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Vesak is considered as both a religious and cultural festival in Sri Lanka. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon in May. This festival marks the birth, enlightenment and passing away into Nirvana of the Lord Buddha. The weeklong celebration gives the visitor a unique opportunity to discover Sri Lanka's religious and cultural traditions.
Many religious activities are organized during this period in Sri Lanka. In temples Buddhists worship, offer flowers, light lamps and burn incense. Other than the exclusive religious aspects of the festival, the Buddhists of Sri Lanka, decorate their houses and public places with colourful lanterns called Vesak koodu are hung along streets and in front of homes and arrange for various cultural events to bring happiness to everyone on that day. Electrically lit pandals called Toranas are erected in various locations mainly in Colombo, Kandy, Galle and elsewhere. Food stalls set up by Buddhist devotees called Dansalas provide free food and drinks to passersby. There are some fantastic mime and street theatre performances, staged on tall platforms throughout the cities and towns near the temples.
Vesak is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of the Buddha for public dissemination. Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to followers who visit the temple to pay homage to the Enlightened One.