In addition to the normal ritualistic observances undertaken on a poya day, on Poson day devotees flock to Anuradhapura, the ancient capital city of the country, for it was there that Arahant Mahinda converted the then ruler, King Devanampiya Tissa, and his court to Buddhism, thereby setting in motion a series of events that finally made Sri Lanka the home of Theravada Buddhism.
Even today, on Poson Poya, Anuradhapura becomes the centre of Buddhist activity. Mihintale, the spot where the momentous encounter between the Elder and the King took place, accordingly receives the reverential attention of the devotees.
The two rituals of pilgrimage and the observance of the Eight Precepts are combined here. Processions commemorative of the event, referred to as Mihindu Peraheras, are held in various parts of the country.
The Poson Festival commemorates the conversion of Sri Lanka to Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. Illuminations and processions take place all over the country, but the best place to see the festival is at Mihintale.
It was here in this ancient city that Sri Lanka's king was converted to Buddhism by Arahat Maha Mahinda, the son of King Asoka (Emperor of India).
As the king was hunting deer, Mahinda appeared to him in a grove and asked him a riddle about a mango tree (Ambasthale means mango tree).
After the king had answered the riddle, he apparently agreed to follow the teachings of the Buddha and declared it state religion.
The Ambasthale Dagoba is a temple which towers above the city of Mihintale, accessible by 1840 steps and built over the very spot where Mahinda is said to have appeared before the king.
The Poson Festival natively referred to as Poson Poya in Sri Lanka celebrates the introduction of Buddhism to the country during the third century BC. It is a significant historical event where a majority practice Buddhism. The Mihintale rock plays a significant role during the Poson Festival which is held during the month of June, since it is said that it was in Mihintale where King Devanampiyatissa of Sri Lanka was converted to Buddhism by the Arahat Mahinda who came from India.
With this legend Mihintale has become the main site for festive activities during Poson and many locals and foreigners visit Mihintale during this season to perform religious rites as well as for leisure.
There are many religious activities organised during the period of Poson including Sil Campaigns and Bodhi Poojas in temples in which only Buddhists participate. Dansal which are set up with the aim of giving away food and beverage to people sees the participation of all religious and ethnic groups.
Generally a Dansala is organised by a group of people or an individual and various food such as rice and curry, sandwiches, boiled chickpeas as well as tea, coffee and fruit juices are served to those who visit the Dansala free of charge as a charitable act.There are several other rituals that come with Poson.
Devotional songs are sung by Buddhists in every nook and corner while Poson pandals which are colourfully lit illustrations from the 550 Jataka Katha or the 550 past life stories of the Lord Buddha can also be seen in plenty in every city of the country.
These pandals are beautiful sights glistening at night and many people from around the country come to view them in the late evening till past midnight.