More than 69 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population practice Theravada Buddhism, the oldest form of Buddhism, established in the country in the 3rd Century BC.
Although scattered communities accepted the doctrine brought to them personally by Lord Buddha in his 3 visits to Sri Lanka (Mahiyanganaya, Nada deepa ad Kelaniya – along with a visit to Adam’s Peak/ Sri pada) , it was not until 247 B.C. when Mahinda thero, son of the devoutly Buddhist Indian Emperor, Ashoka, brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. The ruler at that time, Kind Devenampiyatissa embraced Buddhism and Buddha’s teachings became one of the main religions of the country. The rock on which the monk preached to the King, was henceforth known as “Mihintale” or the mountain of Mahinda.
The last poya day of the year (unduwap poya) is significant as Sangamitta therani arrived in the island with a sapling from the sacred Bo Tree under which Lord Buddha attained nibbana and this was planted in the ancient city, Anuradhapura. Today, some 2300 years later, worhippers still pay tribute to the world’s oldest documented tree- the Sri maha Bodhi.