It was on a Poson Full Moon Poya day in the 3rd century B.C that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka who had become a Buddhist monk. This momentous event occurred in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka’s North Central Provice, which has since then become the focus of Poson Poya religious observances each year. Poson Poya, usually falls in June.

The Convesrion of a King

This is how it all happened. King Devanampiyatissa was hunting deer on that Poson Poya day many centuries ago, when Arahant Mahinda appeared to him in a grove atop the mountain now known as Mihintale (meaning plateau of Mahinda) and called him by his first name. The King stopped his pursuit of the deer and answered a riddle about a mango tree which the Arahant asked him. He thereafter listened to the teachings of Arahant Mahinda and agreed to follow the teachings of the Buddha. He thereafter declared it the state religion and today Sri Lanka is considered the home of Theravada Buddhism.

On the exact site where the Arahant appeared to King Devanampiyatissa, now stands a Temple, the Ambasthale Dagoba. Ambasthale means Mango tree and the Temple has been given this name as a reference to the riddle which opened the discussion between the two of them. This monument stands tall above the Mihintale city and is reached by climbing 1840 steps.

Poson celebrations in Sri Lanka

Poson Poya is celebrated by Buddhists in Sri Lanka by visiting the Temple with offerings of flowers and incense to pay homage to Lord Buddha. As on all other Poya days Dhamma sermons are given by the prelates and devotees observe Sil during the day. The city of Anuradhapura is where the main religious observances take place every year, given its importance as the location where this historic event occurred.

In Anuradhapura as well as the rest of the country, Poson celebrations are similar to Vesak, with Pandols and Dansal (alms-giving stalls) to be seen everywhere. Buddhist families decorate their homes with coloured lights, lanterns and Kudu, while making use of the holiday to engage in meritorious deeds. Bakthi Gee (religious songs) too are sung in public areas and the atmosphere on this full moon day is one of peaceful co-existence. Another feature of Poson celebrations are colourful processions which commemorate the visit of Arahant Mahinda. Known as Mihindu Peraheras these processions include Elephants, drummers and dancers which are characteristic elements in almost all such peraheras in the island.

A worthwhile experience

Visit Sri Lanka in June and experience the country’s Poson celebrations during your tour. We will arrange a visit to the historic Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa areas, with a special stop at the Mihintale Temple, which is abuzz with activity and devotional programmes during Poson. Contact us today…