Poson and Mihintale

Poson in June marks the historic occasion of Buddhism being brought to Sri Lanka centuries ago. It is a special day for Buddhists in the Island.
Poson
By Time Out editors |
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Poson is tied up intricately with the Mihintale mountain. It was here at Mihintale that King Devanampiyatissa, out hunting, met Arhant Mahinda, son of great Emperor Asoka of India and a Buddhist emissary. Since this day in 250 BC, the country would embrace the Dhamma and be moulded by it.

The mountain is engulfed by pilgrims on the full moon day of June, also called Poson. The grand staircase that climbs seemingly endlessly, wide enough for almost fifty people, becomes packed with ardent devotees, dressed in white in tandem with the flowering frangipani trees, ascending the 1840 steps to the topmost stage of the rock. This year the National Poson Festival is to be held in Mihintale on June 8, when up to a million pilgrims are expected to mingle. Come night, the ‘Aloka Pooja’ or the offering of lights will illuminate the whole mountain, its various peaks and outcrops glittering or glowing.

Poson is marked by all the religious acts that signify Vesak, including lanterns, decorations and dansal or free food stalls. There are however two traditions that can only be seen on this day, in Sri Lanka. Replicas of Mihintale are fashioned, sometimes in cute miniature, sometimes with larger-than-life figures. On a crafted rock the effigies of the king, the Arahant and his retinue, and the deer that was being hunted, are all positioned frozen-on-the-spot. A branch of drooping mango leaves hangs over the whole scene, reminding that the mountain was a mango orchard.

The Mihindu perahera or procession is a tradition to pay gratitude to Arhant Mahinda, organised by pre-schools, schools or villages. An inevitable (and the main) part is a float, with effigies of the Arahant Mahinda and the retinue who are at the very heart of this sacred day for Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

The Mihindu perahera or procession is a tradition to pay gratitude to Arhant Mahinda, 
organised by pre-schools, schools or villages. An inevitable (and the main) part is a float, with 
effigies of the Arahant Mahinda and the retinue who are at the very heart of this sacred day for Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

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