Celebrating Buddha?s Birthday Around the World [PHOTOS]

  @MarkJohansonIBT on May 07 2012 3:12 PM

What sort of gift do you bring Buddha on his Birthday? That depends on where you live. Though it's often referred to as Buddha's birthday, Vesak Day actually encompasses the birth, enlightenment nirvana, and passing (parinibbana) of Gautama Buddha. Practicing Buddhists in South Asian and Southeast Asian countries from Nepal to Indonesia observe the annual public holiday with devotional acts, but the day's name, date, and activities vary widely.

The decision to celebrate Vesak Day as Buddha's birthday was formalized at the first Conference of World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka in 1950.

The resolution asked the governments of all countries in which large or small numbers of Buddhists are found to take steps to make Vesak a public holiday in honor of the Buddha, who is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest benefactors of humanity.

The exact date of the celebration varies depending on the lunar calendars used in different traditions, but for most it falls in May during the first full moon. The day also goes by several country-specific names including Wesak, Vaishaka, Buddha Purnima, Fó Dàn, and Saga Dawa.

Regarded as the most significant day in the Buddhist calendar, worshipers gather to perform meritorious acts to recollect the purity, wisdom, and compassion of the Buddha. Have a look:

Vesak Day

A general view of Gangaramaya temple on Vesak day in Colombo May 5, 2012. The festival commemorates the birth and enlightenment of Buddha and his attainment of Nirvana. REUTERS

Vesak Day

People walk past lanterns on Vesak day in Colombo May 5, 2012. The festival commemorates the birth and enlightenment of Buddha and his attainment of Nirvana. REUTERS

Vesak Day

Buddhist believers pour scented water as they bathe a statue of the child Buddha during Vesak Day celebrations at Duoc Thuong pagoda, outside Hanoi May 5, 2012. REUTERS

Vesak Day

A man cleans a statue of Lord Buddha in a temple on the eve of the Buddha Purnima festival at Agartala, capital of India's northeastern state of Tripura REUTERS

Vesak Day

Buddhists take part in a march during a Vesak Day ceremony at the Udong mountain in Kandal province May 5, 2012. Buddhists in Cambodia celebrate Vesak Day to honour the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. REUTERS

Vesak Day

Buddhists take part in a march during a Vesak Day ceremony at the Udong mountain in Kandal province May 5, 2012. Buddhists in Cambodia celebrate Vesak Day to honour the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha REUTERS

Vesak Day

A devotee recites prayers in front of a Buddha statue on the eve of Vesak Day in Kuala Lumpur May 4, 2012. Buddhists celebrate the holy day to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and passing of Lord Buddha. REUTERS