Elephant Dream

Buddha’s Birth itself is preceded by an event with a lot of symbolism. The queen Mahā Māyā, Buddha’s mother, dreamt on a full moon night that she was carried by four devas (spirits) to the Anotatta Lake in the Himalayas. The devas clothed her with heavenly robes after bathing in the lake, and then perfumed her and covered her with flowers. Shortly after, a white elephant holding a white lotus flower, appeared and circled her three times, and went to her belly through her right. Eventually the elephant disappeared and the queen woke up and knew that she had received a vital message because the elephant symbolises greatness. Sages were called to interpret this dream and they considered it to be auspicious.

The elephant dream
The elephant dream foretelling Buddha’s Birth

Buddha’s Birth as a young prince

According to tradition, Buddha was born as a Shakya noble prince on a full-moon day in May in 623 BCE at Lumbini in Kapilavastu at the borders of present day Nepal and India. His parents were King Suddhodana and Queen Mahā Māyā. Queen Mahā Māyā died seven days after his birth, he was then adopted by her younger sister Mahā Pajāpati, who was married to the king, too. She gave the task of taking care of her own son Nanda to the the nurses.

People rejoiced at his birth. A ascetic, named Asita was especially satisfied to hear this cheerful news, and being a mentor of the King, went by the royal residence to see the Royal prince. The King carried the baby prince up to him, however, surprisingly, the kid’s legs turned and laid on the tangled locks of Asita. Asita instantly got up from his seat and, used his vision to foresee the child’s fate, he saluted him with caught hands. The Royal father did in like manner.

Asita smiled at first and then became unhappy. When asked about his mixed feelings, he replied that he smiled because the prince would ultimately become a buddha, an Enlightened one, and he became unhappy due to the fact he could no longer be able to witness the his achievements because of his early death.

The day of the Buddha’s birth is celebrated as Vesak in Theravada countries and as Buddha Purnima in India and Nepal.