The Poson Festival
Poson is a festival celebrated in Sri Lanka on the full moon day in
June. Poson Poya is noteworthy to Sri Lankan Buddhists as the day on
which Emperor Asoka's son, Arahant Mahinda, introduced Buddhism to the
island in the 3rd century B.C.
In addition to the normal ritualistic observances undertaken on a
poya day, on Poson day devotees flock to Anuradhapura, the ancient
capital city of the country, for it was there that Arahant Mahinda
converted the then ruler, King Devanampiya Tissa, and his court to
Buddhism, thereby setting in motion a series of events that finally made
Sri Lanka the home of Theravada Buddhism.
Even today, on Poson Poya, Anuradhapura becomes the centre of
Buddhist activity. Mihintale, the spot where the momentous encounter
between the Elder and the King took place, accordingly receives the
reverential attention of the devotees.
The two rituals of pilgrimage and the observance of the Eight
Precepts are combined here. Processions commemorative of the event,
referred to as Mihindu Peraheras, are held in various parts of the
The Poson Festival commemorates the conversion of Sri Lanka to
Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. Illuminations and processions take place
all over the country, but the best place to see the festival is at
It was here in this ancient city that Sri Lanka's king was converted
to Buddhism by Arahat Maha Mahinda, the son of King Asoka (Emperor of
As the king was hunting deer, Mahinda appeared to him in a grove and
asked him a riddle about a mango tree (Ambasthale means mango tree).
After the king had answered the riddle, he apparently agreed to
follow the teachings of the Buddha and declared it state religion.
The Ambasthale Dagoba is a temple which towers above the city of
Mihintale, accessible by 1840 steps and built over the very spot where
Mahinda is said to have appeared before the king.
The Poson Festival natively referred to as Poson Poya in Sri Lanka
celebrates the introduction of Buddhism to the country during the third
century BC. It is a significant historical event where a majority
practice Buddhism. The Mihintale rock plays a significant role during
the Poson Festival which is held during the month of June, since it is
said that it was in Mihintale where King Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka
was converted to Buddhism by the Arahat Mahinda who came from India.
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.
There are many religious activities organised during the period of
Poson including Sil Campaigns and Bodhi Poojas in temples in which only
Buddhists participate. Dansal which are set up with the aim of giving
away food and beverage to people sees the participation of all religious
and ethnic groups.
Generally a Dansala is organised by a group of people or an
individual and various food such as rice and curry, sandwiches, boiled
chickpeas as well as tea, coffee and fruit juices are served to those
who visit the Dansala free of charge as a charitable act.There are
several other rituals that come with Poson.
Devotional songs are sung by Buddhists in every nook and corner while
Poson pandals which are colourfully lit illustrations from the 550
Jataka Katha or the 550 past life stories of the Lord Buddha can also be
seen in plenty in every city of the country.
These pandals are beautiful sights glistening at night and many
people from around the country come to view them in the late evening
till past midnight.