Thursday, May 23, 2024

Reflections on Wesak Day


Today is Wesak Day, the day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and Nirvana of the Buddha. Beyond its profound religious significance, Wesak brings a flood of cherished childhood memories for me.

Wesak is more than just a day; it’s a feeling, an atmosphere. It’s the month of the rainy season, and I vividly remember the anticipation mixed with trepidation as we watched our carefully crafted, colorful Wesak lanterns threatened by the downpour. The rains were relentless, often washing away our hard work, but they couldn’t dampen our spirits.

Many years ago, our Dhamma school organized a Wesak lantern competition. I was thirteen, determined to make a star-shaped lantern. Having never made one alone, I eagerly took on the challenge. I can still recall the frustration of trying to knot the bamboo sticks neatly, struggling to achieve the perfect star shape. I had splurged on expensive colored papers, driven by a fierce desire to win.

Despite my determination, I couldn't get the star shape just right. I made several trips home for help, and even managed to convince some village boys to assist me, though they were busy with their own intricate, rotating lanterns. After putting in immense effort, I finally created a magenta star-shaped lantern. It wasn’t very attractive and certainly didn’t look like a winner, but the committee saw something beyond its flawed appearance.

They awarded me a special prize for my perseverance, recognizing the effort I put in as the only girl tackling such a task alone. Looking back, I realize that young me was challenging the established male dominance, striving to prove that even a small effort could earn a place in that talented community.

Inspired by that experience, I initiated a cool drink and biscuit dansal for the following Poya Day. The memories of those times are vivid: visiting various Wesak celebrations, marveling at the intricate pandols, experiencing the ‘hell’ displays, and savoring food at the dansal stalls. The taste of dansal food – ala kiri hodi, papadam, seeni sambol, and sudu bath – is something I can still remember vividly. It’s a smell and taste that cannot be replicated, a sensory memory that anchors me to those wonderful times.

Wesak was more than just festivities; it was a time of community, resilience, and shared joy, a reflection of our collective spirit and devotion. Even now, every Wesak Day brings back a flood of these treasured memories, reminding me of the simple joys and profound lessons of my childhood.

What are your best Wesak memories?

By Jahooli Devi


මලී said...

This took me down the memory lane big time! Yes you are right, Vesak is not just a celebration, it is a mixture of the journeys to 'see vesak' along the roads and neighbouring towns, the never ending dansal, and of course lots of rain that never fails to appear!
We lived opposite a temple so we 'had to' make a big deal of the decorations. We always had six yellow kuudu as a tradition. Initially thaththa was the main Kuudu -maker but when he worked abroad for some time I took over the job. I was around thirteen then. I had been his apprentice before so I knew the steps. But the real deal was much harder as I discovered! after sliced hands when cutting bamboo from the trees, crooked kuudu etc I managed to replicate the six yellow lanterns as previous years. As you mentioned this was considered quite a feat for a girl and I was showered with praise.
Fast forward a few decades and here I am still making yellow kuudu even though I haven't been in SL for Vesak for the past 18 years! :)

Literature & Arts said...

It all looks very simple until you take over that task. Wesak is a memory we like to recreate on a rainy day in May like today. Keep making yellow ones...