Ullambana is a Buddhist festival celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month according to the Buddhist calendar. The date usually falls in August as per the Gregorian calendar. The festival is commemorated to provide salvation and relief to the ghosts and spirits of the dead who are hungry. Ullambana is a Sanskrit word which means ‘deliverance from sufferings’. It also refers to the salvation of sufferings, afflictions or worries of the seven generations of fathers and mothers who are suffering as hungry ghosts and waiting for liberation. The festival is marked by Buddhists in various countries across the world including India, China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia, among the few. It is of great importance as it takes back one to the time of Maudgalyayana, a devoted disciple of the Buddha. Scroll through the lines below to know why Ullambana is celebrated.
Importance Of Ullambana
Ullambana is a purely Buddhist ceremony wherein the Buddhists indulge in satisfying and relieving their departed relatives through transferring merits for their salvation. The festival emphasizes on the meritorious deeds that Maudgalyayana had exemplified in the honor of his mother and other relatives. According to the legends, Maudgalyayana, a disciple of the Buddha, found his deceased mother to be suffering from hunger in the realm of the hungry ghosts. Nevertheless, he tried to relieve her by offering food but it burnt into ball of flames.
Helpless and dejected, he approached the Buddha who instructed him to make the best offerings of fruits, incense, oil, lamps, candles, beds and bedding to the assembled ten monks of the Order. He further added that he should pray for the salvation of his mother. By doing so, it not only relieved his mother but also his forefathers, kith and kin escaped suffering and attained eternal bliss. Since then, the festival of Ullambana is celebrated provide salvation to the outcast and famished ghosts. Various good deeds are performed to accumulate spiritual merit and share it with the departed ghosts and spirits.
Ever since this incident, the festival is celebrated with immense grandeur and magnificence by all the Buddhists across the world. Though it is observed on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month according to the Buddhist calendar, the date can slightly vary in different parts worldwide in the Gregorian calendar. Different customs and rituals are followed to please the ghosts, such as preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense and burning joss paper (a papier-mâché form of material items like clothes, gold and other fine goods that invite the spirit of the ancestors). Various miniature paper boats and lanterns are released in water to give directions to the ghosts and spirits who are lost.