Today is Duruthu Poya Day, which is the observance of the Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka.
Before proceeding to Sri Lanka, on an earlier Duruthu Poya Day the Buddha put the very arrogant Kassapa brothers on the correct path. The Kassapa brothers, Uruwela Kassapa, Gaya Kassapa and Nadi Kassapa were presumptuous Jatilas with matted hair who spent ascetic lives at Uruwela with one thousand followers.
On the Il full moon Poya Day after enlightenment, the Buddha dispatched sixty Arahants including the five ascetics (Paswagamahana) in various directions to propagate the dharma while he himself went to Uruwela Danawwa to be of service to the Jatila brothers and their followers.
After subjugating them and putting them on the correct path the Buddha visited Lanka. This important incident took place during the sixth century B.C. in the ninth month after his enlightenment.
At that time of the Buddha’s first visit this country was inhabited by Yakkhas who were humans and descendents of Rawana and his brother Vibhhishana. The descendants of the Naga tribe were the prehistoric inhabitants of Lanka.
The Yakkhas and Nagas were in constant confrontation and there is a belief among Buddhists that God Summana Saman invited the Buddha to put an end to this hostility. It was on this invitation that the Enlightened One set foot on the Mahiyangana Mahanaga Grove.
At that time the Yakkhas had gathered there for a meeting. The Buddha stood in the sky above Mahanaga Grove where the Yakkhas were meeting. The Buddha stood there radiating rays of light from his body more pleasant, clear, calm and gentle than the moon light. A rainbow-like halo emanated around the Buddha.
The Yakkhas thought the Enlightened One was an invader and were not prepared to listen to him. Instead the Yakkha soldiers took up arms. It was time for the Buddha to subjugate Yakkhas. He set forth a terrible drought, heavy rains and thunder storms which the Yakkhas could not endure. They were terrified and realizing the Buddha was a supernatural being and turned submissive. They obeyed the Buddha and begged his pardon.
The Buddha laid his piece of cloth –Pathkada– on the ground, sitting on it he called the Yakkha and Naga leaders and admonished both parties.
Thus Buddha was able to create peace among them. According to legends the Yakkhas who dispersed went to ‘Giri Divayina’ not being able to understand the words of the Buddha.
Meanwhile legends tell us the Devas and Nagas assembled at the Maha Naga Grove in large numbers and took refuge in the Triple Gem. Among them was God Sumana Saman. Legends say God Sumana Saman was a member of the Deva tribe from the central hills of Sri Lanka. This God attained “Sowan” or the first of the four paths or sages leading to Nirvana. God Saman begged for a relic to worship and the Buddha gave him a lock of his hair –the Hair Relic– God Sumana Saman received the Hair Relic in a gold casket.
Miyuguna Seya which is also known as the Mahiyngana Dagaba was built at the site of the Mahanaga Grove in Minipe where the Buddha subjugated the Yakkhas. This was the first dagaba to be built on this land.
God Sumana Saman who built this Dagaba enshrined in it the ‘Kesa Dhathu’ –Hair Relic– which he received from the Thathagatha. Forty-five years later Arahant Sarabha Thera, a pupil of Arahant Sriputta Maha Thera brought the “Greeva Dhathu” –the Collar bone Relic– and had it enshrined in the dagaba. He had the dagaba reconstructed to a height of twelve cubits.
King Devanampiyatissa’s brother Uddhaculabhaya, constructed the thirty cubit tall Kanthaka Cethiya over the earlier dagaba. King Dutugemunu had it reconstructed to a height of eighty feet. This Dagaba was renovated from time to time by various kings such as Dhatusena, Sirisangabo and Agbo.
Recently this Chethiya was renovated by the Mahiyangana Chethiya Wardhana Samithiya.
It was on Duruthu Poya Daya the Buddha returned to Uruwela Danawwa to be of service to Jatila brothers. He preached the Dhamma from “Anantha Lakkhana Sutta” and the three brothers and their followers attained Arahantship. Accompanied by Jatila Arahants the Omniscient One proceeded to the Magadha Kingdom. This visit was made on an invitation extended by the Magadha King Bimbisara to the Buddha before his enlightenment.
Having seen the Buddha with Arahant Kassapa, King Bimbisara hesitated to believe Arahant Uruwela Kassapa was a disciple of the Buddha. Realizing the king’s misconception Arahant Kassapa performed a perahera to indicate that all the Jatila Arahants including himself were disciples of the Buddha, the Enlightened One.
King Bimbisara and his people were very happy and devotedly embraced Buddhism. The Buddha preached Dharma and all of them took refuge in the Triple Gem. King Bimbisara offered Veluvanaramaya to the Enlightened One. The Buddha made a proclamation allowing Bhikkhus to accept monasteries when offered by devotees.
King Bimbisara saw in a dream his dead relatives were suffering, having been born as goblins. The Buddha preached Dharma to offer merits to those goblins.
It is during the month of Duruthu that the Duruthu Perahera of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is held. This variegated perahera (with caparisoned elephants, Kandyan, Low country and Sabaragamuwa dancers and other performers) is probably only second to Sri Dalada Mligawa Esala Perahera held in the hill capital.
With the first visit of the Enlightened One this country was purified and our motherland was made suitable soil for Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera to establish Buddhism. We, the present population of this country are fortunate to have pure Buddhism in our land.