Buddha Purnima is the most important Buddhist festival that marks Gautama Buddha’s birth (jayanti), enlightenment (nirvāṇa) and death (parinirvāṇa). It falls on the day of the full moon (pūrṇimā) of the Buddhist and Hindu month Vaisakha that corresponds to April/May in the Gregorian Calendar and thus it is also called Vesak.
Buddha Purnima, Buddha Jayanti or Vesak is a gazetted holiday in India. It is celebrated especially in the Buddhist states of Sikkim, Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, in various parts of North Bengal and Maharashtra and in the Buddhist holy places of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh such as Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and Rajgir, Sarnath, Kushinagar, etc.
On this day, Buddhist temples and monasteries (vihara-s) across the country are decorated, organize religious festivals and provide free meals and tea to all visitors. Thousands of lanterns are also lit to symbolize the Buddha’s enlightenment. Many devotees observe full-length reading of Buddhist sutra-s, and are engaged in prayers, chanting and carrying food offerings for the monks and the poor.
The birthday of Buddha is celebrated in all the Buddhist countries though the customs and the date of celebration might differ.
In North India, Hindus have incorporated Buddha in their religion by recognizing him as the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However the Buddhists and the South Indians don’t agree with this interpretation and consider Buddhism as a separate religion.
Today, the Buddha has become a universal symbol of enlightened wisdom and compassion. His profound teaching of equality, non-violence and tolerance inspires humanity on its path towards peace and spiritual emancipation.