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Poson Poya

Poson Poya

It is a time when the Buddhists of Sri Lanka come together, for one of the holiest of days in their calendar to mark the moment in history when Buddhist teachings arrived on Sri Lanka’s shores. It was on this date – referred to as Poson Poya – when Buddhism was officially established as a doctrine/religion of the country. This year, Poson Poya falls on the 7th of June.mihintaleapura-18ed4
While the entire country is lit up with thousands of oil lamps glimmering from clay pots scattered across homes, shops and offices, it is these two historical cities – Anuradhapura and Mihintale – that are truly a spectacular sight. Up to a week prior to, and after, Poson Poya, the two cities are infused with an atmosphere of spirituality. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny oil lamps line doors and windows, or are carried by the thronging crowds of Buddhists who converge to participate in the special religious services held to mark the day. Similarly, these cities are further brought to life with numerous lanterns and pandals that are specially put up for the season.
On the day, pilgrims gather at Buddhist temples across the country to Observe Sil (“Atamasthanaya”) – A practice where followers wear the most simplest of white clothes, and take time out for a period of reflection, on both the self, and on the teachings of the Buddha. This period of self reflection is said to bring one closer to detaching from worldly pleasures and coming closer to attaining Nirvana. Devotees also gather to listen and understand the teachings of the Buddha or “Dhamma”, through sermons and preachings by senior Buddhist monks.
The temples are beautifully lit up, with hundreds of oil lamps that form an integral part in Buddhist worship – the offering of light, “Aloka Pooja”. This forms an integral part in Buddhist worship, and is symbolic of dispelling darkness and ignorance through light.
Best places to observe Poson Poya
Anuradhapura:  Located approximately 206 Km from Colombo, Anuradhapura was once the ancient capital of the country, and city is dotted with numerous well preserved ruins from Sri Lanka’s ancient civilisation. The city is considered sacred to the Buddhist world, and is home to the second most sacred place to Buddhists – the Bodhi Tree – allegedly a sapling from the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Incidentally, this is also the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world. Also located in this former stronghold is the country’s largest structure from the ancient world – the Jetavana stupa. In its original form, the Jetvana Stupa was one of the tallest stupas in the world and is the largest brick building ever built – comprising over 93,300,000 baked bricks. The city is a popular tourist destination because of these and more historical monuments.144534268_3766934c3b
Mihinthale: 11 km to the north east of Anuradhapura is Mihintale, of enormous spiritual significance to the Sinhalese, since this is where Buddhism was first introduced on the island. As a result, this is another very special location where Poson Poya is celebrated, as the city becomes vibrant with thousands of Buddhist flags, earthen oil lamps, and colourful paper lanterns to commemorate the introduction of Buddhism to Lanka by Arahath Mahinda – son of the great emperor Asoka. While in Mihintale, also visit the Ambasthala Dagoba, or the Mango Tree Stupa, which marks the spot where Sri Lankan King Devanampiyatissa first met Arahath Mahinda.

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