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Buddha Purnima Celebration at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Kolkata

Buddha Purnima Celebration at Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Tangra (New Chinatown) Kolkata

Also see: My blog post on Calcutta (Kolkata) Chinatown and Buddhist Temple of Kolkata (Calcutta)

It was 21 May 2016 and the world celebrated the Buddha Purnima (Purnima means full moon), which marked the birth of Lord Buddha.

Two nuns in front of the giant Buddha statue, on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

Two nuns in front of the giant Buddha statue, on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

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.

Preparation starts at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

Preparation starts at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

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.

Devotees arrive at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, on Buddha Purnima

Devotees arrive at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, 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.

L:Nuns bow in front of Kaun In statue, C: Devotees wait forthe nuns to arrive, R: The nuns arrive

L:Nuns bow in front of Kaun In statue, C: Devotees wait forthe nuns to arrive, R: The nuns arrive

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.

Puja starts, Buddha Purnima, Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

Puja starts, Buddha Purnima, Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

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.

Devotees chants from prayer books

Devotees chants from prayer books

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.

L: Nun Rujian and R: Nun Youcheng, Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

L: Nun Rujian and R: Nun Youcheng, Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

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.

A devotee offers food during the Full Moon Day Celebration at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

A devotee offers food during the Full Moon Day Celebration at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

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.

Food spread at the alter, Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

Food spread at the alter, Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Tangra, Kolkata

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.

Devotees line up with incense stick

Devotees line up with incense stick

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.

  1. June 1, 2016 at 8:25 AM

    Thanks for the fascinating visit. These scenes could actually be almost anywhere in the Buddhist world.

    • June 1, 2016 at 11:32 PM

      Thanks Brian for your comment, yes you are right the scenes are similar all through the Buddhist community, but I think the concept of black robes is pretty unique, do you get this elsewhere?? It would be nice if you can elaborate.

  2. June 3, 2016 at 7:13 AM

    I get what you mean when you say the effect is mesmerising. Buddhist chants have that amazingly soothing effect on us, don’t they?

    • June 3, 2016 at 3:32 PM

      Yes D Nambiar, Buddhist chants really soothes your nerves and it has a great effect even without understanding the language.

  3. June 4, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    Reblogged this on Travel Guides & Blogs.

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