Wesak Day is a consecrated Buddhist day, and it is the holiest celebration in the Buddhist Calendar. The exact date of Wesak Day varies and in Malaysia it takes place annually in May, in the Sunday nearest to the full moon. In leap years Wesak Day is celebrated in June. Also, it is considered to be one of the main Malaysian festivals and thousands of people celebrate it. If you’re wondering what to do in Malaysia during Wesak Day, you should know that the activities are endless.
The celebration marks three main events in Buddha’s life: his birth, his illumination and his achievement of bliss. The commemoration of these unique events on Wesak Day generally starts at dawn at all Buddhist temples in the country, some of the greatest places to visit in Malaysia being: Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields, Nibbinda Forest Monastery, Dhammikarama Burmese Temple, Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, and others.
Devotees get together and meditate for hours on the Eight Precepts. Monks in flamboyant robes sing sutras and people pray. The highlight of the festivity is a candle procession, which is followed by offering of prayers, incense, joss sticks and giving food to the poor. People make donations and help the ones in need. In Malaysia, Wesak Day is a national public holiday.Furthermore, to cherish the life of Buddha, Malaysians from diverse backgrounds get together and pray.
At the Malaysian Buddhist Association, fervent devotees stand in queue patiently to bathe the Buddha’s statue. This is a special ritual representing the cleansing and purification of one’s soul. Among some other things to in Malaysia on Wesak Day, believers who enter the shrine hall can light the lovely lotus-shaped candles and ask for Buddha’s blessings. When the praying session ends, devotees and well-wishers dine together and enjoy simple drinks.
During the Wesak Day, all Buddhist temples are nicely decorated with plenty of lights and paintings that evoke the Buddhist beliefs. It is also the time when the believers spend the whole day at the temples praying, singing, meditating and making donations to the Buddhist monks.
Travelers who don’t know what to do in Malaysia on this day should go to Kuala Lumpur. One of the most impressive celebrations takes place at the Vihara Temple at Brickfields, in Kuala Lumpur. Here the celebrations begin at sunrise and end late at night. The devotees come early in the morning to attend a joint meditation session. In the evening, the candlelight procession begins and thousands of spectators line up to attend it. The convoy is led by an amazingly-decorated float which has a statue of Buddha in it.
Among some other things to do in Malaysia during Wesak Day we should mention that the people return to the temple for an open-air blessing service, which is performed by the sermon and depicts the great importance of the Wesak celebration. Generally, the devotees spend the rest of the night chanting, meditating and praying to Buddha along with the monks.
If you wish to witness the beginning of the parade, make certain you are in the Brickfields area before it begins. The streets will be jammed with people, thus you need to be there with several hours in advance. Tourists staying in the Bukit Bintang area should go to the HSBC building for unparalleled views. If you’re residing in Chinatown, you will be able to witness the parade from the Central Market, and later from KLCC. Anyhow, you should know that all those places will be extremely crowded and once you get there you might find it impossible to leave for a couple of hours. Malaysians are really fond of their traditions and they will not miss any occasion to celebrate Buddha’s life.
To sum it up, Wesak Day is vital because it marks the most important events in Buddha’s life. It celebrates his birthday, his illumination and his achievement of spiritual enlightenment. Throughout his life he managed to help so many people and guide even more with his beliefs. Buddha is still one of the most important figures in the Malaysian modern society. He is a spiritual leader that helps individuals overcome the hard times in life and through his principles he gives them power to go on.
As a tourist, you will not regret having attending the Wesak Day celebration, as it is a truly magnificent event, both from a spiritual and an aesthetic point of view. Be a responsible tourist and respect the tradition. Protect and preserve every place you attending, foster respect for the Buddha, and you’ll manage benefit from a memorable travel experience.