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Home » Borobudur » Vesak Festival: A Truly Sacred Experience

Vesak Festival: A Truly Sacred Experience

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Every year the magnificent Buddhist temple of Borobudur hosts the holy Vesak festival, attracting thousands of Buddhist pilgrims and other travelers who come to see this ancient and sacred Buddhist ritual take place.

Also known as Visakah Puja or Buddha Purnima in India, Visakha Bucha in Thailand and Waisak in Indonesia, the ceremony is globally known as Vesak,  whch is derived from the Pali Language: “Ves?kha” which has its origins in the ancient Sanskrit word: Vai??kha”

Conducted annually during the full moon in the month of May or at the purnama sidhi , Vesak  commemorates  three most important events in the life of the Buddha  Siddharta Gautama  known as the Tri Suci Waisak. The first important event is the Birth of Prince Siddharta at the Lumbini Gardens in 623 BC. The second episode is the enlightenment (nirv??a) in which Prince Siddharta became the Buddha in Bodhgaya at the age of 35 in 588 BC, and the third is the passing away (Parinirv?na) of Gautama Buddha at Kusinara at the age of 80 in 543 BC. Thus, Vesak is also known as simply Buddha’s day.

The sacred ceremony is preceded several days earlier by a ritual to obtain holy water from the pristine springs at Jumprit in the Temanggung district. The holy water will then be kept in the small Mendut Temple near Borobudur.  The following day is the ritual of igniting the Vesak torch, whose flames are taken from the natural eternal flames at Mrapen in the village of Grobogan, in the Purwodadi district, Central Java. The flame and holy water are kept in the Mendut Temple to be carried and used during the ceremony at Borobudur on the actual Vesak day.

The ritual of “Pindapata” will also be conducted as part of the Vesak rituals. Derived from the word Pinda which means a chunk of food and Patta (or Patra) which means a bowl, Pindapata is the ritual where Buddhist monks (Bikku and Bikkhuni) receive offerings of food from the Buddhists congregation. Buddhists monks would walk with their head bowed while holding a bowl and the congregation would voluntarily fill their bowls with food. The philosophy behind this is the act of giving and receiving as a moral exercise for both monks and followers, in accordance to the teachings of Buddha.

Monks and congregations will gather at the Mendut Temple on the morning of Vesak day and embark on a journey on foot from the Mendut Temple, passing Pawon Temple, the rivers  Elo and Progo until they reach Borobudur Temple. The procession will also carry the Vesak torch, the holy water, and other Buddhism symbols. During the procession, Parittas or holy verses from scriptures are chanted by the monks. The journey will take roughly about three hours.

As soon as the soft moonlight shines over Borobudur, the monks light the candles, reciting holy chants. All participants will fall into a deep ascetical state during the seconds of the full moon, which marks the pinnacle of the Vesak ceremony. Afterwards, the Ghata Visaka Puja will be recited followed by the Pradaksina ritual or the ritual of circling the Borobudur Temple three times. Marking the end of Vesak’s rituals series, thousands of Puja lanterns will be released into the sky symbolizing enlightenment for the entire universe.

As an expression of the true essence of Buddhism, the Vesak Festival is a beautiful display of Spirituality, faith, and culture. Highlighted by enchanting tranquility and deep spirituality, the Vesak ritual ceremony is certainly an amazing festival worth observing.

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Oct 2015

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Vesak Festival: A Truly Sacred Experience

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