Buddha Poornima occurs on the full moon night of the month of Vesak (April-May). To be celebrated on May 6, the day symbolises not only the birth of Gautama Buddha but also the day of his enlightenment and finally the day on which he passed on to eternity after completing 1,000 full moons, otherwise known as the Sahasra Chandra Darshana. Therefore this one day is considered the most important day for the followers of Buddha's teachings. Prashant Gawai of the Bouddha Sangharsh Sameeti Pune, who stays in touch with Bhikshus (monks and nuns), says that this is a day of celebration as well as prayer.
"Bhikshus assemble and chant early in the morning, after which the Upaasak, who are the assistants of the main monks, go to the Buddha-Vihaar along with their families. At Viharas, each one expresses Maitri (unity), Merit (punya) and feelings of well-being for all. This is the essence of the guidance provided by Bhikshus. There are other programmes as well, where international and domestic Bhikshus come together. They clean, wash, or rather, 'Abhishek' the Buddha-Rupa (statue) and perform 'Chaitya-Puja', 'Stupa-Puja' and the Puja of the "Bodhi-Tree”," he says.
Pune has its own Buddhist heritage site in its vicinity, to which devotees travel during the time of Buddha Poornima. The Karla Caves, 40 kilometers from Pune, near Lonavala, is a place known for its intricate sculptures and pillars. This cave temple presents a chapter in the spread of Buddhism. These caves were built in the 2nd century BC, but some of the architecture is still intact. Harish Chandra of Top Tours and Travels, which is based in Delhi but conducts tours to all Buddhist temples of importance in the Indian subcontinent, says, “The number of people wishing to visit these caves during the time of Buddha Poornima increases drastically.”
Tara Narayan, an engineering student, has heard these stories too. "I clearly remember my mother reading the Jataka tales to me, they all had such beautiful messages. I spend each Buddha Poornima reading these stories out to underprivileged children, I feel these stories are a must read, it really doesn't matter whether you're an adult, child, and belong to a different religion,” she says.
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