Poson Full Moon Poya Day is celebrated in the 3rd century BC to commemorate the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. This festival of historical and religious significance was celebrated by Buddhists all over the island. For Buddhists, this hallowed day of Poson is second only to Vesak in terms of importance. Although Poson is celebrated throughout the island, the main festivals are held in Anuradhapura and Mihintale.
Emperor Ashoka was a devout Buddhist who ruled over a large area of India. His service to the Buddhist faith was immense. The most important of them was to send Buddhist ambassadors to nine countries to spread the faith. Sri Lanka was one of the countries that benefited from this bill. At that time the ruler was King Devanampiya Tissa, an unseen friend of Ashoka. The delegation that took the teachings of the Buddha to Sri Lanka was led by Ashoka’s own son Arhant Mahinda.
The ambassadors arrived here on the day of Poson. In pre-Buddhist times, the day was a festival in Ceylon, and that night the king Tissa was hunting deer with his courtiers at Mihintale. While chasing a deer, the king met Arhant Mahinda at Ambasthala in Mihintale. After listening to the first lecture delivered by Arhant Mahinda, the Royal Party converted to Buddhism. Thus the new religion was established in Sri Lanka. Sumana, the youngest member of Arhant Mahinda’s Rehabilitation, a new monk, was sent to India to bring back the sacred relics of the Supreme Buddha. Arahant Mahinda instructed on how the relics should be placed in the stupas.
Many religious activities are organized during this poson period in Sri Lanka such as Sil campaigns, Bodhi Poojas, Dansalas (Freely giving foods, coffee, tea from people), Poson devotional songs, Poson pandols (thoran) and lanterns. In Poson many temples are filled with Atasil devotees and pilgrims all over Sri Lanka to mark this great event. The devout, clad in pure white with no make-up or jewelry, make their way to the temple.