Overnight procession of faithful to mark Vesak Day

Buddhist monks leading devotees in the "three-steps, one-bow" procession along the perimeter of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery yesterday, the eve of Vesak Day. An estimated 15,000 devotees are expected to turn up throughout the night for the c
Buddhist monks leading devotees in the "three-steps, one-bow" procession along the perimeter of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery yesterday, the eve of Vesak Day. An estimated 15,000 devotees are expected to turn up throughout the night for the ceremony, which ends at about 9am today.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Just before sunset yesterday, thousands of Buddhist devotees led by monks lined the perimeter of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Bright Hill Road, walking three steps barefooted before prostrating in unison.

With palms opened in the shape of a lotus flower, they paid their respects to Buddha while chanting mantras.

The annual ceremony commemorates Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death on Vesak Day, which falls on May 21.

After more than two hours, the first group of devotees arrived in front of the Hall of Great Compassion, where they were blessed with splashes of water to mark the end of the ceremony.

About 15,000 devotees were expected to turn up at the monastery throughout the night for the ceremony, which ends at about 9am today.

Many see this practice as a form of repentance for past misdeeds, as well as a reminder of the long and difficult path to a stage that Buddhists call enlightenment.

Despite being drenched in sweat, retiree Jojo Cheng, 54, who has taken part in the practice for the past 15 years, said: "I don't feel tired. Instead, I feel a sense of peace over me and was able to empty my mind."

At the Hall of Great Strength, devotees were seen bathing a statue of baby prince Siddhartha, as a way of purifying one's body and mind.

Ng Huiwen

•The Prime Minister sends his greetings to all Buddhists on the occasion of Vesak Day.

•The Straits Times also sends Vesak Day greetings to all its Buddhist readers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Overnight procession of faithful to mark Vesak Day'. Print Edition | Subscribe