Today is duruthu poya
The significance of Duruthu Poya:
The Buddha tames the Yakkhas
Duruthu is considered as the first month of the Sinahala Calendar
Notable feature, this year 2009, is Durutu Full Moon Poya falls on
Thursday, December 31, 2009. Incidently, this years month of December
marks two Full Moon Poya Days. Unduvap Full Moon poya fell on Tuesday,
December 1, 2009.
preaches after taming the Yakkhas
The most important significance of Durutu Full Moon Poya Day, marks
Gautama Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka. Twenty five centuries back,
nine months after his Enlightenment, the Blessed One visited Mahiyangana,
in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka. His mission was to restore peace, to
create a state of freedom from war or violence.
The old chronicle “Mahavamsa” records and states “To free the
beautiful land from the evil doing Yakkas”. On his first visit to Sri
Lanka, the Awakened one, arrived at a spot, where now stands the
When the Great Teacher the Buddha was to depart after the conversion
of the Yakkas of Bintenna, Mahiyaganae area for which purpose he had
arrived, Sumana - a titular deity who possess a certain title or
position but no real authority of this Resion, requested the Buddha to
give him Deity Sumana, a souvenir to which he could pay his offerings
Thereupon, the Gautama Buddha, the Great Master, offered Deity Sumana,
some locks of hair. He placed it in an urn as a valuable Relic in the
The Battle gongs were sounded. The battle drums beaten. The yakkas
poised for combat. Then they noticed a stranger in Yellow robes Buddha
appearing in the midst, the Yakkahs fled to the nearby jungles. Later, a
few of them returned. They listened to Buddha’s Discourse. They laid
aside their battle axes paid reverenee to Gautama Buddha. Having
preached his message of PEACE, restored calm among the Yakkhas, the
Incomparable One, returned to Jambudipa, or India.
Anyway, the focus of Duruthu Festival is centred round Kelaniya, the
hollowed gained where the annual Duruthu Perahera is conducted by
Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. The historic Vihara stands on a small mound
just by the Southern Bank of Keleni River.
After Buddha passed away at Kusinara, in India, the Arahat Sarabhu
Maha Thera, brought the collar-bone Relic of Gautama Buddha, and
deposited it in the Mahiyangana Thupa. The Prince Uddachulabhaya,
brother of king Devanampiyatissa, further enlarged the stupa.
Buddha, the Exalted One’s visits to Sri Lanka was considered as one
of the most unparalled events in the history of the island. The
documentary sources Deepavamsa and Mahavamsa records the visits of the
The advent of Buddhism took place in 247 B.C, with the arrival of
Emperor Asoka’s only son Arahat Mahinda. In the pre-Mahindian history,
the blessing to this beautiful island was Buddha’s first visit for
Mahiyagane in the 9th month of his Enlightenment, on Duruthu Full Moon
According to the ancient chronicles, the Buddha’s second visit was to
Nagadipa, in the Jaffna District. The Awakened One, Buddha, visited
Nagadipa, to settle a dispute between Mahodara and Chulodara, uncle and
nephew respectively, who were about to wase war, to gain the ownership
of a gem studded thrine. Buddha, saw this and arrived in Nagadipa,
emphasizing the value of harmony and ill-effects of hatred and settled
the dispute without blood-shed.
The chronicles states that Northern area in Sri Lanka had been ruled
by the Sinhala kings of Anuradhapura. Since the reign of King
Devanampiyatissa, people in Nagadipa and around became devotees of
As a result and number of Buddhist Temples had come up in this area.
In HIS third visit, HE, arrived in Kelaniya.
It is stated that king Maniakkikha of Kelaniya, met Gautama Buddha,
on his second visit to Sri Lanka (Nagadipa) and he was anxious Buddha to
visit his kingdom Keleniya. Through love and compassion to all Sri
Lankan’s, The Great Master, Thathajatha arrived at Kelaniya on a Vesak
Full Moon Poya Day. Subsequently, the Buddha arrived at Sri Pada, at the
invitation of Deity Sumana Saman.
Royal Patronage to Mahiyangana Stupa
King Dutugemunu (BC 161-137) with his four fold Army consisting of
Elephants, Cavalry, Chariots and Infantry passing through Gutthalaka, (Buttala)
and Malayarata Forests country arrived at Mahiyangana, Modera
Aluthnuwara, where Dutugemunu faced his first encounter with Chattha,
whom he defeated.
