Wesak, also spelt Vesak, is the name of the first month in the Sinhalese calendar. Wesak full moon day in May is the highest Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka and therefore celebrated on two consecutive days, today and tomorrow. Wesak is also celebrated by Buddhists all over the world, because it commemorates three of the four most important events in the life of the historic Buddha. Wesak is believed to be the day of the birth in Lumbini as well as the enlightment in Bodhgaya as well as the passing away of the Buddha in Kushinagara. (The other most significant event in the life of the Buddha, the first sermon in Sarnath, is celebrated on Esala Poya Day in June.) The first Sinhalese king, Vijaya, and his followers are believed to have arrived on the island on the day of the passing away of the Buddha, which marks the final Nirvana. Thus, Wesak is celebratong the arrival of the first Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, too. It was also on a Vesak full moon Poya Day, in the eighth year of his enlightenment, that Buddha made his third and last visit to the island of Sri Lanka. Thus, altogether five highly significant events are commemorated on Wesak Poya days.
All temples in Sri Lanka are filled with devotees and pilgrims to mark these great events. They generally wear white dressed and go to the temple and participate in the traditional ceremonies and giving alms and observe the eight precepts on this day. Many private houses and public places are decorated and parades and cultural events are arranged. During the Wesak Festival week, the selling of alcohol and also of flesh is prohibited.
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