Buddha Jayanti is also known as Buddha Purnima. It was on the full moon night in Vaisakha (April or May) that Lord Gautama Buddha
was born in 543 B.C, but the name given to him by his parents was Siddharth. Siddharth was the only son of Shuddhodhan
, the King of Kapilavastu
. It was prophesied by the royal astrologer that the child would become either a famous emperor or a world-renowned ascetic. Shuddhodhan did not want his son to be an ascetic. Thus, he took extraordinary precautions to avoid every situation, which would provoke such thoughts in his son`s mind. Hence, after he was born, he is believed to have lived a very sheltered life till the age of 29 under his father`s instructions. He was kept completely ignorant of the tragedies of everyday life. Prince Siddharth was married to his cousin Yashodhara
and had a son, Rahul
Once Prince Siddharth persuaded one of his charioteers to take him out of the palace walls to the outside world and was shocked to the harsh realities of life when he viewed an old man, a sick and disabled person and a dead body for the first time in his life. The fourth vision was of an ascetic who looked at peace with himself, which led Siddharth to search for the true meaning of life. He became dissatisfied with his life of luxury and decided to renounce the luxury and worldly pleasures and search for Truth. He wandered to many places and ultimately attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya under a `pipal` tree.
Since then he was known as Gautam Buddha or the `Enlightened One`, after that, he founded the Buddhist religion. Thus, Buddha Jayanti celebrates the three most important events in Gautam Buddha`s life. It is also believed, that Yashodhara, the Buddha`s wife, his charioteer Channa, his devoted disciple Ananda, his horse Kantaka
and the Bodhi tree
under which he received enlightenment, were all born on the same date. The charming personality of the Buddha, his saintly life and the glamour of a prince turned recluse at the prime of his life, were all irresistible, and the Buddha`s followers were drawn from all walks of life. The princes, especially, who were viewing the rising power of the Brahmins with alarm, were particularly attracted by the new religion. And, when the Buddha died at the mature age of eighty, the whole of Eastern India was seething with a new religious spirit.
Pilgrims from all over the world come to Bodh Gaya
, in India to participate in the Buddha Poornima celebrations. Prayer meets, sermons and religious discourses, recitation of Buddhist scriptures, group meditation; processions and worship of the statue of Buddha are the highlights of the celebrations. Today, Buddhism is confined to Himalayan region. Buddhists elsewhere have not yet sufficiently revived the festal spirit of Buddhism. It is the only Buddhist holiday, now recognized by the government of India.