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Buddha Day festival in Melbourne: Vesak
The lives of many a great people who have left their mark in the world are celebrated in different ways. Sometimes, their followers uphold the values these great people stood for and put into practice their teachings to honour their lives. At other times, statues are erected and books are written in their honour and commemoration. And other times, their dates of birth are celebrated and sometimes turned into festivals.
One such celebration is known as the "Vesak", a holy day observed traditionally by Buddhists. This festival actually encompasses Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing away.
Buddha's statue (photo taken on a trip to International Buddhist Temple in Richmond, British Columbia (near Vancouver) in 2012)
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Buddha means the "enlightened one" and usually refers to Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, regarded as the Supreme Budhha in our age. Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism. As Buddhism spread from its country of origin (India), it was assimilated into many foreign cultures, and consequently Vesak is celebrated in many different ways all over the world.
Many legends surround the day of his birth and during the course of his life. Today, an estimated 500 million people practice Buddhism worldwide. In Australia, Buddhists are present in significant numbers and according to the census of 2011, 1.9% of the Australian population affiliates itself to Buddhism.
Buddha Day has been celebrated in Melbourne since 1995. Since 2003, Buddha Day along with a Multicultural Festival has been organised at the Federation Square. The founding goals of the festival are two-fold:
1. to promote harmony, respect, peace and cultural awareness in our culturally diverse society; and 2. to share joy and happiness within the community and among families.
Held free of charge every year, the Buddha's Day and Multicultural Festival aims to promote an inclusive, peaceful and harmonious society for all.
There is an extensive program for the festival, including youth activities, children's activities, various ceremonies and cultural festivities (although the details are not published on the website as yet; however the 2012 program enlists numerous presentations and activities throughout the day). Buddha's Day and Multicultural Festival claims to be a "Green Festival" i.e. it is committed to minimising its environmental impact by reducing the carbon and ecological footprint of the Festival.
The Buddhist Festival is organised entirely by volunteers of Fo Guang Shan Melbourne and Buddha's Light International Association of Victoria, with recognition of the ongoing and generous assistance of the sponsors and local community.
This year, Buddha's Day will be held on 19 and 20 May, 2013 at Federation Square. The Buddha's Day and Multicultural Festival promotes Vesak in the spirit of cooperation, cultural diversity, community understanding and harmony.
Here are some photos of the event held in previous years:
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle at Buddha Day (Image Courtesy buddhaday.org.au website)