Wesak Day or Vesak Day is the day when Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. These are the major and most significant events in the Buddha’s life which are commemorated on this day.
In addition to Chinese New Year and Hari Raya, Wesak Day is another festive and important religious celebration in Malaysia. If you ever find yourself in this country during Wesak Day, you’ll find that it’s a very colorful celebration!
We made this guide to show how Malaysians celebrate this special day. Read on to find out more about Wesak Day in Malaysia and know which things locals do in observance of the occasion!
When do Malaysians celebrate Wesak Day?
There’s no specific date as to when Wesak Day is held as it changes every year. However, it usually takes place on the first full moon of the ancient lunar month of Vesakha and it generally falls in May or early June.
Is Wesak Day a holiday in Malaysia?
In Malaysia, Wesak Day is a national public holiday so schools and most businesses and offices are closed. Because of this, locals are able to spend this festival with their family and friends.
How do Malaysians celebrate Wesak Day?
Malaysians celebrate Wesak Day with much enthusiasm. In fact, many locals and Buddhist devotees observe traditions and rituals to celebrate this occasion.
Here are some of the activities that you can be a part of Malaysia during Wesak Day in Malaysia:
Visit the temples.
The first thing that locals do to start their Wesak Day celebrations is gathering in their local temples at dawn. From bustling cities like Kuala Lumpur to quieter locations like Gopeng, Buddhist temples are packed with both devotees and even those who are not.
Yup, even non-Buddhist in Malaysia observe this holiday by going to the local temples!
On Wesak Day, there are services which people can attend. But it’s more common for them to offer prayers, seek blessings, give donations and meditate on the Eight Precepts.
Most people who come to the temples also light candles, joss sticks, oil lamps, or incense for prosperity and peace and to chase away evil and darkness. In some Buddhist temples, we’d even be able to watch a candle procession on Wesak Day.
Some Buddhist devotees in Malaysia would even go to various temples during Wesak Day. They’d perform different rites because each of these temples has its own traditions and offerings.
For example, we’d see people who come to the Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple to light lotus candles and pray for prosperity and health.
Meanwhile, the devotees who would come to the Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple to pray, give offerings, and meditate.
Likewise, we’d see several people who go to Wat Siribunyamagaram light joss sticks as their scent calms the spirit and they’re believed to bring luck through prayers.
Give flower offerings.
During Wesak Day, we’d see temples full of flowers because Malaysian Buddhists often bring them as offerings when they go to these places.
Flowers are believed to symbolize impermanence as their beauty and fragrance eventually fade. So, offering flowers serves as a reminder for them to heed and contemplate Buddhist teachings, particularly on the impermanence of things.
Bathe the young Prince Siddhartha statue.
As part of Wesak Day celebrations, some devotees go to the Malaysian Buddhist Association. We’d see locals come here to participate in the ceremony of bathing the statue of the young Prince Siddhartha.
When we pass by this place during Wesak Day, we often see a long line of Malaysian Buddhists who wait to take turns in the rituals.
Many people perform this ritual because it represents purification and cleansing. It also serves as a reminder for the devotees of the importance of purifying their hearts and minds.
Observe Buddhist teachings.
Aside from performing rites and traditions, it’s common to see Buddhist devotees in Malaysia reflecting and meditating during Wesak Day.
As this day entails precepts of Buddhism, they’re encouraged to show generosity, use speech wisely, and embrace celibacy.
They also observe other rules and regulations like avoiding alcohol and eating only at certain times, among others.
Watch the parade.
As we said earlier, Wesak Day is a colorful celebration. This is because of the annual parades across the country during this day.
Whenever there’s a parade, we usually see the streets lined up with Buddhist devotees and even non-devotees. We enjoy watching the processions of decorated floats of several eye-catching statues of the Buddha.
These parades are often held to strengthen the Buddhist communities in Malaysia and to establish a society with wisdom and compassion.
Eat vegetarian dishes.
As part of the Wesak Day celebrations in Malaysia, Buddhist devotees serve and dine on local vegetarian dishes. This is because of Buddhist teachings that discourage taking the life of animals.
There’s no specific food that needs to be served during Wesak Day. But for us, what’s important is that there’s no meat served and that only vegetarian food and drinks are prepared during this day.
Some of the dishes that could be served during Wesak Day in Malaysia are the following:
Veggie Spring Rolls
Veggie spring rolls originated from Chinese cuisine, which is a big part of the local cuisine in Malaysia. Even if Wesak Day is a Buddhist religious event, it’s a staple to have veggie spring rolls to celebrate this occasion.
