Ullambana festival is celebrated with much popularity in many countries including China, Japan, Malaysia. On the Occasions of Ullambana, it is widely believed that the 'Gates of the Hell' are opened and the dead ones pay visit to their loved ones". Therefore, offerings are made to the spirits of the dead and to the hungry ghosts for good fortune and luck. It falls on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.
Ullambana is a key Mahayana Buddhist concept based on the story of 'Mahamaudgalyayana saving his Mother'. A Sanskrit word, it means, "rescuing those who are hanging upside-down." Traditionally it is referred as 'seeking salvation for the anguished souls in hell'.
By the Buddhist legend, a disciple of Buddha, Mahamaudgalyayana (Mogallana or Moelin) on obtaining the six spiritual penetrations uses his Way Eye and meditative skills and finds his deceased mother reborn but tormented with hunger and starvation. Deeply sad, Mahamaudgalyayana started a journey to the netherworld. Finding her in a poor state, he tried feeding to ease her hunger but before she could eat, it all erupted into ball of flames.
A dejected Mahamaudgalyayana begged to Sakymuni to provide him a solution to allow salvation for his mother. But Buddha answered; "her past sins are deep and huge for you alone to save". Although your filial respect move the heaven spirits, the earth spirits, twisted demons, and those outside the way, Brahmans, and the four heavenly king gods, are also without sufficient strength. So, the awesome spiritual power of the ten (community of Monks) 'Sangha' from all ten directions is necessary for salvation to be restored.
Buddha also advised Maudgalyayana to make the best offering of five fruits, incense, oil, lamps, candles, beds and bedding to the assembled ten monks of the Order and pray along with them for the salvation of her mother's soul. Also added that such an offering will not only redeem salvation for her mother but also all his kith and kin and forefathers will escape suffering and attain eternal bliss.
Ullambana festival chiefly reinforces the concept of filial piety. It signifies the importance of performing "good deeds" to accumulates spiritual merit. Most significant is to share the merit with the departed souls, to help them reborn in good realms and end their suffering.
Legend of Ullambana has passed over ages and is celebrated by Buddhists all over, by holding ceremonies of charity to make the outcast and famished ghosts cross over to salvation. Thus, the 15th day of the seventh moon has become an Occasions for teaching the virtues of filial piety. The date of Ullambana depends on the calendar that is followed, and varies slightly in different parts of the world.