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Service Programs

Quenching Pilgrims' Thirst in Kathmandu

Kathmandu, Nepal – Thirsty pilgrims and visitors at the Swayambhu Stupa in Kathmandu quenched their thirst on the occasion of Buddha’s 2555th birthday at a Juice Distribution Program sponsored by the Universal Peace Federation – Nepal.

Volunteers started at 4 o’clock in the morning on May 10, 2011 and worked until the sunset, 14 hours later. They distributed juice, actually Tang, and mineral water free to tens of thousands of people. This was the fifth annual juice and water distribution program supported by UPF-Nepal.

Juice and water distribution on Buddha’s 2555th birthday celebrated in Kathmandu, Nepal UPF-Nepal’s fifth annual free juice and water distribution program in Kathmandu, Nepal

Buddhist and Hindus, tourists and pilgrims all persuasions went to the Swayambhu Stupa, one of the holiest pilgrim sites in the Kathmandu valley, to commemorate Buddha Jayanta (or birthday).

One interesting phenomenon is the way people drink water or juice. It is very common to see people drink from the same cup or bottle. In the West this would be considered unsanitary. But there is a special knack to this that prevents germs from spreading. Kids young and old hold a bottle (or cup) of juice a few inches above their lips and pour the liquid into their mouths. They drink freely, swallowing as the liquid refills their mouth — but never let the rim of the vessel touch their lips. This is thought to make it hygienic and allows people to use a common container to drink from.

A tooth said to be from Lord Buddha himself was on loan from the Sri Lankan government and displayed on this auspicious day. Buddhists came to venerate this holy relic and receive heaven’s blessings.

Others came to give; they donated blood, which was given to local hospitals. While they were recovering they were also served juice or water.

This was also a time when religious and political leaders join together in celebrating Buddha’s birthday. Buddha was born in southern Nepal more than two and a half millennia ago, but his teachings of peace and compassion are still valid today.

Note: The birth of the Buddha is often celebrated by Buddhists in Nepal for an entire month in the Buddhist lunar calendar. The day marks not just the birth of Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha but also the day of Enlightenment. The overwhelming majority of Nepalese are Hindus, with about 10 percent of the population being Buddhists. However, differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been minimal in Nepal due to the cultural and historical intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. The faiths share common temples and worship common deities.

Religious and political leaders join together to celebrate Buddha’s birthday. Boy Scout volunteers quench their thirst, drinking from common vessels but without letting their lips touch the rim.
After donating blood, donors get free juice and water distributed by UPF-Nepal volunteers. A relic from Buddha, a tooth, on display during Buddha’s birthday celebrations in Kathmandu, Nepal. (It is on loan from the  Sri Lankan government.)

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