In Malaysia, this is usually made of cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, and bean sprouts and this is served with a spicy sauce on the side.
Gado-Gado is another vegetarian dish in Malaysia which we enjoy feasting on.
It’s literally a mix of vegetables and it’s composed of potatoes, spinach, bean sprouts, corn, cabbage, and long beans. Sometimes, fried tofu, egg, and lontong are added to the mix, along with peanut sauce.
Dal is another staple in Malaysian food stalls and it’s simply a must to have this during Wesak Day.
It’s a curry dish made of vegetables mixed with turmeric, coriander, lentils, masala, chillies, and tomatoes. This is best eaten with rice on the side or roti canai!
6 Temples to Visit in Malaysia during Wesak Day
As I mentioned a while ago, Malaysians visit temples during Wesak. If you are curious about the festivities, or if you want to try and give offerings, here are some temples you can visit in Malaysia:
1. Thean Hou Buddhist Temple
|Address||65, Persiaran Endah, Taman Persiaran Desa, 50460 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|
|Operating hours||8 AM – 10 PM|
As it’s one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia, the Thean Hou Temple is a tourist attraction in Kuala Lumpur.
But, on Wesak Day, we notice that it’s one of the temples in Malaysia that’s most visited by devotees. We’d see that all the corners of this temple are filled with Malaysian Buddhists who come to offer candles and flowers.
2. Thai Buddhist Chetawan Temple
|Address||No.24, Jalan Pantai 9/7, Seksyen 10 Petaling Jaya, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia|
|Operating hours||9 AM – 5 PM|
The Wat Chetawan is a Thai temple in Malaysia that was built in 1957 and officiated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. It’s an important Malaysian Siamese temple in the country and it has served as home to some sacred Buddha relics.
Every Wesak Day, this temple turns into an activity hub for Buddhist devotees who’d also come here to meditate and pray, as well as for other blessings.
3. Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple
|Address||17, Lorong Burma, Pulau Tikus, 10250 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia|
|Operating hours||8 AM – 4 PM|
One of the most famous temples in Malaysia is the Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist Temple.
This is known as the home of the reclining Buddha, which represents Buddha at his death. This statue is 33 meters long and perhaps the largest in the world!
We’d see thousands of Malaysian Buddhists flock to this temple yearly during Wesak Day to offer and light lotus candles.
The Lotus flower is also an important symbol in Buddhism as it means faithfulness and spiritual awakening and it’s a sign of speech, body, and mental purity.
4. Wat Siribunyamagaram Thai Buddhist Temple
|Address||No. 88 & 89, Jalan Tambun, 30350 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia|
|Operating hours||8 AM – 6 PM|
The Wat Siribunyamagaram Temple is a majestic temple with heavy Thai influence and decorations. So, it’s a place where everyone can immerse in the Thai Buddhist way of life, especially on Wesak Day.
During this day, devotees come here to light joss sticks which serve as an offering to Buddha. Other offerings made by devotees here during Wesak Day are lighting lotus candles and incense, as well as bringing flowers.
On Wesak Day, we also see people who come here wait for the Buddhist monk to sprinkle the holy water as part of the Wesak celebrations.
5. Malaysian Buddhist Association
|Address||182, Burma Road, 182, Jalan Burma, George Town, 10050 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia|
|Operating hours||Monday to Friday: 9 AM – 5 PM
Saturday: 9 AM – 1 PM
Although it’s not a temple, the Malaysian Buddhist Association is a non-profit organization and it’s the oldest Buddhist organization in Malaysia. It’s also an important place because this promotes Buddhism in the country.
Here, there’s a Buddhist temple which we’d see devotees visit on Wesak Day because of the “Bathing of the Buddha” ceremony.
6. Ling Sen Tong Temple
|Address||Ling Sen Tong Temple, Gunung Rapat, 31350 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia|
|Operating hours||9 AM – 4 PM|
Ling Sen Tong is a special place for us locals to visit during Wesak Day. This is a cave temple at the foot of a hill in Perak and when translated, its name means Rock of Heavenly Spirits
This temple is a great place to visit because of its amazing architecture and surroundings since it’s surrounded by a limestone hill.
There are also plenty of statues of deities, characters from Chinese folklore, and 18 Arhats or Buddhist saints within the compound, which locals love to see, especially on Wesak Day. The most eye-catching statue here is the 40-foot-high Buddha statue.