Vesak, also known as Buddha Jayanti, Buddha Purnima and Buddha Day, is a celebration of the birth and enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. The festival celebrated by Buddhists and some Hindus in parts of Asia has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic this year. With countries urging worshippers to remain at home, organisations are relying on streaming the rituals online. From the bathing of the idol to the prayers thoughout the day, worshippers can watch the live streams on various platforms including Facebook and YouTube.

The date on which Vesak is to be celebrated depends on the full moon. China celebrated the festival on April 30, 2020. On April 8 Buddhists in Japan celebrated Vesak. Meanwhile, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia celebrated the festival on May 6. On May 7, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, South Korea, and Malaysia will be celebrating the festival. Vietnam will be observing Vesak on June 6, following Bhutan which be celebrating Vesak day on June 5.

United Nations has recognised May 7 as Vesak day this year.

Conventionally, worshippers visit temples before dawn and may remain there through the evening of the full moon. The rituals followed in different countries differ slightly. Some common factors in the celebrations are the offering of candles, incense sticks and flowers, as well as the bathing of the Buddha idol. Worshippers also take part in the chanting of hymns and meditation. In some countries, worshippers release birds and animals to symbolise liberation.

The day is also one where families come together to meditate and chant in unison. Disciples also listen to monks talk about various teachings of Buddha. They also recite the verses of Buddha to invoke peace and happiness.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the countries have their citizens under lockdown. Countries which are not in lockdown have also asked worshippers to refrain from gathering at temples to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. As an alternative, governments and Buddhist organisations have gone online.

Buddhistdoor Global shared the details of some of the live-streaming events and sites.

India's Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee has opted to stream the events on Facebook. Malaysian Buddhist Association has also used its Facebook page for period livestreams. Vietnam Buddhist Sangha will be broadcasting on YouTube, Facebook, Butta (Buddhist social networking site), and television channels Phatsuonline, and An Vien TV.

Vesak Buddha birthday
Monks will perform rituals in temples which will be streamed online for worshipers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (representational image). Prakash Mathema/AFP