When the king saw the great damage to Mahiyangana Stupa, he renovated
Voharatissa (204-226 AD), built a Parasol Mahiyangana stupa. Sena II
(885-896), Kassapa IV (896-913), Vijayabahu I (1059-1114) Parakramabahu
I (1410-1468) were some of the kings who gave their Royal Patronage to
the improvement, renovations and developments of Mahiyangana Maha Seya.
Sixteen important Buddhist places of worship
The Sri Lankan Buddhists consider 16 important places of Buddhist
worship. The devotees recite a stanza. In this stanza or verse
Mahiyangana chetiya is ranked as the number one place of worship. It
Thatha Kalara Gamakan
Ethe Solasa Tanani
Ahan Vandami Muddana.
On the blessed day of Duruthu Poya, the devotees who flock to
Mahiyangana Chaitya, will pay their homage to the blessed one reciting
the stanza a given below.
Yakkhe Dhamesi Nija
Jane Thahi Nihithi
Let all of us adjust our way of life according to the Five precepts,
abstain from destroying living beings; abstain from taking things not
given; abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from false speech,
abstain from taking anything that causes intoxication or heedlessness,
they can live happily and peacefully in this world, and on other hand,
help others to live likewise.
A person without virtue not only endangers himself but also others
around him. Every Buddhist should observe these five precepts in order
to elevate himself morally and spiritually. Remember, morality is the
first step in the path towards eternal bliss.
It is the basic spiritual foundation. Without this base, there can be
no human progress and spiritual advancement.
The teachings of Buddha are deeply imbued with the spirit of Peace.
The two cannot be separated. To live a life free of violence, fear and
hatred is the wish of the vast majority of ordinary people; peaceful
ways, intentions characterize the way of life of those aspiring to
enlightenment, and enlightened person is described as a stase of Peace
and Nibbana as the Peaceful state.
Buddha’s Teachings contain many other states closely related to
peace. With the dawn of 2010, let us all aspire calmness (sama),
Tranquillity, (Samatha), Contentment (Santhutthi), Harmlessness
(Ahimsa), Non-violence (Avihimsa) and Peacefulness (Vipassana).
Buddhism - A religion of tolerance
Rev. Joseph Wain, once remarked that buddhism taught a life of beauty
and as a consequence, it was a religion of Tolerance. It was the most
charitable system under the Sun. Never and nowhere had blood been shed
for its propagation. It has never persecuted or maltreated those whose
beliefs were different. The Awakened one, Gautama Buddha, taught man to
beautify the today and sanctity the now.
From Glimpses of world history
According to the glimpses of world history written by Indian Prime
Minister Pandit Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Buddhism is the religion of the
greatest number of people in the world and Prince Gautama Siddhartha,
was the greatest son of India. Today, Buddhism, is one of the major
religions of the world. I presume, there are about six hundred million
of Buddhists in the world.
The Bhikkhu Sangha, and Buddhist Societies
The Bhikkhus play a very vital and significant role in Buddhism in
India. However, there is a shortage of monks qualified in local
languages and many newly built Viharas have no resident monks. The Sri
Lankan monks in India on long duration Visas are only marketing pilgrim
rests and nothing is being done to propagate Buddhism or to raise the
living standards of the illiterate depressed classes in India.
This is very well seen in a newly built pilgrim rest by a Sri Lankan
monk, when pilgrims come there hundreds of children in rags bunch around
the buses begging for a paisa. This centre, while maintaining the
pilgrim rest, could devote some of the earnings to build a school for
children or an orphanage to the parentless children or the
under-privileged children rolling in inhuman poverty.
The Buddha statue in Kande Viharaya.
Picture by Lakshan Maduranga
The revival of buddhism movement in India suffered a severe setback
with the passing away of many eminent Indian Buddhist monks, such as,
Ven. D. Sasanasiri (1966), Ven. K. Sirinivasa (1968), Ven. U.
Chandramani (1972), Ven. Jagdish Kashyap (1976), Ven. Dhammarakkhita
(1977), Ven. N. Jinaratana (1983), Ven. Metiwala Sangharatana Maha Thera
(1985), Sri Lankan monk who built the Lankaramaya, opposite
Jetavanaramaya, in Sravasti (Uttar Pradesh) and who was involved in the
Indian Freedom Movement with the Indian leaders like Shri Jawaharlal
Nehru and whose trip to India for permanent settlement in the late 1930s
was fully financed by the aunt late Mrs.
