Buddha Purnima Celebration at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Kolkata
Buddha Purnima Celebration at Fo Guang Shan Monastery
Tangra (New Chinatown) Kolkata
It was 21 May 2016 and the world celebrated the Buddha Purnima (Purnima means full moon), which marked the birth of Lord Buddha.
Strangely, even according to the lunar calendar, the birth of Lord Buddha is not constant and is celebrated on different days in different countries all over Asia.
In India and South – east Asia it is celebrated on the day of the full moon, the Buddha Purnima.
In China and most of East Asia, excluding Japan, Lord Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on the 8 th day of the fourth month of the Chinese calendar.
As the months of the Chinese Lunar calendar starts on a new moon day, so according to Chinese calendar Buddha’s birthday is celebrated a week before the Buddha Purnima (full moon).
I was not aware of the differences of the calendar and only knew that Lord Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on Buddha Purnima.
So on the day of the Buddha Purnima I visited the Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Tangra (New Chinatown) to witness the birthday celebration of Lord Buddha, only to be informed that the celebration, had already happened a week earlier.
But I was informed that there will be puja session at the monastery and I was invited to be part of it. I was also informed that the Fo Guang Shan Monastery, also holds puja on every new moon and full moon day, which coincides with the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month of Chinese calendar.
As I waited for the puja to start I listened to the stories of Lord Buddha Birthday celebration, where the statue of new born Buddha was bathed by the devotees.
Fo Guang Shan Monastery, in Tangra, Kolkata, was founded in 1998 by Buddha Light International, a Taiwan based organization. today there are 200 + Fo Guang Shan Monasteries spread all over the world.
It is located on 8, New Tangra Road and to reach it, it is best to head past the Big Boss Restaurant (on the right) past the Sing Cheung Sauce Factory (also on right but don’t take the right turn) leading to the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple on the right.
The entrance is marked with statues of lion and leads to a open courtyard like space housing the statue of Kuan In, goddess of love and mercy. It leads further to a large hall housing the giant statue of Lord Buddha.
The first floor contains a library with large collection of religious texts, Chinese Calligraphy classes can be organised on request and they come free of cost.
Soon the devotes for the full moon day prayer started arriving and switched into black robes. The ceremony started at 10 am with Nun Rujian (from Ladakh) and Nun Youcheng (from Malyasia) bowing before the statue of statue of Kuan In, goddess of love and mercy.
They soon took the central hall, where a large group of devotees were waiting, and took there seats on either sides of the giant Buddha statue. The ceremony soon began and devotees started chanting from their prayer books.
The prayers were chanted while the devotees standing, sitting and even kneeling. They also changed direction and sometimes faced the alter or turned sideways to face each other.
Every thing was in Chinese and I didn’t understand a word of it, but the effect was mesmerizing. The session continues over a hour an then there was a break. A lady devotee dressed in black robe entered the room with a plate full of exotic dishes.
There were rice, noodles, several dishes of mushroom and tofu and even the Bengali ghugni, but every thing was vegetarian. One by one the dishes were placed on the altar.
The chanting continued even after the offering of the food and again there was a break and the devotees stood lined up, in front of the altar.
Each was given a lighted incense stick, to be placed on the altar, in front of the giant Buddha statue. I also followed the group and placed my lighted incense stick on the altar. It was further followed by a short prayer session and the ceremony ended with Nun Youchen’s short speech on Buddhist Philosophy.