Travel expert Toni was lucky enough to experience a Poya Day in Sri Lanka on her research trip. Occurring on the full moon, it offers travellers a brilliant insight into local life with a festive and jovial atmosphere. Toni’s Poya day was one of the more important of the many and is called Poson Poya. Here’s her review of the experience:
Poya days in Sri Lanka are very important Buddhist holiday days, where all shops and businesses close and people gather on the streets to celebrate. Although all are sacred I was lucky enough to be in Sri Lanka for the second most important poya day of the year which falls in June and is known as Poson Poya.
Poson Poya commemorates the time that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Mahinda in the 3rd Century BC. Arahat Mahinda, the son of India’s King Aoka travelled to Sri Lanka and went to Mihintale, a mountain peak near Anuradhapura. At the top of the mountain, Mahinda preached Sri Lanka’s first Buddhist sermon to the King. Now, thousands of white-robes pilgrims climb to the summit of Mihitale to commemorate this momentous event and all around the country there are celebrations.
One of the biggest celebrations and highlights of this day are the dansals which are dotted around the whole country. These are little food stalls that the locals have propped up to hand out free food and drinks, everything from tea to soup to a full rice and curry and ice cream, all of it being delicious.
I was lucky enough to be driving from Colombo up to Anamaduwa so I got to immerse myself in the excitement. Big lorries full of people go all around the area stopping at each food stall to sample the food on offer, with queues going on for miles. I also visited a small temple in the local village that was teeming with activity, market stalls lined the pathway up to the temple selling an assortment of goodies from small trinkets to clothes to sweet treats. The temple itself was bustling with activity, everyone there to pray to Buddha and give him offering of flowers and fruit.
Once I was in Anamaduwa I was told that there would be a rice and curry dansal hosted by the minister at his house so jumped at the chance to experience this culture in its full glory and try some of the most local food and delicious food. Upon arriving there we encountered the biggest queue we had seen all day, however the food was worth the wait. Piles of rice and an assortment of curries piled high on a plastic plate with some of the hottest chilli and lime pickle I have ever eaten. Eating and chatting with the locals of this small town gave a wonderful insight into local life and the generosity of these people.
The evening was then greatly topped off by meeting the minister and his whole family who all talked animatedly about their life in the village, their friends and school and how they had spent their day going around all the local stalls trying out all the tasty treats. A truly local and amazing experience.
We can easily tailor a Poson Poya experience into your holiday, just ask your consultant to include it in your itinerary. Here are some suggested itineraries to help you make a start on planning: