Location: Borobudur, Indonesia
Date: full moon in the 4th month of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually May)
Level of participation: 3 - walk with the pilgrims
Waisak (or Vesak) is the holiest day on the Buddhist calendar, and is celebrated across the Buddhist world, but is most spectacular at Java’s Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, one of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular sites. Attracting thousands of pilgrims, Waisak marks the triple whammy of the Buddha’s birth, his enlightenment and his attainment of nirvana, and sees a great procession of saffron-robed monks walking around 3km from Mendut to Pawon, then Borobudur.
The procession leaves Mendut mid-afternoon, cutting a line through the crowds and food and souvenir stalls. At Borobudur the crowds gather and, as the full moon rises, candles are lit and flowers strewn about as offerings, followed by praying and chanting.
Essentials: you won’t be walking a huge distance but it will be slow in a crowd this size, so wear good walking shoes. Waisak is a Buddhist day but it’s still a national holiday in Islamic Indonesia.
Local attractions: allow some extra time to explore Borobudur. If you want to beat the crowds, the Manohara Hotel allows visitors to enter the temple grounds before 6am (for a hefty fee). Mendut, where the procession begins, houses the most outstanding Buddha statue in its original setting of any temple in Java.
More info: www.borobudurpark.com
See other top festivals in May here.
This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals.
This article was first published in December 2010 and was refreshed in April 2013.
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