Buddha Purnima is a highly auspicious and eventful day for Buddhists, all over the world. It was on this day, the former Prince Siddhartha Gautam, Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and entered Mahaparinirvana, of course in different years. Thus this event is called the Thrice Blessed Festival. This triple significance of the day is observed and celebrated across the globe. The day happens to be a full moon day in the Vaishakha month. This year, Buddha Purnima is on May 5. Followers of Buddha celebrate the day by worshipping Lord Buddha by visiting his shrines and conducting special poojas.
If you like to know what happens in those holy shrines, you can visit any of the Buddhist temples or monasteries to see the festivities. Some of the best places to visit in this Buddha Purnima are listed here.
Places to Visit on Buddha Purnima
Bodh Gaya, Bihar
The most prominent place to visit on Buddha Purnima will be Bodh Gaya near Patna in Bihar. It is here, Buddha attained his enlightenment. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is now a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also one of the most frequented religious places in India. The Bodhi tree under which Buddha meditated is also seen inside the complex. The temple here was built by Emperor Ashoka during his reign in the 3rd century BC, making it one of the oldest Buddhist temples. The complex includes the tree, the temple, other places of enlightenment, and various Votive stupas.
Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh
Kushinagar in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh is famous for being the site of the Mahaparinirvana of Buddha. On the exact spot here, Emperor Ashoka built a stupa- the Mahaparinirvana Temple has a 6 ft long statue of Buddha in his reclining position. The other significant site here is the Ramabhar Stupa, a 49 ft tall statue of Buddha, raised at this site of cremation. ON Buddha Purnima every year, there will be a grand fair organised here, making it a perfect place to celebrate the occasion. There are also other Buddhist temples and monasteries around the place. Buses are available to Kushinagar from other parts of Uttar Pradesh, for a cheaper ride.
Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh
Near the holy city Varanasi, is one of the holiest places for Buddhists, the Sarnath town. Buddha delivered his first sermon after his enlightenment here. The famous chant, Buddham Sharanam Gachhami, originated here at Sarnath. It is a town worth exploring with various stupas, temples, and some excavated ancient sites. Some famous sites here are Ashoka Pillar, Chaukhandi Stupa, Dhamek Stupa, The Mahabodhi Society Temple, Tibetan Temple, etc. Buddha Purnima is the greatest festival here. This is the best place for a religious tour, especially with its proximity to Varanasi, which is just 10 km away.
Vaishali is a religious place for Buddhism and Jainism. The place is named after King Vishal who built a large fort here. The fort is now in ruins but the place is more significant for holding the last sermon by Buddha. Buddha used to visit here frequently and to honour him, Ashoka built a huge lion pillar, the Ashoka Pillar. Ananda Stupa, relic Stupa, Kutagarasala Vihara etc are the significant Buddhist sites here. The Abhishek Pushkarn or the Coronation Pond has the ashes of Buddha. Kundalpur, the hometown of Lord Mahavira is just 2 km away. The Vaishali Museum has several ancient artefacts.
Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Tawang is famous for being the hometown of Tsangyang Gyatso, the sixth Dalai Lama. The highlight of this place is the monastery located at a height of 3000 m, and housing more than 300 monks. This 400 yr old monastery is the largest in the country and the second-largest in the world. It is a beautiful execution of marvellous architecture. Due to its location, the view from the top is mesmerising and serene. Reaching here is possible by cab as the nearest airport is more than 300 km away. March to September is the best time to visit here and one of the auspicious occasions is Buddha Purnima.
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
The holy place of Sanchi houses the oldest stone sculpture of Buddha. The Sanchi Stupa is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see the four ceremonial gateways, the Gupta Temple, Ashoka Pillar, several other ancient stupas, etc here. The Stupa is open for visits from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm on all days. Although the best time for a visit is the winter season, Buddha Purnima is an auspicious occasion to visit here.
Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
The Namgyal Monastery here in Dharamshala is the official residence of the current Dalai Lama. His Holiness Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso took his residence here when the Chinese took over Tibet. The Library and Archive here have several works from Tibet. The monastery is just 4 km from Dharamshala. Buddha Purnima is the perfect occasion for a visit, especially since the best time for a visit is from March to June.
Mindrolling Monastery, Dehradun
A part of the Nyingma School of Buddhism, Mindrolling Monastery is located in a picturesque location amongst the Himalayas. The monastery is designed in Japanese architecture. The first three floors depict the life of Lord Buddha. The fourth and topmost floor opens up the spectacular view of the Dehradun Valley. The main attraction here is the 220 x 100 ft stupa known as the Great Stupa. Inside the monastery, you have the 130 ft high statue of Buddha. The opening hours are from 8 am to 12 pm and later from 2 pm to 7 pm. The winter working hours will be slightly different. April to June are the best months to enjoy this scenic location.
There are several more places that you can visit on Buddha Purnima. But these are some of the most significant ones where you can enjoy participating in the festivities or choose to have a more subdued celebration. Either way, it can be a wonderful experience. Have a great time.