Visakha Bucha Day or Wan Pra Yai

Asanha Bucha and Khao Phansa Important Buddhist Commemorations
Asanha Bucha and Khao Phansa Important Buddhist Commemorations

Visakha Bucha Day or Wan Pra Yai marks the three important incidents in the life of Lord Buddha on the same day – the full moon of the sixth lunar month.  These memorable events are commemorated by Thai Buddhists and Buddhists all over the world:

It is said that the first time rituals of Visakha Bucha Day were seen in Thailand was during the Sukhothai period. Sri Lankan monks visited Thailand to spread Buddhism; in return Thai monks also visited Sri Lanka. In all probability, these Thai monks initiated this Memorial Day in Thailand. Long before this, rituals of Visakha Bucha Day were already seen in Buddhism’s motherland, India. The Three Significant Events

1. The Buddha’s Birth 2. The Enlightenment of Buddha – While sitting under the Bodhi tree, he attained enlightenment at the age of 35 years. 1,250 of his ordained followers spontaneously gathered to hear Him give a sermon, at which he established the basic tenants of the monastic order – the Sangha. 3. The Nibbana – The Buddha passed away on the Vesak full moon day in the Sala Grove of the Mallas in Kusinara, the capital of the Malla state, (nowadays located in Kusinagara of Uttrarapradesa, India) at the age of eighty years (around 2547 years ago).

The day is recognised as most important Memorial Day in Buddhism recognised by UNESCO in 1999 as a World Heritage Day. The date varies from year to year; this year it is Wednesday, May 10th. Activities to be observed on  Visakha Bucha Day focus on merit making with many Thai Buddhists visiting their local temple: dtàk bàat: Offering food to monks and novices in the morning, fang tam: Some people visit the temples to listen to Dhamma preaching tam bun:  Making merit by going to temples for special observances, making  merit, giving some donations and join in  the other Buddhist activities. bpòi nók bpòi bplaa: Setting birds or fish free to get rid of bad karma. After sunset, candle-lit processions take place at major temples throughout the country. Devout Buddhists walk three times around the temple, clasping three incense sticks, a lighted candle and lotus buds.

The air is filled with burning incense and smoke from the candles as the faithful complete this most sacred of Buddhist celebrations. In Chiang Mai, thousands of people join an 11 kilometre pilgrimage to the temple atop Doi Suthep to pay tribute to Buddha.  Because it’s such an important Buddhist day, it is a public holiday in Thailand as well as in Laos and Cambodia and there are restrictions on alcohol sales with bars and clubs closed for the day.