‘Poson Poya’ in Sri Lanka
Poson full-moon poya day is celebrating the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the 3 rd century BC, a festival of great historical and religious significance celebrated island wide Buddhists. Poson, held on the full moon day of June, celebrates the momentous event which occurred over 2000 years ago. Two hundred and eighteen years after Lord Buddha attained Nirvana, the third Buddhist council took place with Indian Emperor King Dharmashoka providing state patronage. As a result Buddhism was spread to nine other countries. It was Poson poya day when Arahant Mahinda
Thero, son of Emperor Asoka, put his steps to Sri Lanka and converted King Devanampiyatissa to Buddhism, who was the King ruled Sri Lanka by then.
This is how it all happened. As a result of the conversion of Dig Vijaya policy of the emperor Dharmasoka, Buddhict missionaries was sent to various countries in the world and to Sri Lanka also. Emperor Dharmashoka snt his own son, Arahant Mahinda Thero to lead the delegation. Arahants Ittiya, Uttiya, Sambala, Baddasala and Sumana samanera also accompanied in this missionary. The only layman in this mission was Bhanduka upasaka. King Devanampiyatissa was hunting deer at the royal park “Missaka Pawwa” on that day of Poson many centuries ago. A well-built deer ran swiftly by the king’s side so he pulled out an arrow and aimed at the deer. But the arrow did not move. A ray of light radiated from the mountain top at to the foot of the king. Then he heard his name being called in a sweet voice. The king was seriously concerned as to who in this world was dared to call him by his name. The king looked up of the mango tree where he was standing dumb founded and saw the figure of a human being in yellow robes with rays radiating from the spectrum. He was amazed at once by seeing them. For the mighty king, the charm of Missaka
Pawwa was that on it stood the treasure he was longing for. His bow and arrow fell from his hands and he put his hands together on his forehead and knelt down on the ground under the mango tree. Arahant Mahinda Thero decided to test the king’s knowledge and intelligence and to ascertain whether he could understand the Dhamma.
For the Buddhists, this Poson is second only to Vesak in terms of importance. Although Poson is celebrated throughout the island, the major ceremonies are found in Anuradhapura and Mihintale. Many devotees from all over the country dressed in white and climb the steps to the top of Mihintale hill rock where Arahant Mahinda delivered his initial discourses. On the exact site where the Arahant appeared to Kind Devanampiyatissa, now stands as the Ambasthale temple.
Poson Poya is celebrated annually with great devote throughout the island but particularly in Mihinthalaya where Mahinda thero first put his foot to prach the word of Lord Buddha. With the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, society began to emerge with the art of writing, architecture. River civilization, perfoming religious rituals in songs and dance forms, literature, all with royal patronage.
Many religious activities are organized during this poson period in Sri Lanka such as Sil campaigns, Bodhi poojas, Dansalas (freely giving cuisines to the people), Specially the Poson devotional songs, Poson pandals (thoran) and lanterns. In Poson many temples are filled with Atasil devotees and pilgrims all over the country to mark this great occasion. This program will be held for 24 hours continuously in quiet contemplation and all the devotees are dressed in pure white with no makeup or jewellery. During the Poson festival, the selling of alcohol and flesh is usually prohibited, with abattoirs also being closed. As in the vesak, on this day people are usually busy with decorations at their homes, streets and public places with handmade paper lanterns small and big glittering with illuminations, and also making pandals depicting the different occurrences in the life of the Lord Buddha or his previous births. Normally poson poya day is a religious important day as well as a festive day to all the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.