Vesak Day, which falls annually, is celebrated as a religious event by Buddhists worldwide. Buddhists in Singapore and across the globe commemorate this day as the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha. It is the most critical day in the Buddhist calendar. This festival, often referred to as Buddha Purnima, celebrates the Buddha’s teachings. It reminds the followers of their sacred vows to maintain peace and harmony.
Vesak Day 2023
Following the Singapore Buddhist Federation’s declaration regarding the new Vesak Day 2023 date, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has officially recognized June 2, 2023, as the new Vesak Day public holiday.
Let’s deep dive into how Vesak Day is celebrated in Singapore, the traditions and customers around the festival and what places to visit to admire the celebrations!
All About Vesak Festival
The Vesak Festival emphasizes living a short, moral life around compassion and goodwill. Vesak Day celebration in Singapore involves monks chanting and Buddhist groups and temples performing goodwill gestures. These activities include visiting the less fortunate, distributing Vesak gifts, and releasing imprisoned birds and animals. The daylong event is concluded in the evening with silent marches or meditations.
The act of freeing and liberating imprisoned animals is a way of remembering Buddha and his teachings of nonviolence and peace. As an act of compassion for the world’s voiceless creatures, followers of this religion exclusively prepare and eat vegetarian food. What genuinely embodies the Buddha’s humble, modest, and compassionate teachings are even more charitable deeds, including mass blood donations.
Experiencing the celebration is an excellent opportunity to learn about the Buddhist faith’s history, culture, and customs. Tourists are welcome to take part in the celebrations and ceremonies of the Vesak festival, which welcomes people of all religions.
Vesak Day History
Vesak Day is a public holiday in Singapore and is observed on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month, usually in May. It honours the birth, enlightenment, and demise of Siddhartha Gautama. According to legend, these great occasions occurred on the same day in various years, making Vesak Day the most important day in the Buddhist calendar.
The word “Vesak” comes from the Sanskrit name for the fourth lunar month. Gautama Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment through his travels, meditation, and self-control. Subsequently, he began to propagate his ideas over the Ganges plain, planting the first seeds of Buddhism. The decision to recognize Vesak Day as the Buddha’s birthday was made official by the Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in 1950.
Vesak Day Celebration and Traditions
1. Flag Hoisting
Devotees gather at Singapore’s temples and monasteries early in the morning to wave the Buddhist flag and pay respect to the Buddha’s teachings. Buddhist hymns are sung by devotees in adoration of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, while monks recite the Buddhist scriptures.
2. Good Deeds and Vesak Gifts
Vesak Day is a day of benevolence, so Buddhists are encouraged to promote happiness by volunteering and to refrain from all forms of violence. Flowers, candles, and joss sticks are offered as gifts; when they wither and burn out, they represent the deterioration and death that life is prone to.
3. Honouring the Buddha—’Bathing’ Buddha
According to legend, when Gautama Buddha was born, devas and spirits showered Buddha with holy water from the sky as a divine offering. On Vesak Day, temples set up altars with small Buddha sculptures, little water-filled basins, and flowers. By giving the statue a bath with fragrant water, pilgrims can purify their bad karma while enacting the events surrounding Buddha’s birth.
Read here about The Festivals in Singapore
4. Three Steps, One Bow Ritual
Vesak Day is concluded with a massive candlelit parade in which you can see the Three-Steps, One-Bow tradition. Devotees go on both knees for two hours, kneeling every third step as they seek blessings and forgiveness. This practice is mostly carried out by Mahayana Buddhists from the Chinese community.
5. Rice Pudding (Kheer)
Theravada Buddhism (Burmese and Sri Lankan Buddhist Communities) is said to be the oldest and most traditional of the two main strains of Buddhism. Their tradition differs from Mahayana Buddhism in many ways. They boil a pot of rice in milk to make a pudding on Vesak Day, evoking the rice milk (known as kheer) that Buddha took from the milkmaid Sujata that gave him the power to achieve enlightenment.
Places To Visit in Singapore During Vesak Day Celebration
1. The Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
The largest Buddhist monastery in Singapore, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, hosts a candlelight procession and a special Three-Steps, One-Bow rite. This procession starts in the monastery’s courtyard and moves toward the inner sanctuary. In addition, a guided tour of the temple’s grounds is also given to the visitors.
2. Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum
One of the most aesthetically appealing traditions of the Vesak Day celebration happens at the renowned Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. Here, over 2,000 lanterns are lit throughout the premises. This site is worth seeing because it features the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic in a massive 3.5-tonne stupa made of 320 kg of gold donated by worshippers.
3. Mangala Vihara Temple
To celebrate the auspicious Vesak day, the Bodhi tree at the Mangala Vihara temple is adorned with garlands, candles, and joss sticks. This tree has significant meaning for those who practise the faith because it marks the exact location where the Buddha obtained Nirvana. This shrine, also called the Shrine of Blessings, is where the Buddha and his followers’ relics are displayed on Vesak Day in Singapore.
4. Amitabha Buddhist Center
Vesak Day celebrations have been held at the Amitabha Buddhist Center in Singapore every year for the last twenty years. During this occasion, a field is turned into a carnival, with fair activities, food courts, thrift shops, and a shoppers’ bazaar set up. Here, the main attraction is a traditional Tibetan artwork nearly two stories high.
5. The Buddhist Library
For a more laid-back and meaningful Vesak Day celebration, visit the Buddhist Library in Singapore to hear saffron-clad monks speak eloquently about the Buddha’s teachings. The entire day is dedicated to blessing sessions. They also conduct a workshop on flower arrangements. A beautiful Buddhist art show is also on display for visitors.
Wrapping it up
Vesak Festival is a beautiful time to become more familiar with Buddhist customs. The vibe in Singapore during this time is enchanting.
With redBus, you can enjoy a comfortable and safe journey to these gorgeous locations in Singapore. To visit Singapore on Vesak Day 2023, visit the redBus app or website and book your bus ticket online well in advance.
redBus provides various options for online bus booking, along with amazing deals and discounts. So, what are you waiting for? Book your bus tickets online now!