SINGAPORE - Just before dusk on Monday (May 28), several hundred Buddhist monks and devotees began a gruelling journey around the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.
With every three barefooted steps, they prostrated themselves in unison while chanting mantras or the name of the Buddha, their palms cupped like lotuses.
Every year, more than 40,000 devotees come to the monastery at Bright Hill Road for the celebrations, with 15,000 taking part in the Three-Step, One-Bow Ceremony last year.
The meditative circumambulation is an act of repentance for misdeeds and a commemoration of the Buddha's life, enlightenment and death on Vesak Day, which falls on Tuesday.
It is expected to end at about 9am Tuesday morning, with the last group of devotees setting off at 7am.
Mr Jason Lee was among the first group of devotees who began the ceremony at about 5.30pm on Monday.
The devotees were drenched in sweat and patting their faces with towels and wet tissues by the time they reached the end of the path two hours later, where a monk sprinkled them with water.
The key is to relax and focus on the chanting, said Mr Lee, 40.
"You feel a sense of serenity, so afterwards you don't feel that tired," said the tutor, who has performed the ceremony almost every year at the monastery for nearly a decade.
"You feel invigorated internally although you're exhausted outside."
In the temple halls, devotees poured ladles of perfumed water over a statue of the infant Prince Siddhartha, standing at the centre of lotus-filled pools.
The bathing symbolises the purification of unwholesome acts with wholesome ones.
The Vesak Day celebrations at the monastery, which was built in 1920, also included a Vesak Fair selling thrift items and vegetarian snacks, a photo exhibition of the monastery's history, and a separate sale by its Gratitude Shop selling pre-loved items donated by devotees.
On Vesak Day on Tuesday, prayers dedicated to universal well-being will begin from 10am.
At the same time, devotees and visitors can have fun at the Monastery's Family Activities and Entertainment Corner, with stage performances, sutra writing, colouring and flower mandala-making.
The Straits Times wishes all its Buddhist readers a happy Vesak Day.