Category: Holidays » Buddhist holidays
Theravada Buddhism is the religion of about 70% of the population of Sri Lanka. The island has been a center of Buddhist scholarship and learning since the introduction of Buddhism in the third century BCE producing eminent scholars such as Buddhaghosa and preserving the vast Pāli Canon. Throughout most of its history, Sinhalese kings have played a major role in the maintenance and revival of the Buddhist institutions of the island. During the 19th century, a modern Buddhist revival took place on the island which promoted Buddhist education and learning. There are around 6,000 Buddhist monasteries on Sri Lanka with approximately 15,000 monks.
Poson full-moon poya day (Poson Poya Day / Poson Festival) is celebrated the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC, a festival of great historical and religious significance celebrated island-wide by Buddhists. Poson, held on the full moon day of June, commemorates the occasion over 2,000 years ago when Arahat Mahinda, son of Emperor Asoka of India, converted King Devanampiyatissa to Buddhism. The main center of celebration is Mihintale, the ancient monastic complex where the royal missionary monk Mahinda perched the first sermon to the ruling king and at Anuradhapura the ancient capital, to which large crowd of pilgrims converge. Mass religious observances, illuminations pageants are part of the celebrations.
For Buddhists, this hallowed day of Poson is second only to Vesak in terms of importance. Although Poson is celebrated throughout the island, the major ceremonies are to be found in Anuradhapura and Mihintale. Long lines of devotees dressed in white climb the many steps to the top of the Mihintale hill first to the temple, and then to the dagobas that lie adorn the nearby hillocks. In addition, many devotees climb to the very top of the rock, to the spot where Arahat Mahinda delivered his initial discourses.
Poson Poya is celebrated annually with great fervour throughout the island but particularly in Mihinthalaya where Mahinda Thero first put his foot to preach the word of Lord Buddha.This is why Mihinthalaya is called the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. With the establishment of Bhikku Sasanaya all other elements of a civilized society began to emerge with the art of writing, art, architecture, river civilization, religious rituals in song and dance forms, literature, all with royal patronage.
Many religious activities are organized during this poson period in Sri Lanka such as Sil campaigns, Bodhi Poojas, Dansalas (Freely giving foods, coffee, tea from people), Poson devotional songs, Poson pandols (thoran) and lanterns. Lot of Poson pandols and Poson Lanterns are making Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. In Poson many temples are filled with Atasil devotees and pilgrims all over Sri Lanka to mark this great event. The devout, clad in pure white with no make-up or jewelry,make their way to the temple, to spend the next twenty four hours in quiet contemplation.
While the rest of the village, gather at the temple grounds after sunset to participate in lesser religious activities, like reading of holy books, or listen to the saffron clad monk relate ancient stories from Lord Buddha’s previous lives. During the Poson Festival, the selling of alcohol and flesh is usually prohibited, with abattoirs also being closed. A festival of great piety and sanctity which focuses on the virtual of compassion to all living creature,it is also one of much colour and gaiety, with street, homes and public places decorated with beautiful and finely decorated hand-made paper lanterns small and big and glittering with illuminations, pandals depicting the different occurrences in the life of the Buddha or his previous births.
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