into Nirvana of the Lord Buddha and includes devotion and alma giving with spectacular displays and entertainment. The week long celebration gives the visitor a unique opportunity to discover Sri Lanka’s religious and cultural traditions.
Vesak is of religious significance for Buddhists all over the world but, to Sri Lanka, it is what Christmas is to the West. A festival of togetherness, a festival of rejoicing in the birth and enlightenment of the Lord Buddha, as well as a time for reflection on his death. It is the festival of light. Of pandals, of buckets, of lanterns of shining eyes. In the course of its celebration, it brings a contentment to people that spreads out from the very inside of their bodies.
Vesak is celebrated on the day of the full moon in May. It is the most hallowed of Buddhist festivals and religious observances is the main focus of Vesak and time is spent in reflective prayers. In the Vesak week many activities are conducted by the Buddhists devotees such as devotional song campaigns, almsgiving, lighting of Vesak lanterns. Celebrating Vesak also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. Buddhists distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughout the country.
Stalls on the roadside distribute free refreshments to passers-by and there are some fantastic mime and street theatre performances, staged on tall platforms throughout the cities and towns near the temples.
Lanterns made from bamboo frames and covered in coloured paper are hung inside every home and incredible illuminated displays decorate the streets. There could be no Vesak without lanterns and Vesak lantern competitions are organise in a number of cities and towns. The winners are awarded valuable prizes. Beruwela organises every year two days of events including meditation session at the the Island Temple (in English and German) , Bakthi Gee (devotional songs) competition on gaily illuminated barges afloat on the Bentota River, chanting of Pirith, Puppert Shows and a Mini Perahera on the beach.
The Vesak Pandal depicting various Jathaka stories with paintings are erected all over Sri Lanka. They are illuminated and presented beautifully.
Vesak is a festival of togetherness, a festival of rejoicing in the birth and enlightenment of the Lord Buddha, as well as a time for reflection on his death. It is the festival of light, of pandals, of buckets, of lanterns of shining eyes. In the course of its celebration, it brings a contentment to people that spreads out from every Sri Lankan; that is the magic of Vesak.