Buddhists in Singapore and the world over celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha on Vesak Day, a time of joy, peace and reflection.
Festivities for Vesak Day begin at the crack of dawn in Singapore, as devout Buddhists congregate at temples for a ceremony.
This is when the Buddhist flag is hoisted, and hymns are sung in praise of the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings), and the Sangha (his disciples).
Offerings and good deeds
Offerings of flowers, candles and joss sticks are also brought to the temples. The fact that the candles and joss sticks burn down and the flowers wither is meant to remind all worshippers that life is fleeting and transient, that all things decay and eventually pass away.
The rest of the day is spent on worthy causes, as devotees believe that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply merit many times over.
Only vegetarian meals are eaten even as Buddhists organise mass blood donations at hospitals, visit homes for the aged or distribute gifts of cash to the needy. Others release caged birds and animals, a symbol of liberation for Buddhists, or spend hours chanting mantras.
Statues of the Lord Buddha are illuminated, and the day often ends with candlelight processions through the streets.
Head to Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery on Bright Hill Road for a peek at one such procession.
This is where you’ll see devotees practise the two-hour-long ‘three-step, one-bow’ ritual, taking steps on both knees, bowing at every third step as they pray for world peace, personal blessings and repentance.