The Dharma Chakra Day and its Significance

The Dharma Chakra Day is an occasion that falls on the auspicious day of Aashada Purnima. The nationwide celebrations of this Buddhist holiday were officially inaugurated by Ramnath Kovind, the President of India, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the International Buddhist Confederation.

The Minister of Culture Prahlad Patel and Minister of State for Minorities Affairs, Kiren Rijiju also addressed the opening ceremony.

What is Dharma Chakra Day?

The Dharma Chakra Day is an occasion commemorative of the Asadha Purnima. The auspicious day of Asadha Poornima falls on the first full moon day of the month of Asadha as per the Indic sun calendar. It marks the Buddha’s First Sermon to his first five ascetic disciples at the Deer Park, Rsipatana in the present-day Sarnath near Varanasi, UP.

Following the celebrations of this day, the Monks and Nuns would partake their Varsha Vassa, or the Monsoon Retreat, which takes place between July and September. In this period, they would remain confined to their monasteries and undergo intense meditation in isolation.

Why is this significant?

As the name suggests the Buddhists believe that this day was the day of “Turning of the Wheel of Dharma”, and Mahaparinirvana. This is also observed as Guru Purnima in several parts of the country and all over the world. In the Indic culture of Sri Lanka, it is known as Esala Poya and the Thai Indic culture refers to it as Asanha Bucha.

This day is the second most important religious holiday for Buddhists after the Vesak Purnima or Buddha Purnima. Vaishak Purnima marks the birthday of Lord Buddha. This also signifies his day of enlightenment and death. It is celebrated as the harvest festival in Punjab, and memorializes the day of creation of the Khalsa.

Also keeping in mind, the fact that India has been revered as the land of Buddha’s enlightenment, the inauguration of this day by the Indian government helps to keep this historical legacy intact.

Events commemorating Dharma Chakra Day

An address by the Mongolian President was read out, and a Buddhist manuscript which is several centuries old has been presented to the Indian President Kovind from Mongolian side. This was seen as an attempt by both the countries to strengthen their ties.

The rest of the events of the day are scheduled to happen from different parts of the world and will be streamed from Sarnath in Bodhgaya. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all the events are being held online.

This decision is the result of a very successful broadcast of events in connection with Vaishakh Purnima, which happened on May 7th this year.

Indian Prime Minister’s Address on Dharma Chakra Day

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the country on Saturday on account of Aashada Purnima, and said that we need to follow the eight-fold path of Lord Buddha for the well-being of society and nation.

He further mentioned that the day also signified Guru Purnima, and that one should never forget the sacrifices that our gurus had done and that we should always respect the knowledge that they have imparted to us. He left a message to the youngsters of the country, saying, “I would urge my young friends, to also stay connected with the thoughts of Lord Buddha. They will motivate and show the way ahead,” Modi said.

He concluded his message with the hope that Lord Buddha’s blessings inspire us to do good.

Political Significance

At a time when China is seeking to unilaterally change the status quo in its shared border with India, this has been considered as a power move by the Indian government. This is because, most Buddhism prevalent countries would take part in these celebrations except China. This is also seen as a display of a united front against China by its Asian neighbours. The Central Tibetan Administration has asked Tibetan Buddhists to participate in the online event in large numbers to “support and appreciate” the effort. Tibet has been locking horns with China after it tried to illegitimately occupy their territory.

Meanwhile, China’s World Buddhist Forum (WBF) has been hosting Buddhism related events since 2005, in its attempt to reclaim supremacy in the religious front.