The Navam Poya | Sunday Observer

The Navam Poya

17 February, 2019


The Navam is the eleventh month of the Buddhist calendar. According to our normal (Gregorian) calendar it is February, the second month of the year.

The Poya Day in the month of Navam is known as the Navam Poya. It is an important day for Buddhists as the Gautama Buddha appointed his two chief disciples Arahaths Sariyuth (Sariputta) and Mugalan (Moggallana) on a Navam Poya Day. This led to some confusion among the other monks and they began to discuss as to why these two were chosen. The Buddha saw this with his divine eye and explained the reasons for this tracing the lives of the two Arahaths in their previous births.It was also on a Navam Poya day that the Buddha also proclaimed for the first time a Code of Ethics and Conduct for the Maha Sangha (Prathimoksha Ovada). The third important event the Navam Poya Day was the Buddha's announcing his impending Parinirvana (attainment of Nirvana) in three months time.


The Gangaramaya


The Gangaramaya is an iconic temple in Colombo near the Beira Lake with a part of it standing on the Lake itself.

The land on which the temple stands originally had another temple named Padowthota Ganagaramya, which was built by a 19 century shipping merchant named Don Bastian de Silva Jayasuriya Goonawardana Mudaliyar for Ven. Matara Sri Dharmarama Thera.

The present Ganagaramaya was established by Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera and after him Ven. Devundara Sri Jinaratana Thera became the Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya and made it not only a temple known internationally but also an internationally reputed Centre of Learning. The present Chief Incumbent Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara or Podi Hamuduruwo has worked tirelessly to develop the Gangaramaya to what it is today. It is more than a temple, it is a seat of learning and a cultural centre as well.

The temple has a stupa, a bodhi tree, vihara ge, a three-storied pirivena, library and museum. The Seemamalaka, for bhikkhus located over the Beira Lake was designed by world renowned Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa.

The architecture of the temple is a mix of Sri Lankan, Indian, Thai and Chinese.

There are Buddha and Bodhisatva statues from all over the world as well as statues of monks. Elaborate carvings and beautiful paintings adorn the temple while the museum has a varied collection of items including valuable antiques. The library has a wide range of books. The temple elephant is named Ganga.



Arahath Sariyuth and Arahath Mugalan


Arahath Sariyuth was born in the time of the Buddha Anomadassi and his name was Saradha. He inherited great wealth after his parents died and had a following of around 74,000 followers. He was a Good Samaritan who gave his wealth to the poor and needy. He practised meditation and developed his mental faculties to attain the Attasamapatti or the eight attainments. He had a good friend Siriwaddana who later becme the Arahath Mugalan during Gautama Buddha’s time.

Saradha heard the Buddha Anomadassi preach on the importance of offering seats and flowers to him. At the end of the sermon all except Saradha became Arahaths. Saradha obtained varam or permission from Buddha Anomadassi to become a Chief Disciple of the future Gautama Buddha.

Saradha’s friend Siriwaddana gave alms to Buddha Anomadassi for seven days and aspired to become the Gautama Buddha’s other Chief Disciple in the future.

During the epoch of the Gautama Buddha, Saradha was born in a village near Rajagaha named Upatissa to a Brahmin lady named Sari and was called Upatissa as he was from an important family in the village. It is also said he was known as Sariputta (son of Sari). Siriwaddana was born to a Brahmin lady named Moggalli also from an important family in the village of Kolita and was named Kolita for this same reason. Both Upatissa and Kolita were born on the same day and their families had been friends for generations.

The two boys grew upto be well educated and were the best of friends. Each had a following of five hundred youth.

In Rajagaha, a hill festival called the Giragasamajja was organised and Upatissa and Kolita went to enjoy the fun. But while watching this they came to realise the impermanance of life and became disillusioned with life as they knew it. They decided to become ascetics and joined an ascetic named Sanjaya of the Paribbajaka (Wanderers) sect but did not achieve their goal.

At this time Uppatissa met the Arahat Assaji who preached the Dhamma to him and on hearing the first two lines of the stanza he attained sottapatthi, the first stage of spiritual realisation. He then went in search of his friend Kolita and gave him the good news. He too having heard the stanza attained realisation.

Both the friend s went to the Veluvanaramaya where the Gautama Buddha was and entered the Buddha Sasana . They were known as Sariyuth and Mugalan in the Sasana.Within a week, Mugalan became an Arahath and thereafter was known as Arahath Mugalan. A little later, Sariyuth became an Arahath while listening to the Vedana Pariggan Sutta and was henceforth known as Arahath Sariyuth.

On a Navam Poya Day the Buddha named Arahath Sariyuth and Arahath Mugalan as his Chief Disciples. Arahath Sariyuth was given the title Dharmasenadhipathi and was the right hand disciple while Arahath Mugalan became Dharmapurohita and was the left hand disciple.

The Gangaramaya Navam Perahera

Established in 1979 by Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara Thera, the Chief Incumbent the Gangaramaya Navam perehera is a colourful pageant with traditional dancers, whip crackers, fire dancers, stilt walkers and many gaily caparisoned elephants . It is held on two days and coincides with the Navam full moon day. A majestic tusker carries the casket of Sacred relics. Hundreds of people take part from all over the island and thousands line the streets on which the perehera parades. The Gangaramaya Navam Perehera is also a great tourist attraction.