It has been put forward that Buddhism is one of fastest growing religion across the globe. Buddhism was established by Siddhartha Gautama (later known as Lord Buddha or Gautama Buddha) in India thousands of years ago in the 6th century BC.

When literally translated the word Buddha means “The Enlightened One” or “The Awakened One”. Buddhism was established when Gautama Siddhartha was persuaded by the sufferings and hardships that human beings face day in and day out, and he aimed to achieve Nirvana or Awakening or Enlightenment. His final aim was to teach his fellow human beings the path to attain this Awakening and get relieved from the mundane and petty miseries of life. Buddha did not propagate the existence of a personal God. Buddhist principles rather emphasize on the spiritual development of the followers so that they can attain wisdom. Emphasis is also given on living a good quality life and staying away from vices. Buddhists are encouraged to mediate and connect with their mind. Buddhists believe that every person in their life come across Four Truths that are Noble as well as Fundamental. They are –
  • The Existence of Dukkha or Suffering
  • Suffering is caused by Desire
  • Suffering ceases when one can tame Desire
  • There is a path which can lead to Freedom from Suffering.

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  Below you may find a list of the major Buddhist festivals as would be observed in the year 2016. However, apart from those mentioned below there is a custom followed by the Buddhist people that is known by the name of Uposatha. These are days (two to six per lunar month depending on the sect of Buddhism that a person adheres to) when Buddhists are required to discipline their mind in case they wandered in the wrong direction.
  • Sunday, January 24, Mahayana New Year – This day marks the beginning of the traditional New Year for the people of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism. New Year celebrations as per Buddhism are essentially opportunities of self rectification where one delves deep into the soul, understands the flaws and corrects them.

  • Monday, February 15, (Pari) Nirvana Day – This is the day when Lord Buddha is believed to have attained Nirvana. He was aged eighty at that time. Buddhist principals are based on the fact that everything in life is impermanent. Buddhists people also believe in the cycle of rebirth after death. According to Buddhist principles this cycle can only be stopped by attaining Nirvana or Enlightenment. As such, people reflect on how they can make their life better so that they get freed from the cycle of coming back again to the mortal world after death. On this day, people gather at temples and pray, eat community meals, and think and discuss about ways in which they can enhance the quality of their life so as to attain Nirvana.

  • Wednesday, March 23, Magha Puja Day – Buddhists believe in monastic clans. This is perhaps the day that saw the beginning of it all, because on this day it is believed that 1250 enlightened monks came to Lord Buddha on their own to pay their homage. Lord Buddha is believed to have given a sermon in their presence.

  • Sunday, May 15, Vesak Buddha Day – Lord Buddha is the founder of Buddhism. Naturally the events of the life of Buddha are celebrated with much reverence by the Buddhists. This is the day when Lord Buddha attained the three milestones of life that were of utmost significance – his birth, his nirvana and his death. The day gets its name from the name of the traditional month as per the Buddhist calendar in which this day occurs.

  • Tuesday, July 19, Asala-Dharma Day – This is the day when Lord Buddha is believed to have passed on his first sermon. His first teaching was on Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta which when literally translated signifies “Setting to Motion the Wheel of Dharma”. Buddha gave this sermon at the Deer Park in Sarnath to five of his disciple monks. The senior most of them is believed to have attained the first level of nirvana after this event.

  • Wednesday, August 17, Ulambana – This is the ceremony where people pay tribute to their departed ancestors. This is celebrated for a period of fifteen days. According to Buddhist beliefs the doorway to Hell is opened during this period of time whereby departed souls come down to Earth. People pay homage to these souls and pray for them so that they can attain peace. Many people visit cemeteries where their ancestors have been put to rest during this time.

  • Sunday, October 16, Abhidhamma Day – This day commemorates the journey of Lord Buddha to Heaven. In Heaven he is believed to have imparted a part of Buddhist scripture by means of his teaching to his mother.

  • Sunday, October 16, Thod Kathina or Thord Gathin or  Kathina Ceremony – This is the day when monks are honored for  their contribution in keeping people in the right track. This custom is believed to have been originated from the times of Lord Buddha. This ritual is commemorated during the period of monsoon in India. Although Buddhist monks primarily lead a life of nomads since it is forbidden for them to get attached to anything materialistic including a place of living. However wandering during the monsoons may make them involuntarily harm crops or insects. As such during this time the monks live in one place. People make gifts of robes, utensils, food supplies and other essentials to the monks. Special prayer services are also organized for in the temples.

  • Thursday, December 8, Bodhi Day – The day gets its name from the Pali word Bodhi which when literally translated signifies Supreme Knowledge or Awakening or Enlightenment. This is the day when it is believed that Buddha attained Enlightenment. Buddha was extremely moved to see the suffering of his fellow human beings, and resolved to find the way to end such suffering. For a long time his search for an answer went in vain. He then resolved to meditate under a peepal tree and remain unmoved unless he got the answers he was seeking. It is on this day that he is believed to have been blessed with Enlightenment. He could then understand what brought about human sufferings and how this cycle could be put to an end. He then started to impart his knowledge for the benefit of others. Buddhists commemorate this day by attending prayers at temples and reading religious texts, scriptures and also teachings of Buddha.