Vesak is a popular Buddhist religious festival that is celebrated in memory of the birth of Lord Buddha, his Enlightenment as well as his passing away. In other words, this celebration is as big as Christmas, Easter and Whitsun all put together. As the full moon day in the month of May approaches, Buddhists prepare themselves with bamboo framed lanterns decorated in colored paper to be hung in and outside their homes. These lanterns are also displayed on roads throughout the country and they make up incredible illuminated displays to lighten up the streets. Devoted Buddhists spend the entire day praying in temples and as the sun sets, they take part in processions and spend the rest of the night visiting temples and listening to sermons from monks.
Some Buddhist families/groups put up stalls on the roadside to distribute fresh refreshments to those passing by. Some stalls also exhibit talented street theatre performances staged on tall platforms. Creative versions of vesak lanterns are also displayed on the streets and these always have a story to tell that is related to the history of Buddhism.
This year, vesak will be celebrated in Sri Lanka on the 10th and 11th of May 2017. Buddhist leaders across the world have decided to hold the UN International Vesak Festival 2017 in Sri Lanka. Every year, Buddhist countries are given the opportunity to host the celebrations of United Nations Day of Vesak and this is the first time Sri Lanka has been given the chance, after a request made by Minister Rajapakse at the last UN Vesak Day held in Thailand. According to Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakhse, the UN Vesak Day Committee has unanimously agreed that the International Vesak Day festival will be held from 11th to 13th of May 2017.
This is the 14th annual UN Vesak day celebration and it will be held at BMICH – Colombo, where Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena, Indian President Narendra Modi and many other national and international delegates will be present. More than 2000 delegates, including political and Buddhist leaders across the world will be attending the event in a few weeks.
At 7.00 p.m. on the 11th of May, the launch of this festival will take place at Diyawanna – the special vesak zone near the Parliament complex in Colombo. The concluding ceremony will be conducted in the cultural capital of Sri Lanka – Kandy. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is where the delegates will meet for the conclusion of this festival.
On February 7th 2017, a website for the 14th UN International Vesak Festival in Sri Lanka was launched by the President. Popular Buddhist leaders such as the Maha Sangha attended the launch. The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Buddhist Teachings for Social Justice and Sustainable World Peace’.
If you are planning a holiday in Sri Lanka during the month of May, request Blue Lanka Tours to schedule a couple of days (preferably 11-13 May) in Colombo to see the best of the Vesak Festival.