Significance of Poson Poya | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Significance of Poson Poya


The month of June is known as Poson in Sinhala. It is also known as Jettha. The Poya day is known as the Poson Poya. It is an extremely important Poya for Sri Lankan Buddhists for it is on this day that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahath Mahinda in the Third Century, in 308 BC.

This was the era of the great emperor Dharmasoka in India, the Buddha’s birth place. The third Buddhist Council was held in 236 BC at the Asokaramaya in Pataliputhra, North-Eastern India.

It was held under the patronage of emperor Asoka and was presided over by the scholar Arahath Moggaliputta Tissa Thera. All corrupt bhikkhus were banished from the Sasana. Emperor Asoka decreed that missions should be sent to nine countries to spread the Dhamma. Sri Lanka was one such country and the emperor’s son, the Arahath Mahinda brought Buddhism to the island.

From pre-Buddhist times, the Poya day in June had been a festive day in Sri Lanka. On this day, the King Devanampiyatissa who reigned from Anuradahapura was out hunting deer. The Arahath Mahinda with his retinue appeared to him on the top of the mountain now called Mihintale (meaning Mountain of Mahinda) and called him “Tissa, Tissa, come here.” The King was amazed to hear someone calling him by his first name Tissa and he stopped his hunting and looked to see who the speaker was. Arahath Mahinda then spoke to him explaining who they were. Convinced that theye were really Buddhist theras, the King went up and worshipped Arahath Mahinda. He asked the King a riddle to test his intelligence to see whether he could understand the Dhamma. According to the Mahawansa, the Arahath Mahinda then preached a sermon based on the ‘Chullahaththipadopama Sutra’ (the ‘Lesser Discourse' on the ‘Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint') and King Devanampiyatissa and forty thousand of his followers accepted the triple gem, the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and became Buddhists. The King declared Buddhism to be the state Religion.

The Arahath Mahinda was accompanied by the Arahaths Itthiya, Utthiya, Sambalaa, Bhaddhasala, Sumana Samanera and Upasaka Bhanduka. The ordination of Anagami Bhanduka Upasaka took place on this same day. He is the first to be ordained in the Buddhist history of Sri Lanka.

Arahath Mahinda then went to reside in the Nandana Garden, Anuradhapura where it was easy for him to spread the Dhamma. Later, his sister Bhikkhuni Sanghamiththa brought the Sacred Bo sapling to Sri Lanka.




Mihintale or the Mountain of Mahinda is where the Arahath Mahinda first preached the Dhamma to King Devanapiyatiss on a Poson poya day in the third century BC. It is 12 kilometres east of Anuradhapura. Other names for Mihintale are Missaka Pabbata, Cetiya Pabbata and Cetiya Giri.

The Ambasthale Dagoba (meaning mango), stands at the exact spot where Arahath Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa first met. This name was given because of the riddle which opened the discussion between Arahath Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa. To reach the Ambasthale Dagoba in 1840 step stairway to be climbed. It is lined on either side with araliya (frangipanni) trees.

A statue of King Devanampiyatissa marks the spot where he met Arahath Mahinda.

There are many ruins to be seen at Mihintale. It is said that one of the earliest hospitals in the history of mankind was at Mihintale. The theras’ refectory has enormous stone troughs that devotees filled with rice for them.The monastery’s relic shrine, has two stone slabs inscribed with rules relating to the relic shrine and the behaviour of those in charge of it.

To the east of Ambasthale Dagoba is the Aradhana Gala with steps carved from rock leading to it. There is also a railing to guard the steps. The Maha Seya is the largest dagoba at Mihintale and is believed to have been built to house Arahath Mahinda’s relics.

A flight of 100 steps leads to the Kantaka Chethiya, one of the oldest at Mihintale. Originally, it was more than 30m high and around 130m at the base. Four stone flower altars are surrounded by sculptures of dwarfs, geese and many other figures.

The Naga Pokuna (Snake pond), has been so named because of the five-headed cobra carved on the rock face of the pond.

These and many other interesting ruins can be seen at Mihintale.