Vesak Decorations in Gangarama
If you happen to visit Sri Lanka during a full moon day in the month of May, you would see plenty of illuminations almost everywhere in the island. When you travel along some local streets / towns / villages in the afternoon / evening, you might get politely stopped flashing colourful flags. One might doubt what happens here, serving some free drinks, inviting for free meals. Depending on the location, they would serve soft drinks, or tea, or coffee, or herbal drinks, or fruits, or meals, or even ice-cream, absolutely for free ! Please feel free to accept their hospitality, you don’t have to pay anything for that. Returning back to your hotel room, you might check for the economic indicators of Sri Lanka, wondering the secret behind this free giveaways surrounded by a dazzling world of illuminations. But, this practice is nothing related to any economic growth in the island, as it has been seen every year since many decades, backed by the spirit of the island’s most important Buddhist festival – Wesak.
Vesak pandal showing Birth, Enlightenment & Parinirvaana
This Buddhist festival is celebrated by the island’s entire Buddhist nation, commemorating the birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and the death (parinirvaana) of the lord Buddha. On this day, most devout Buddhists clad in simple white attire visit local temples with offerings of flowers and joss-sticks, and lighting oil-lamps as symbolic offerings to lord Buddha. Many devotees also observe sil, practicing noble qualities of Buddhist teachings during the whole full moon day. During this week, the whole island is encouraged to be vegetarian, where the selling of alcohol and fresh meat is prohibited by the government decree.
Many Buddhists celebrate this noble festival training themselves to practice morality, simplicity, and humility. You can see Wesak lanterns almost everywhere in the island, at least a one Buddhist flag in each Buddhist house. You would hear Pirith verses recited by monks, and Buddhist hymns sung by Buddhist people. In addition, so many charity work such as alms-giving is done making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. Even the pedestrians are also treated with some kind of offerings as described in the beginning of this article.