Magha Puja Day, also known as Makha Bucha, is referred to as one of the most important festivals of Buddhism and takes place on the full moon day of the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar.
This month coincides with January/February of the Gregorian calendar. The Thai term ‘Makha’ (Magha in pali) refers to the third lunar month and ‘Bucha’ (Puja in pali) means to honor and thus, as per the name, on this day, Buddha and his teachings are commemorated and venerated.
This day is a public holiday in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. It is celebrated by the Theravada Buddhists and they fulfill the spiritual aims of the day i.e. to not indulge in any kind of sins, to purify one’s soul and mind and to do what is good. This festival is going to take place on the 11th of February in the year 2017.
This day marks the occurrence of the four auspicious events that had taken place in the Veluvana Bamboo grove which is in Northern India and had occurred ten months after Buddha was enlightened. The notable events that had taken place on this day were:
- It was a full moon day.
- Around 1250 monks had come from different places to pay homage to Buddha that evening without being summoned.
- All of the monks were enlightened and had attained the Apinyas. They are called Arahants.
- All of the Arahants had been individually ordained by Lord Buddha himself. Thus, on Magha Puja Day, the “Ovadha Patimokkha” (Fundamental Teachings of Buddhism) that were recited by Buddha to the Arahants is commemorated and revered.
On this day, the people in Thailand get up early in the morning to distribute alms to the monks and beggars. During the evening time, it’s a custom the visit the temples which are adorned with lights and lamps on this day. After sunset, the followers of Buddhism walk around the temple three times in order to remember the three jewels of Buddhism- Buddha, Sangha and Dharma. In Burma, this day is a traditional merit-making day for the people. This festival is inaugurated with the ceremony of ‘nakyake shitsu’ which involves offerings to the 28 named Buddhas. On the evening of this full moon day, each temple in Thailand religiously organizes a candlelight procession known as ‘wian thian’.