Celebrating Indonesia Waisak Holiday
The Buddhist population in Indonesia is only 1%, but Waisak or Vesak is a public holiday because everyone wants to take part in the celebration. Waisak is extremely important for Buddhists because they commemorate the birth, death, and enlightenment of Buddha. It is observed when a full moon occurs in May or June.
The Waisak festivities start in central Java with a procession in the evening. It comes from the Mendut temple, passing through Pawon before it finishes at Borobodur where the biggest Buddhist complex in the world is found.
Experiencing Waisak in Indonesia is different because it has a touch of culture that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The celebrations are done safely and peacefully because there are security police personnel assigned in different areas to make sure peace and order are always there. The Buddhist temples will be packed, and some will participate in various activities.
What is the Waisak Day in Indonesia All About?
In the past, Buddhism reigned Indonesia, and you do not need to look further if you want to find a Buddhist kingdom. You will find the Borobudur Temple in Central Java. It was built during the 19th century, and it is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. A lot of pilgrims go there every year to join the celebration. Some monks and worshippers go there every year to take part in the ceremony.
Before the holiday, people prepare their homes by cleaning and decorating them. The temples will have beautiful flower decorations. When Waisak arrives at the temple, Buddhists come to visit. They will give offerings, flowers, and candles to the chanting monks. At the height of the full moon, the monk congregation will go around the main stupa to show honour to the three jewels of Buddhism. These are Buddha, his teachings, and monkhood.
These monks will pray and preach lessons to their visitors. The “bathing the Buddha” is a special ceremony that also takes place during this time. The ritual is that people pour water on Buddha to honour and respect his teachings, and it is also a symbol of new beginnings.
When the ritual is coming to an end, they will release thousands of lanterns into the sky.
How to Celebrate Waisak Day in Indonesia and Things You Can Do
- Join the lantern ceremony – The lantern symbolizes peace and enlightenment, that brings hope and wishes to achieve peace in your heart and the entire world. The ceremony is accompanied by chanting of the monks that come from Bhikku Sangha with Buddhists from all over the world to show their honour on this day.
- Make charitable offerings – Even if you are away from the Buddhism centre in Indonesia, you can make charitable offerings by offering food to the monks and observe and reflect on Buddha’s teachings more intensely. You can do a strict vegetarian diet and contribute to cleaning and decorating the temples.
- Experience the second largest celebration – After the Waisak ceremony in Borobudur, the Muara Temple holds the second largest one. At the start of the ritual, Buddhists will circle the temple complex while praying and chanting; then they will end it with a meditative prayer. When the ritual is finished, the Buddhists will release lanterns during the early hours of the day. This celebration is always at the same as the Muara Jambi Temple Festival that has art performances, culinary bazaars, and band festivals.
- Celebrate it in Bali – Hundreds of Buddhists also gather at Giri Manggala Vihara at the Buleleng district in Bali to celebrate Vesak, which is part of the island’s tradition and culture. The cultures in the village are firmly established, and there is no gap between religions. The acculturation happened smoothly over the years, and the town does not limit or separate those who practice Hinduism and Buddhism.
How Waisak Day in Indonesia is Celebrated
The Waisak specific day of celebration in Indonesia follows the Hindu calendar, and it happens on a full moon in the fourth month of the Hindu calendar. That is why the majority of celebrations are in May based on the Gregorian Calendar. This has arrived since then, based on the Buddhist religion, the death of Buddha happened on a full moon during the fourth month of the lunar calendar.
During the celebrations, the devout locals and even foreigners who follow the Buddhist teachings usually gather in different temples when the dawn comes. After that, the Buddhist flag is raised together with placing offerings at the Buddha statues.
The most famous place where Waisak is celebrated is at Borobudur, which is a prominent Buddhist temple where the elaborate Waisak Day Festival is held. Every year, a lot of Buddhists from all over Indonesia go to Borobudur for a pilgrimage. People may come to Borobudur to watch the temple monks gather to celebrate and meditate.
They form large circles and start chanting mantras. To honour them, you must give a small donation of money or food on this day. Non-Buddhist visitors are also welcome here.
Venues and Special Events for Celebrating Waisak Day in Indonesia
- Kirab Agung Amisa Puja, Yogyakarta – The Buddhists celebrate this day on the grand carnival of Kirab Agung Amisa Puja. It happens with a Buddha statue, and the citizens use Javanese garb, which is part of the tradition. They wear traditional Javanese clothes, and the community shows how culture is united there.
- Pekanbaru Waisak Parade – The celebration is like Yogyakarta because they also have a parade to celebrate Waisak. In the ceremony, a lot of people use Buddhism symbols and perform the puja, which is a prayer ritual. The prayers are for asking God, the Buddha, and the Gods to always bless Indonesia.
- Before Waisak gathering – The Buddhists must gather holy water from Umbul Jumprit springs and keep it in the Mendut temple, which is nearby. After that, they must light a torch beside the eternal flame known as the Mrapen. That will burn in the village that is 100 km away from where the temple is. In the morning, the rituals will happen, and the devotees put food in the bowl of monks. After this, the ceremony begins.
If you are planning to join the Waisak Holiday celebration in Indonesia, make sure to remember everything you have read here to know what to expect. Also, you will know what to bring and what to prepare if you want to join the festivities so you will not miss out.