Interpretation

Buddha Jayanti is a religious celebration. It affects a large proportion of the population in Nepal . Although Hinduism is the official religion of Nepal , about 86% of the population, the Nepalese practice of Hinduism includes elements from Buddhism, which is also an important religion of the country, about 8% are Buddhist (Ember and Ember 2001). Buddha was born in what is now Nepal , creating an influence there despite the dominant religion, Hinduism. Religion occupies an integral position in Nepalese life and society. In the early 1990s, Nepal was the only constitutionally declared Hindu state in the world; there was, however, a great deal of intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Many of the people regarded as Hindus in the 1981 census could, with as much justification, be called Buddhists. The fact that Hindus worshipped at Buddhist temples and Buddhists worshipped at Hindu temples has been one of the principal reasons adherents of the two dominant groups in Nepal have never engaged in any overt religious conflicts (U.S. Library of Congress). Due to the immigration of many Tibetans, the Buddhism has a growing importance again in Nepal (Navy on Nepal ). In India 's history, Buddhism was known as the lower caste religion and were discriminated by the high-caste Hindus (Tartakov). Since then, with the rise in immigrants from Tibet , where Buddhism is the central religion, Buddhism has gained numbers and importance in Nepal .

  Nepalese culture is heavily influenced by religion, especially Buddhism and Hinduism. Government is not completely secular. Religion permeates most aspects of society still in Nepal . Practicing and observing Buddha Jayanti brings the Nepalese together and reunites them from one thing they all respect and that is religion. The celebration allows the Nepalese to forget about their lives which may not be the most fulfilling and exciting. Buddha Jayanti is a day that they can look forward to and celebrate the life and teachings of one of the greatest teachers the world has seen. Buddha Jayanti is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. The Nepalese celebrate this day with much enthusiasm since it represents three important events in Buddha's life. Culturally, Buddha Jayanti is very important to the Nepalese. It is on this day that they reaffirm their faith in the five principles, called Panch Sheel, not to take life, not to steal, not to die, not to imbibe liquor or other intoxicants, and not to commit adultery (Net Glimpse). They live their lives according to Buddha's teachings and on this day celebrate not only his life but the teachings that they live by.

  The festival reaffirms the Nepalese faith and also fosters communitas among followers. There is a sense of egalitarian society during the duration of the festival, and the caste system that the Indians live their lives by, is forgotten during the festival. It brings people together from high and lower castes while they all honor the life and teachings of their Lord Buddha. The festival creates “a bond…uniting people over and above any formal social bonds” (Turner 1982:205). There is an exhibition of the sacra (Turner 1982:204) which is the use of artifacts during the festival. There are butterlamps lit all over the temples and cities, there are colorful flags hung from temples like Swayambhunath, and people wear all white. These are all important symbols of the ritual with significant meanings attached. The flags are prayer flags which people hang giving special prayers to Buddha during his special holiday. The lamps are lit all through the night before the actual celebration by the temples. There sacra is also communicated through actions during the festival. During the day of Buddha Jayanti monks perform rituals and give long discourses on the life and teaching of Buddha in temples and other sacred places. There are also processions involving the monks in which there are colorful costumes, flags, horns, cymbals, and bright headdresses. These are all ways in which the celebration of Buddha is expressed through different, but equally significant, forms.

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