The significance of Duruthu Full Moon Poya
by Premasara Epasinghe
@ The Island / Dec 2009
Duruthu is considered as the first month of the Sinhala calendar.
The important significance of Duruthu 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 stand the Mahiyangana stupa. When the great teacher - the Buddha was to depart after the conversion of the Yakkas of Bintenna, Mahiyangana area, for which purpose he had arrived, Sumana - a titular deity who posses a certain title or position but no real authority of this region, requested the Buddha to give him - Diety Sumana, a souvenir to which he could pay his offerings and homage. Thereupon, the Gautama Buddha, the Great Master, offered Deity Sumana, some locks of his hair. He placed it in an urn as a valuable Relic in the Mahiyangana Stupa.
The battle gongs were sounded the battle drums beaten. The Yakkas poised for combat when 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 and paid reverence to Gautama Buddha. Having preached his message of PEACE, restored calm among the Yakkas, the incomparable one, returned to Jambudipa or India.
Anyway, the focus of Duruthu Festival is centred round Kelaniya, the hollowed ground where the annual Duruthu Perahera is conducted by the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. The historic vihara stands on a small mount just by the Southern Bank of Kelani 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 visit to Sri Lanka was considered as one of the most unparalleled events in the history of the land. The documentary sources Deepavamsa and Mahavamsa, records the visits of the blessed one. The event of Buddhism took place in 247 BC, with the arrival of Emperor Asoka’s only son Arahat Mahinda. In the pre-Mahindian history, the greatest blessing to this beautiful island was Buddha’s first visit to Mahiyangana in the 9th month of his Enlightenment, on Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day.
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 wage war, to gain the ownership of a gem studded throne. Buddha, saw this, and arrived in Nagadipa, emphasising the value of harmony and ill-effects of hatred and settled the dispute without bloodshed.
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 Buddhism. As a result a 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 that Buddha visit his kingdom Kelaniya. Through love and compassion to all Sri Lankans, the Great Master, Thathagatha arrived at Kelaniya on a Vesak Full Moon Poya Day. Subsequently, the Buddha arrived at Sri Padana, 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, modern Aluthnuwara, where Dutugemunu faced his first encounter with Chattha, whom he detested. When the king saw the great damage to Mahiyangana stupa, he renovated it. Voharikatissa (204-225 AD), built a parasol Mahiyangana stupa. Sena II (885-896), Kassapa IV (896-913), Vijeyabahu I (1059-1114), Parakramabahu I (1410-1468) were some of the kings who save 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, Mahiyangane Chetiya is ranked as the number one place of worship. It reads:-
Mahiyanganan - Nagadipan
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 given below.
Lankayan Yattha Pataman
Yakkhe Dhamesi Nija
T‡ne Thahi Nihithi
Vandami Sadhu Mahiyangana Thup‡raja
Morality, panchaseela and tolerance
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 anything that causes intoxication or heedlessness, they can live happily and peacefully in this world and on the other hand, help others to live likewise. A person without virtue not only endangers himself but also others around him. Even Buddhists 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 Enlightement; and an Enlightened person is described as a sage 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 (santutthi), Harmlessness (ahimsa), non-violence (Avihimsa) and Peacefulness (Vipasama).
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.
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 600 million Buddhists in the world.