The full moon in May marks the Day of Vesak – the most anticipated festival for Buddhists around the world marking the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing away (Parinirvana) of Lord Buddha. Officially recognized internationally in 1999, Vesak celebrates the spiritual values of one of the world’s oldest religions that originated over two and a half millennia ago.
In Sri Lanka, Vesak is a majestic two-day island-wide celebration illuminating the country in kaleidoscopic colours and sentiments of unity, sharing and spirituality.
People flood the streets to enjoy myriad festivities; ‘Dansals’ where stalls by the road offer free food or drinks to everyone, vibrant light installations called Pandols depicting the stories of Lord Buddha, intricately designed lanterns in bright colours and Sil programs where devotees observe the Buddhist teachings in temples.
Apart from Vesak, Sri Lankans also observe Poson – the full moon day in June, which marks Arahant Mahinda introducing Buddhism to the island in 3rd century B.C. The third occasion of celebration is the ‘Esala Festival,’ which honors the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha with parades (perahara) of dancers, musicians, acrobats, fire performers and regally dressed elephants during a 10-day period in Kandy.