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Vesak Day What’s it all about?

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This is the day when Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. It is a time of joy, peace, good deeds and reflection.

According to the last census in 2015, 33% of Singaporeans practice Buddhism making Vesak Day one of the biggest festivals celebrated on the Little Red Dot.

If you aren’t Buddhist, you could still take time out to see this fascinating festival, a testament to the rich cultural diversity of Singapore.

What’s it all about?

Celebrations start early as Buddhists gather in temples around Singapore. The Buddhist flag is hoisted, prayers said and offerings made of flowers, candles and joss sticks. As they burn, they signify that life is fragile and transient and all things eventually pass away.

Other rituals include bathing a statue of a Buddha, sharing a vegetarian meal and listening to the preaching of monks.

Good deeds are done on Vesak Day as devotees believe that this will bring them even more merit.

Traditionally caged birds have been released as a symbol of liberation, although this has been discouraged in recent years in Singapore. 

In Singapore, Vesak Day was made a public holiday in 1955.

Where to see the celebrations?

Tourists and onlookers are generally made very welcome, but keep a respectful distance and observe any special requirements over dress and the removal of shoes. Two local places to see this fascinating celebration:

1. Phor Kark See Temple on Bright Hill Road (also known as Bright Hill Temple). Catch the candle lit procession and ceremony where a flame is passed from one lotus-shaped candle to the next, signifying the passing on of Buddha's teachings.

You'll also see devotees worshipping during the two-hour-long three-step, one-bow ritual, taking steps on both knees, bowing at every third step to pray for world peace, personal blessings and repentance. 

2. Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple or the Twin Grove of the Lotus Mountain Buddhist Temple (184 Jalan Toa Payoh, 319944) is situated on 50 acres of land and, at more than a century old, is Singapore’s oldest Buddhist temple and the second largest in Asia. This beautiful complex is off the tourist map and well worth the trip.

This year, Vesak Day is on Friday 10 May and is a public holiday. 

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good car, motorcycle and travel cover.
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