Vesak Day, Singapore Overview

If you want to witness the faith and belief of the people of Singapore, you must and should experience the Vesak Day. This is a Buddhist holy day commemorated across the world to mark Gautam Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Marked as a day of prosperity and reflection, the Vesak Day is observed with so much faith and religiosity by the one million believing Buddhists of Singapore. Honouring all three monumental days of Gautam's life, the Vesak Day celebrates the birth, enlightenment (Nirvana) and death (Parinirvana) of Buddha. All of these events are believed to have happened on a full moon. Singapore declared a public holiday for Vesak since 1955 after numerous public petitions to replace Whit Monday with Vesak.

Vesak Day Singapore
The unveiling of Giant Thangka on Vesak Day (Source)

The Ceylonese community celebrated Vesak in its initial years, with their National Day, making it a two-day festival.  It is celebrated mid-month of every fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, by the full moon day. One does not have to be Buddhist to celebrate the Vesak Day. The only requisite to enjoy this festival is the intention to do good and perform good deeds. The Buddhists believe that the kind deeds and gestures will only multiply their awards. Hence, this day, the Buddhists go out of their way to be generous and kind, so much so that the youth come together and organise mass blood donation events, so on and so forth. Such is the warmth and generosity of the Vesak Day that brings out the best in all believers.

Vesak Day Singapore
Vesak Day celebrations (Source)

How is it celebrated?

This festival is celebrated peacefully and harmoniously, starting at the break of dawn where Buddhists gather together, singing hymns and glorifying the divine entity. It is a tradition for the Theravada Buddhists to cook a pot of rice milk, symbolising the last meal of Buddha before his long fast in his journey to enlightenment. Another exhilarating tradition during the Vesak Day is to unchain and release birds and animals as a symbol of liberation. However, the National Parks Board and Buddhist Fellowship have adviced otherwise, as the animals find hard to survive.

Vesak Day Singapore
Monks singing hymns on Vesak Day (Source)

The temples of the country are adorned with flowers and flags. The flag is raised as the saffron-clad monks glorify Buddha, Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (disciples) by singing hymns. Believers offer flowers, candles and incense to present at the feet of the idols, situated in the temples. This is to denote that life is at the hands of decay and destruction, eventually. The day comes to an end with a candle-lit procession of the believers, walking through streets. Some temples like the Phor Kark practise the "Three-step, one-bow" ritual on this day, where devotees step on both knees and bow at every third step as they wish for peace across the globe, prosperity and forgiveness. Another unique ritual during this day is the bathing of the Buddha, where fragrant, blessed water is poured on an image of an infant prince whose right forefinger is directed to the sky and left is pointed to the ground.

Vesak Day Singapore
Candle lit procession to mark the end of Vesak Day (Source)

Highlight of Vesak Day

The main highlight of the festival is in its belief of reassurance of living a simple and moral life, revolving around compassion and kindness. The idea of releasing caged animals and liberating them is in itself a reason to celebrate Buddha and his teachings of peace and non-violence. The people of this faith prepare and consume only vegetarian meals as a gesture of compassion towards the voiceless beings of the earth. Even more generous acts such as mass blood donations are what truly embrace the simple, humble and giving teachings of Buddha.

Vesak Day Singapore
Devotees praying during Vesak Day (Source)


The Vesak Day is celebrated across all temples of the country.


Starts from sunrise and goes on for the entire day.

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