Photos: Vesak, Buddha's Birthday, As Celebrated All Across Southeast Asia | Travel | Smithsonian
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A monk cleans the Buddha statues at Mahavira Graha Pagoda in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia to prepare for Vesak. (© Bayu Pamungkas/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
A buddhist devotee offers prayers during Vesak at a Buddhist temple in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. (© Kamal Sellehuddin/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
Malaysian buddhist devotees offer prayers during Vesak at a Buddhist temple in Kuala Lumpur. (© Kamal Sellehuddin/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
Buddhist devotees pour water onto a small golden Buddha statue during Vesak at the Muar Buddhist Associates Temple, Muar, Johor, Malaysia. (© Fadzil Daud/Demotix/Corbis)
A Sri Lankan man rides a bicycle in front of a giant buddhist flag in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (© Ruwan Walpola/Demotix/Corbis)
The Buddha Bhikhu praying at Dhormorazik Buddha Bihar in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Vesak celebrations. (© Pacific Press/Corbis)
A Buddhist devotee prays during Vesak celebrations at a Buddhist temple in Kuala Lumpur. (© Mohd Firdaus/Demotix/Corbis)
Indian Buddhist devotees clean a statue of Lord Buddha at a monastery on the eve of Vesak in Agartala, the capital of the northeastern state of Tripura. (© Abhisek Saha/Demotix/Corbis)
Buddhist monks attend the Pindapata procession in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. A Pindapata is procession to collect food and money from the people on celebration of Vesak or Buddha's birthday. (© Aiera Maharani/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
A boy offers prayers during Vesak at a Buddhist temple in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. (© Kamal Sellehuddin/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
A family lights prayer candles and incense during Vesak celebrations in rural Nakhon Nayok, Thailand. (© Lee Craker/Demotix/Corbis)
Buddhist monks walk clockwise around Wat That Thong during services on Vesak in the temple. (© Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
A woman during Vesak at Wat That Thong in Bangkok, Thailand. Vesak, called Wisakha Bucha in Thailand, is one of the most important Buddhist holy days celebrated in Thailand. Sometimes called ''Buddha's Birthday'', it marks the birth, enlightenment (nirvana), and death (Parinirvana) of Gautama Buddha. (© Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
Monks lead a candlelight procession around the ordination hall during Vesak celebrations in rural Nakhon Nayok, Thailand. (© Lee Craker/Demotix/Corbis)
Residents of rural Nakhon Nayok, Thailand celebrate Vesak with a candlelight procession around the ordination hall. (© Lee Craker/Demotix/Corbis)
A float beautifully decorated with colorful lights heads towards the centre of Kuala Lumpur during the annual Vesak parade. The day marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. (© Munhoe Chan/Demotix/Corbis)

Photos: Vesak, Buddha's Birthday, As Celebrated All Across Southeast Asia

One of the holiest Buddhist holidays, Vesak marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha

smithsonian.com

Vesak is one of the holiest religious days for Buddhists and is a holiday in many Southeast Asian countries. Although Vesak goes by different names throughout Southeast Asia, it marks Buddha’s birth, day of enlightenment and death. According to Buddhism, these events all occurred on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. The date can vary based on the lunar calendars of each country, but in much of Southeast Asia the holiday usually falls on the full moon in May. This year Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, India and other countries celebrated Vesak yesterday, May 13.

During Vesak celebrations, Buddhists often attend service at their temples. Another common practice involves pouring water over the shoulders of Buddha. Referred to as ‘bathing the Buddha,’ the ceremony reminds participants to cleanse their thoughts of greed, ignorance and hate. 

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