Theodora Dias Nagahawatte -Wijeyanayake of Metiwela, Hikkaduwa. Ven.
Sangharatana, on his last visit to Sri Lanka, confided to me that in the
1930s, when he was resident at Ranpath Vihara, Metiwela, Hikkaduwa, on
an evening he called on the residence of my aunt, whom he referred to as
‘Overseer Hamine’ as he was the wife of the rich P. W. D. Overseer my
late uncle, Wehelle Mudalige Charles Wijenayake, and told her that he
had the intention of visiting India to set up a Vihara at Sravasti and
live there permanently.
Having partaken of the ‘gilanpasa’ offered by the lady, he took his
leave of her. She then offered him a sheaf of betel and he put it inside
his arm-bag. On reaching the Vihara he casually took the sheaf of betel
and he out it inside his arm-bag. On reaching the Vihara he casually
took the sheaf of betel out of the bag to find to his total surprise Rs.
25,000 in the betel leaves.
He had immediately gone back to the lady and had told her that he
found this money accidentally put by her. The lady had said that it was
not an accident but to meet all his expenses, on his intended visit to
India and construction of the Vihara at Sravasthi.
Ven. Metiwela Sangharatana Mahathera, ordained the young Australian
at Sri Lankaramaya at Sravasthi under the name Sravasthi Dhammika and
now called Ven. Sravasthi Dhammika, who has founded the Buddha Dhamma
Mission Society in Singapore and now resident there a versatile author.
He wrote the first picture story book Mahakarunika Katha in English and
this writer had it translated from English to Sinhala and published by
him for free distribution.
The other monks who passed away are Ven. U. Dhammaratana (1985),
Bhadant Anand Kausalyayana (1988), Ven. L. Ariyawansa (1994), Ven.
Anandamitra Maha Thera (1999), Ven. Pandit Dharmadhar Mahasthavira
(2000) and Ven. S. Medhankar (2001). The three most senior living
Buddhist monks in India are Ven. Acharya Buddharakkhita, the founder of
Bangalore Maha Bodhi Society and an author too (born 1922), Ven. Shasan
Rashmi (born 1922), Saranath, Ven.
Dharmapala Maha Thera (born 1925), Kolkata. Of the bhiikhunis is
Mahaupasika Dr. Sithipol of Thailand, who has set of Vipassana
Meditation centres around the world and the largest in a beautiful grove
adjoining Jetavanaramaya, Sravasthi, with a hall where around 5000
meditators could participate in meditation retreats.
With the aim of augment the availability of trained bhikkhus a
Monastic Training Institute, has been set up by Ven. Acharya
Buddharakkhita, the founder of the Bangalore Maha Bodhi Society. He also
has set up a fully equipped hospital for burn victims and transferred it
to the Karnataka State Government for providing free medical care.
Buddha’s visit to Mahiyangana
Deepawansa, Samanthapasadika and Mahavamsa the three great ancient
chronicles written 900, 1000 and 1100 years respectively after the Maha
parinibbana of the Buddha Sakyamuni Gautama, give a detailed account of
his sacred visits to this Dhammadweepa and it is very interesting to
note that it has developed a tradition unique in its origin and
advancement of Buddhism throughout.
It is recorded when Thathagatha visited the island he foresaw that
the doctrine He discovered and preached in Jambudweepa will be preserved
in its pristine purity by the devotees in Sri Lanka.
It is true that Sri Lanka stands as a well renowned country as
Dharmadweepa since it’s inception here when Buddhism had already
declined in its place of birth. Sri Lanka had the good fortune of being
blessed with the presence of the living Buddha - the most sacred event
in human history.
Not once but thrice on various occasions. These sacred visits has
preceded the introduction of Buddhism by Thera Mahinda in 247 BC. In the
pre-Mahinda era the greatest blessing to the island was Buddha’s first
visit to Mahiyangana in the 9th month after the enlightenment.
