Buddha Purnima is celebrated by the followers of Gautam Buddha to commemorate his birthday. This year, the auspicious day falls on April 30. Generally, this festival is observed on the day of full moon in the Hindu month of Vaisakha. People in Lumbini celebrate the day on a large scale as it is believed that Buddha was born on this day in Lumbini (now known as Nepal) approximately around the year 563 BCE, as per Theravada Tripitaka. While this day is widely known to be the day when Buddha was born, many also believe that he attained salvation or Nirvana under the Mahabodhi tree at Bodh Gaya on this day.
Buddha Purnima is celebrated in countries like India, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. A grand fair and procession is conducted by devotees to commemorate the religious occasion.
India, being the country where Buddhism originated, still has a rich reminiscence of the Buddhist legacy. Considering this, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched a ‘Buddhist Circuit Tourist Train’ for a hassle-free travel experience for those who want to seek spiritual fulfilment and visit the beautiful temples of Gautam Buddha.
The Mahaparinirvan Express is an eight-day tour Buddhist Pilgrim Train that takes pilgrims to the places where he was born (Lumbini), gained enlightenment (Bodhgaya), first taught (Sarnath), and attained Nirvana (Kushinagar). Although it is not a luxury train, the train still affords great levels of luxury and comfort to its passengers.
Here are some other Buddhist sites in India that will leave you spellbound:
The Great Stupa, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
The ‘Great Stupa’ is believed to be the oldest stone structure in India that was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka in the third century BCE. The gateways, also known as toranas, were exquisitely carved under the Satavahana rulers each depicting the life scenes of Buddha and Jataka stories.
Nalanda University, Bihar
The magnificent ruins of Nalanda in Bihar are the remains of a Buddhist monastery and university. It is known to be one of the most extensive ancient Buddhist sites in the world. According to traditions, Buddha, Mahavir and Asoka, all three great spiritual leaders visited the site and therefore its spiritual significance is mighty. It is arguably the first university in the world and most active from fifth to 12th centuries.
Rumtek Buddhist Monastery, Sikkim
The Rumtek Buddhist Monastery in Sikkim is home to the monk community where they perform the rituals and practice the Karma Kagyu lineage.
Hemis Monastery, Leh, Ladakh
The renowned Hemis Monastery located almost 45km from Leh was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi King Sengge Namgyal. It is said that this monastery is the wealthiest that India has and is famous for its rich collection.
Little Lhasa, Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh
This monastery at Mcleodganj, Dharamsala, is home to the Dalai Lama in India and has a large population of Tibetans. The city, which is known for its scenic beauty, is also a tourist destination.