Poson in Sri Lanka; Celebrating the Birth of Buddhism
The historic city of Anuradhapura experiences a magical, soulful transformation during the month of June. From the ever-busy buzz of people walking from one temple to the next, clad in white with offerings of flowers to the Lord Buddha to the soulful music played boisterously all over the city and the bright and colourful, decorative lights which adorn the pandals in the street, the month of June marks the celebration of Poson! The Celebration of the birth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka!
Poson, is a sanctified festival celebrated in Sri Lanka on the full moon day in June and is significant to Sri Lankan Buddhists as it is the momentous day on which Emperor Asoka's son, Arahant Mahinda, introduced Buddhism to the island, during 3rd century B.C. The Poson Festival essentially commemorates the conversion of Sri Lanka to Buddhism.
As legend has it, it is in the ancient city of Mihintale (Anuradhapura), that Sri Lanka's king was converted to Buddhism by Arahat Mahinda. As the story has been told from generation to generation, “the king was hunting deer, when Mahinda appeared to him in a grove and asked him a riddle about a mango tree. After the king had answered the riddle, he apparently agreed to follow the teachings of the Buddha and declared it the state religion.” The Ambasthale Dagoba (Ambasthale meaning Mango Tree, Dagoba means Shrine) built in Celebration of this conversion, is the temple which towers above the city of Mihintale, accessible by 1840 steps and built over the very spot where Arahat Mahinda is said to have appeared before the King. With this legend, Mihintale has become the main site for festive activities during Poson and many locals and foreigners visit Mihintale during this season to perform religious rites as well as for leisure.
On the Poson day, devotees flock to Anuradhapura-the ancient capital city of the country- especially, in thousands for pilgrimages, to pay homage to the sacred temples and in celebration of this historic event. Processions commemorative of the event, referred to as Mihindu Peraheras, are held in various parts of the country, with Mihintale being the best place to experience these illuminative and technicoloured pageants.
Among the many vivacious religious activities organised during this period, the most soulful experience would be the Sil Campaigns and Bodhi Poojas in temples in which the Buddhists participate and engage. These sessions are a thought-invoking period for the Buddhists whereby they meditate and recollect their thoughts.
Perhaps the most generous and fulfilling of this season’s activities would be the “Dansals” which are set up with the aim of giving-away food and beverage to people where the participation and engagement of all religious and ethnic groups in Sri Lanka can be seen. As Sri Lankan’s we take pride in these activities and it a true testament that showcases the true Sri Lankan spirit of generosity.
This colourful yet peaceful devotional festival is a highlight of any given year for locals and foreign visitors to Sri Lanka alike. Although there is so much you can read about the Poson festival, you have to see it to fully experience the splendour of it. Even if you are not in Anuradhapura during your visit to Sri Lanka, it is worth making a trip to Anuradhapura to experience the Poson Festival in full bloom and doing so is made quick with Cinnamon Air flights (daily scheduled flights as well as charter flights) from various locations in the island.