The above mentioned chronicles reveal that the Buddha arrived in the
Mahanagavana, the splendid park in Mahiyangana, on the right bank of
river Mahaweli. What was the area like when Buddha arrived could be
concluded by the descriptions made by the Britishers the Imperial
masters centuries later. Richard Brooke in 1832 the first Englishman to
explore Mahaweli which is according to him was the biggest river in
Mahinyangana - Location
“It flows through most of the wildest and also some of the most
beautiful areas in Ceylon. The country through which Mahaweli flows
beyond doubt extensively cultivated and any casual observer visiting,
must be surprised at the vast manual labour spent in the construction of
canals and tanks now totally neglected. One of the main high ways in
Kandyan times followed the course of Mahaweli eastward from the capital
to Alutnuwara. It is said that Alutnuwara or Mahiyangana was an
important river port. Pre-Christian Sinhala literature poetry and
history gives it great importance. Then one can just imagine how
Mahaweli-Mahiyangana must have been during Buddha time.
How Yakka tribe was subdued
Early chronicles provide definite evidence of the tribes living here.
The island at the time of Buddha’s visit was inhabited by Yakkas and
Nagas referred to as Amanussa. Here the reference may probably be to the
primitive state of civilization in the island. Buddha himself is said to
have rid the island of the Yakkas and made it suitable for human
habitation. Because as mentioned earlier, Buddha was aware that in this
island his teaching was to flourish.
However, the sudden appearance of the Perfect One in yellow attire
radiating the glow (Budu res) the Yakkas who were overwhelmed with their
rough behaviour, had thrown away their weapons and listened to Buddha
and finally they have had the good luck to be blessed with the teachings
of the Buddha.
They have now become good and useful citizens. Chronicles reveal how
the Great Master arrived at Mahiyangana on Duruthu full moon day by air
to restore peace among the war stricken Yakkas who were driven away to
Giri Dripa. Again it is in the Vijaya episode that we hear much of the
Yakkas much later.
The First Stupa
Subsequently, He preached Dhamma to a great gathering of gods. God
Mahasumana of the Sumanakuta mountain (the guardian god) who on this
occasion attained the state of Sotapanna, after listening to the sermons
of the Buddha requested Him, to give something to worship, before his
departure. He gave him a handful of hair from His head as an object of
God Mahasumana placed it in a golden casket and later enshrined in a
stupa embedded with blue stones built at the place where the Great
Master was seated at Mahiyangana, considered the most sanctified spot,
in the vicinity of Mahaweli.
This was built to the height of seven riyanas (a measure). This
so-called Mahiyangana Chetiya is given much significance not only
because it is the first stupa built in Sri Lanka, but also it is the
first one built by a divine being on the spot where the Buddha made his
first visit to the island.
This had been improved at various stages. After the Parinibbana of
the Buddha and the distribution of the sacred relics the remaining neck
relic (Greeva Dathu) was brought to Sri Lanka by Arahat Sasabu a pupil
of Ven. Sariputta and enshrined in Mahiyangana stupa raising it to 12
riyanas. Later it was built to a height of 30 riyanas by king
Uddaculabhaya, King Devanampiyatissa’s brothers’ son who covered it over
Still later king Dutugamunu built a mantle chetiya over it completing
it to a height of 80 riyanas which exists to this day as an amazing
marvel, and a landmark gift to Buddhist heritage. Today if has become
the most sanctified and venerated place of worship by the devotees and
also a national treasure.
Curbing the tribesmen
Even before the birth of Buddhism, people in Asian countries counted
days from the Full Moon day (Poya day). The calendar was called the
lunar calendar. Asian ascetics in the ancient times made it a practice
to cease worldly pursuits and engage themselves in religious activities
on full moon days. Not only the full moon day, even the moonless day (Amavaka)
was considered a day to engage in religious rituals.
preaches to the Yakkha tribe
The Buddha also adopted this practice and from this developed the
preaching of the Dhamma, and chanting of Suttas in monasteries and
temples on Full Moon Poya days. At a time when there was no electricity,
people found it easy to visit temples in the nights of full moon poya.
When the venerable Rahat Mahinda Thera introduced Buddhism to this
country in 247 BC he also introduced the Poya tradition.
Even today Buddhists observe Sil and abstain from sins on these days.
Owing to its significance in the religious life of the local Buddhists,
all the full-moon days have been declared public holidays by the
government. There are four Poyas in Buddhist Calendar - Full Moon Day,
Moonless Day, and two Mid Poyas.
Another noteworthy fact about this day is that every full-moon poya
has assumed some ritualistic significance in one way or the other. While
the two most important poyas for Sri Lankans are Vesak and Poson Poyas,
Duruthu Poya is also celebrated by them as an important day.
