Asalha Puja – more commonly known as Dharma Day – is a Buddhist festival which this year will be celebrated on Sunday 24 July, the day of the full moon in the month of July.
Dharma Day marks the beginning of Buddha’s teaching, following his own enlightenment, around 2,500 years ago. Buddhists believe that he told five disciples about his own experience with a sermon, known as ‘The First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma’.
In that sermon, Buddha is said to have included his Four Noble Truths, which are central to Buddhism.
Dharma is an ancient component of Indian philosophy which is key to the various religions that have grown from that region.
Although Dharma Day is celebrated by Buddhists, the principles of Dharma are also important to Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. Its symbolic representation, the Wheel of Dharma, is significant to all these religions, originating from the Indian sub-continent. As such, it can be seen as a unifying symbol across India, which is why it appears on the flag of India.
On Dharma Day, Buddhists express gratitude for the knowledge and enlightenment shared by Buddha and those who have shared his teachings and reflect on them. To non-Buddhists, it’s also a chance to consider how the Four Noble Truths and other Buddhist principles can be adopted into day-to-day life.