One of the most important days of Buddhists, Visakha Bucha is also declared the most important day of the world by the United Nations. This year, it falls on the 4th of June. Since it is the day when Buddhists worldwide pay homage to the Lord Buddha whose spiritual contribution towards enlightenment is overwhelming and invaluable for all mankind, Visakha Bucha is not merely a public holiday. There is more to know about the day as a result. Why is Visakha Bucha so important?
Typically falling on a full moon in the 5th or 6th lunar month or otherwise in the 7th month in leap years, Visakha Bucha refers to homage paying on a full moon day of the 6th month as the word, ‘Bucha’ literally means to pay homage. Informally called the Buddha’s Birthday, Visakha Bucha is a very important occasion for all Buddhists because it marks the days when the Buddha was born, gained enlightenment and passed away. All of them fall on a full moon day of the 6th month though years varied.
The Lord Buddha was born as Prince Sidhatha in the Lumpiniwan Royal Garden between Kabilapas and Thewa Thaha cities in India early in the Friday morning of a full moon in the 6th month 80 years before the Buddhist Era (B.E.). 35-year-old Prince Sidhatha, after having ordained for 6 years, gained enlightenment under the Sri Maha Bhodha tree by the Neranchala river in dawn of Wednesday of the 6th month, which was the full moon day as well. At present, the place is called Buddha Khaya and located in the Phiharn state of India. After he was enlightened, the Lord Buddha disseminated Buddhism by himself and his disciples.
He passed away when he was 80 years old in the evening of Tuesday of the 6th month, certainly a full moon day, too. The place where the Lord Buddha passed away is now in the Kusinakhara city of India. Miracle as it is that the 3 main events occurred on the full moon day of the 6th month. As a result, Visakha Bucha is the day that symbolizes the holy triple gem: the Buddha, the Dhama (His teachings) and the Sangha (His disciples), which is believed to brighten the world. History of Visakha Bucha in Thailand Legend has it that Visakha Bucha has existed since the Sukhothai period.
It is believed to follow the Lanka’s tradition when King Phatikurach had a grand and exquisite commemoration to the Buddha on this day in B.E. 420. Afterwards, other kings of Lanka have maintained this tradition until today. Since Sukhothai and Lanka are connected thanks to many Buddhist monks from Lanka who came here on a religious mission, the monks passed on such tradition to Thailand as well. Nang Noppamas, known among Thais as the Ladies of Songkran, gave some brief details in their book on the ceremony of Visakha Bucha during the Sukhothai period that people from all walks of life from everywhere helped each other clean the Sukhothai city before decorating and lightening it with beautiful flowers and lanterns.
The event lasted 3 nights and days to commemorate the Lord Buddha. The royal family observed a noble life and, in the evening, walked with lighted candles and joss-sticks in hand around a temple along with vassals. At the same time, local people observed the 5 or eight precepts proclaimed by the Buddha. They also gave alms to Buddhist monks and made donations to beggars, the disabled, the disadvantaged, the orphans or the helpless elder. Some who wished a healthier longer life would release animals like birds, fish or tortoises.
In Ayudhaya, Thonburi and the beginning of Rattanakosin periods, Brahman influenced the belief of Thai people so much that no record on Buddhist-styled Visakha Bucha was made until the reign of King Rama II who kindly asked the Abbot Mee from Wat Ratchaburana Buddhist temple to revive it. So, the ceremony of Visakha Bucha was back in the same way as traditionally organized on the 6th month of B.E. 2360 until today. What to do on Visakha Bucha Day On Visakha Bucha Day, devout Buddhists decorate their houses and buildings with a national flag or a Buddhist flag. In the evening, they will light lanterns or turn on colorful neon lights.
As tradition goes, His Majesty the King and royal family members attend a Buddhist ceremony of offering alms to Buddhist monks in the morning at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In the evening, they will walk around the chapel with lighted joss-sticks and candles in hand before listening to the preaching by Buddhist monks. In Bangkok, the ceremonial Visakha Bucha day is usually big with a lot of Biddhist activities from many governmental and private organizations. Some Buddhists will observe 5 or 8 precepts while others do meditation all day and night to pay homage to the Buddha and cleanse their mind.
A very famous place where the big ceremony takes place is Buddha Monthon in the outskirt of Bangkok. Every year, HRH Princess Sirindhorn will do the walking around the big Buddha image with lighted joss-sticks and candles in hand there. Cha-Am, in particular, celebrates the Visakha Bucha every year at many Buddhist temples, namely Wat Cha-Am Khiri, Wat Neranchararam, Wat Nong Tapod, Wat Nong Jaeng, Wat Boh Khaem, Wat Sai Yoi, Wat Maruekhathaiyawan, Wat Huay Sai Tai and Wat Pho Suwan. Buddhist activities will be held all day and night and devotees are welcome to celebrate and commemorate the day together.