Buddha Purnima 2017 falls on May 10. Celebrated to honor the birth, life, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha, Buddha Purnima is one of the significant days for Buddhists all over the globe. The real date of Buddha’s birth is unknown but most historians believe him to have lived during 563-483 BC. In a conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Colombo in Sri Lanka in May 1950, it was decided that the full moon day of the month of Vaisakha be celebrated as Buddha Purnima or Vesak. Government offices, post offices and schools across India remain closed on the day of Buddha Purnima.
West Bengal’s Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts are known for their large percentage of Buddhist population. Both these districts are home to several monasteries and Buddhist centers. As such, Buddha Purnima is a big day for the state citing which, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declared it as a public holiday earlier this year. Typically, Buddha Purnima is celebrated by Buddhists attending prayer and meditation sessions at monasteries. People clean Buddha statues and decorate it with flowers to symbolize a fresh and new start. Many abstain from eating non-vegetarian food and drinking alcohol on the day of Buddha Purnima. Ancient verses are recited at several Buddhist centers. It is also a day for charity as several followers of Buddhism donate food, clothes and money to the poor on this auspicious day. Many devotees wear white robes and also set free caged animals to demonstrate care for other beings, something that Gautama Buddha always preached.