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Vesak Celebrations in Sri Lanka

The Vesak festival celebrates the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing away. It is observed across Sri Lanka during May. Festivals usually occur on the fifth full moon day of the calendar year, generally in May. Such observations and celebrations are carried over the long weekend, which is also a public holiday in Sri Lanka.

In Sri Lanka more than sixty percent observe Buddhism. There are different activities, ceremonies, and festivities during the festival week. The teachings of Buddha have shaped the culture, traditions, and even politics in Sri Lanka.

How to be part of Vesak festive activities?

Many activities are associated with Vesak, such as decorating homes and public places such as temples with flags, pennants, lanterns, and light bulbs. From sightseeing along the streets to stopping by and enjoying a free meal at a Vesak Dansal, there are so many ways to participate in the Vesak Festivities. 

Decorating with Vesak Lanterns

Many locals build Vesak lanterns, light them up, and hang them in their homes, workplaces, and shops. Children use different colours of paper to create colourful Vesak lanterns. There are Vesak lantern competitions, where the best lantern is chosen from among all the entries. While some people prepare these lanterns at home, they are also available ready-made in shops. Some customers decorate their tuktuks with lanterns and Buddhist flags to support the festival. 

Visiting Buddhist Temples with Flowers

During the festive period, Buddhist temples lit up with Buddhist flags and chant holy hymns praising the triple gem, which includes The Buddha, The Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and Sangha (his disciples). Observers bring offerings of flowers and light lamps to the temples. The offering of flowers is a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers that offer wither away, and the lamps burn out, life too is just as short and imperent. Devotees also refrain from eating meat and drinking alcohol on this special day, only consuming vegetarian food.

Visit Dansal with Locals

Dansal is a part of Vesak festivities. Locals give away food and drinks to those who go sightseeing for Vesak. There are long queues in these places where temporary huts are put up, especially by the roadside and close to temples offering devotees and non-devotees food and refreshments. You can participate in this festival by having a meal at one of these Dansal, which will be held mostly on the roadside. It is hard to miss while you’re in the tuktuk because there will be lots of people gathered by these huts, and there will be people trying to stop you and offer you free food and drinks.

Interested in exploring the island during the Vesak festival?

Take many breaks at Buddhist festive locations while driving your own tuktuk. Get in touch with the team to learn more about renting a tuktuk in Sri Lanka.

Vesak festive celebrations in Sri Lanka?

(Updated in 2024)

Colombo Vesak Festival at Galle Face Green

The Colombo Vesak festival will be held from 6 pm onwards from May 23rd to 29th at Galle Face Green. You can see beautiful Vesak lanterns and large Vesak pandals depicting different stories from the Pansiya Panas Jathakaya, a sacred Buddhist text with stories about Lord Buddha’s past lives.

Vesak Zone at the Temple Tree Premises, Colombo

An exhibition displaying Sri Lanka’s cultural and archaeological heritage will be held at the Temple Tree Premises. This will include a special exhibition zone featuring creations by students and Foreign Embassies. The Vesak Zone will also be included during the National Vesak Festival 2024.

Buddha Rashmi National Vesak Festival Gangaramya, Colombo

The Buddha Rashmi National Festival 2024 will commence on the 23rd of May and continue until the 25th of May at Gangarama Temple. On the 23rd of May, Vesak Full Moon Poya day, there will be different programs and activities. There will also be an observance of Sil at the Gangarama Temple, a religious practice commonly observed by Buddhists during Full Moon Poya days, including the Vesak Full Moon Poya day.

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