The first poya in the year, Duruthu Poya, falls in the month of
January. But in 2010 it is advanced to December 31st 2009, Unduwap and
Duruthu, both the poyas falling in December. When the New year dawns on
January 1st Duruthu full moon will be shining in the mid heaven.
The most notable incident to Sri Lanka Buddhists associated with
Duruthu Poya is that the Buddha arrived in Sri Lanka nine months after
he attained Enlightenment. There are no exact pre historical evidence to
prove Buddha’s arrival. Hence professor Paranawithana disputed this. But
it is recorded in historical chronicals such as Chulawamsa, Deepawamsa
There had been a tribe of people called Yakkhas living in Mahiyangana
situated in Badulla district, in Uva Province. According to chronicles
Buddha came to Sri Lanka to tame these Yakkhas and to free the country
from them. One school of thought says they were not devils in the Normal
meaning of Yakkhas.
They were strong people with a rough appearance and tough in
qualities, worshipping demons. But some others think they were devils,
not human beings. There were also Nagas who were more civilized and
pleasant. They worshipped Nagas (serpents).
Buddha realizing that his “Sasana” will be strongly rooted and
conserved in Sri Lanka came here to clear the island from these devils.
They were concentrated in the present Mahiyangana area on the banks of
Mahaweli river. When for the first time Buddha arrived in Mahiyangana,
they were reluctant to welcome Buddha. They tried hard to chase him
Buddha with his super humane powers created wind, rain, and darkness
and performed other “prathiharyas”. Yakkhas were feared and astonished.
They were startled on seeing a rare behaviour of the visitor in yellow
robes in front of their very eyes. Buddha was able to frighten and
overpower them. Then the Buddha was offered a little space to lay his
mat (Pathkadaya). Buddha sat on the mat and created a fire around him.
Yakkhas were frightened and they moved away from the Buddha. Buddha
manifested a land called Giri (small mountain), to put the Yakkhas on
that island and expelled them from Mahiyangana.
There were another tribe of people called “Devas’, not Gods according
to the popular meaning of Deva, Although the Sinhala meaning of Deva is
God, the local Devas did not possess divine powers of Gods.
They were also human beings living in ancient Sri Lanka, but had more
soft, intelligent and charismatic qualities in them and were more
devoted than the ordinary people.
After Yakkhas have been chased away, Devas (gods) came in place of
them. On realizing that they were more intelligent and civilized Buddha
preached his Dhamma and most of them attained the state of “Sovan’, the
first step in the path to Arhathood. One of the leaders of the Deva
tribe was “Sumana Saman”. People deitified him and later many Sri Lankan
Buddhists started worshipping him. God Sumana Saman is believed to be
the God whose divine power is in the area of the Samanthakuta (Adam’s
Peak). God Saman begged the Buddha for something to worship. The Buddha
stroked his hair and gave a handful of hair to him.
He accepted it in a golden casket and kept it on the spot where the
Buddha was seated. On the same day the Buddha went back to the village
Uruwela in India.
Monk Sarabu, one of the disciples of Buddha took a small portion from
Buddha’s neck - Greeva Dhatu - (or collar bone?) from the pyre after the
Buddha’s cremation and preserved it at the same place where the hair
relic was conserved and raised the pagoda to a height of 18 feet.
The Mahiyangana Sthupa which stands today was developed by Uddha
Chulabhaya, cousin of king Dewanampiyatissa to a height of 45 feet and
King Dutugemunu enlarged it to 120 feet. From time to time further
developments were done by various kings. Although Mahiyangana is the
important place in Duruthu Poya it is celebrated in Kelaniya, with
After returning to Uruwela, Buddha on the same day, Duruthu Poya day,
visited Rajagaha in response to a special request from the King
Bimbisara made about seven years ago, before attaining Buddhahood, to
visit his palace after attaining the Enlightenment.
Hearing that Buddha has come to his kingdom and staying in a palm
grove, the King went there with his men and invited Buddha to his
palace. In the palace king Bimbisara offered him and his disciples
meals, dana. After partaking the meals offered Buddha preached Dhamma
and the King became Sovan. Following day he delivered “Thirokudda Sutta”
in order to invoke blessings to king’s dead relatives.
King donated the Veluvanaramaya, monastery in the bamboo grove to the
Buddha on the same day. It was the first monastery in Buddha sasana and
was accepted by the Buddha on the blessed month of Duruthu.
For Buddhist in Sri Lanka Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka is as
important as the Poson Poya and they up to date celebrate this.