June 2018


Reverence of Poson in Anuradhapura
June 2018




An ancient painting of the meeting of Arahant Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa in Mihintale (Painting in the Dambulla Cave Temple)
BT Images

The city of Anuradhapura is illuminated during the month of June in an enchanting grandeur specially on the full moon day known as ‘Poson Poya'.


Words: Nethu Wickramasinghe


Buddhists in Sri Lanka commemorate the arrival of the Arahant Mahinda (Mihindu Thero) to the island and his meeting with King Devanampiyatissa, with great reverence. The meeting, which took place on Poson Poya during the first ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura in the third century BC, marked the beginning of the nation's journey nurtured by Buddhisim. The Philosophy of the Buddha undoubtedly played an important role during the Anuradhapura period, influencing its culture, architecture and design.


Arahant Mahinda, the son of Indian Emperor Asoka notable in helping spread Buddhism across Asia, preached to King Devanampiyatissa at Mihintale. Although the forest covers in Mihintale served as the main hunting grounds of royalty, after the King's acceptance of Buddhism, along with the banning of hunting, and the concept of nonviolence according to the teachings of the Gautama Buddha, these very forests of Mihintale were declared a sanctuary as well as a monastery. Mihintale is in fact the world's oldest sanctuary, which has been declared to date.


In the same year, the daughter of Emperor Asoka, Sangamitta Theri, who was the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns, arrived in the island with a sapling belonging to the sacred Bodhi Tree in India under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi was planted by King Devanampiyatissa in 288 BC, and is acclaimed as the oldest tree planted by a human with a known date.

Sangamitta Theri, who was the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns, arrived in the island with a sapling belonging to the sacred Bodhi Tree in India under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment.


On the request of the Arahant Mahinda, King Devanampiyatissa built the Thuparamaya or "Stupa-aramaya", which is said to enshrine the right collar bone of the Gautama Buddha.This is notably the first Buddhist monument of any kind to be constructed in the island after the introduction of Buddhism. While the pillars have stood the test of time as the ancient stupa was destroyed completely due to foreign invasions, it is said to have been reconstructed by later kings. These historic pillars suggest the presence of a special Buddhist structure built around the stupa - the Vatadage.


Decades later, King Dutugemunu was pivotal in bringing back the island's sovereignty and reviving Buddhism after centuries of war and foreign invasions. Mirisawetiya is the first stupa constructed by the great king. Folklore has it that the stupa was constructed after the King witnessed a miracle in this particular location where his sceptre was rooted. He built the stupa surrounding this sceptre, which he adorned at the time of victory against the battle he raged with the Chola King Ellalan (Elara).


Ruwanweliseya is perhaps the most adorned stupa built by King Dutugemunu. According to legend this spectacular structure was built in the Mahamewuna Uyana, where an inscription on a stone slab made by King Devanampiyatissa was discovered by the men of King Dutugemunu. In it a prophecy was engraved by Arahant Mahinda that a great stupa would be built by a prodigious king where the stone slab was planted. Also known as the Ratnamaliseya, this ingenious work of architecture is one of the largest stupa found in the island and it is admired as one of the world's tallest monuments.

At the request of the Arahant Mahinda, King Devanampiyatissa built the Thuparamaya (Stupa-aramaya), in which is enshrined the right collar bone of Lord Buddha. This is notably the first Buddhist monument of any kind to be constructed in the island after the introduction of Buddhism.


Lovamahapaya or the bronze roofed brazen palace, built by King Dutugemunu, is said to have been a nine-storey mansion, which was able to house a thousand Buddhist monks. Symmetrically placed 1,600 stone pillars bear evidence to this magnificent creation, an edifice depicting architectural ingenuity that prevailed nearly two millennia ago.


The ancient city of Anuradhapura is acclaimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the presence of an unimaginable number of creations from religious monuments, to palaces, to man-made creations of irrigation that depict skills that once prevailed in ancient Sri Lanka. Home to the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and adjacent to Mihintale, it is the epicentre of Buddhist reverence in Sri Lanka.


On Poson Poya, to mark this spiritual milestone, streets in the sacred city of Anuradhapura, will be decorated with flags and colourful lanterns. The cynosure of veneration will be at Mihintale, where sathi pirith will be held for seven days (June 17-24, 2018) in lieu of the Poson Week. During this special Poson Week (June 24 - 30), the Poson National Festival will be held at Mihintale and the Maha Stupa will be grandly illuminated for the Aloka Pooja commemorating the spiritual meeting at this sacred site. The Poson Perahera will take place on June 26.


In Anuradhapura, devotees clad in white will gather bearing flowers and reciting Buddhist sutra while the air is filled with the aura of incense. The devotees will visit with great reverence the ancient monuments built by kings to symbolise the doctrine of the Great Teacher.

  • image01
    image01

    Aradhana Gala, where Arahant Mahinda delivered the 'Deva Aradanawa'
    Dushantha Wasala

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The sacred Bo Sapling being brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Theri (Painting at the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya)
    BT Images

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred site for Buddhists world over

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Thuparamaya, the first stupa built after the introduction of Buddhism to the island
    BT Images

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    The great Ruwanweliseya, built by King Dutugemunu

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Lovamahapaya, once a nine-storey mansion with a bronze roof
    BT Images

    Prev Next
  • image01
    image01

    Mirisawetiya stupa was constructed after King Dutugemunu witnessed a miracle
    Woshitha Abeysekara

    Prev Next