Poson Poya | Sunday Observer

Poson Poya

The friendship between an Indian emperor and a Sinhala monarch led to the biggest revolution in the island’s spirituality and lifestyle in the third century. Though they never met, Indian Emperor Dharmasoka (Asoka) and King Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka maintained a bond of friendship with each other.

The month of June is known as Poson in Sinhala and the poya day or holy day of the month is known as Poson Poya. On this day Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahath Mahinda in the Third Century, in the year 308 BC. Thus, Poson Poya is very important to Sri Lankan Buddhists who venerate it greatly.

After the attainment of Nirvana by the Buddha, many bhikkhus became corrupt thus defiling the Sasana. Emperor Dharmasoka wanted to cleanse the Sasana and get rid of the corrupt bhikkhus. Thus, he made arrangements to hold the third great Buddhist Council in 236 BC at the Asokaramaya in Pataliputhra , Northeastern India. It was presided over by the scholar Arahath Moggaliputta Tissa Thera.

On the completion of the Council, Emperor Asoka sent missions to spread the Dhamma in nine countries including Sri Lanka. Emperor Asoka’s son, the Arahath Mahinda brought Buddhism to the island.

King Devanampiyatissa was out hunting deer on Poson Poya day which had been a festive day from pre Buddhist times. He was amazed to hear someone calling to him saying “Tissa, Tissa come here. It was Arahath Mahinda atop the mountain now known as Mihintale.

The Arahath Mahinda tested the King’s intelligence by asking a riddle. This was to see whether the King would be able to comprehend the Dhamma as preached by the Buddha.

According to the Mahawansa, the Arahath Mahinda preached a sermon based on the ‘Chullahaththipadopama Sutra’ (the ‘Lesser Discourse on the ‘Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint) to the King and the forty thousand followers with him. All of them embraced Buddhism and the King declared Buddhism to be the State Religion.

Later, Arahath Mahinda’s sister brought the sacred bo sapling from Buddha Gaya to Sri Lanka.

The place where Arahath Mahinda first preached the Dhamma to King Devanampiyatissa is known as Mihintale 12km metres East from Anuradhapura and is greatly venerated by Buddhists.

On Poson Poya day thousands of devotees flock to Mihintale.

The Ambasthale Dagoba, stands at the exact site where Arahath Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa first met.