Guiding the three Jatila brothers, Uruwel Kassyapa, Nadi Kassyapa and Gaya Kassyapa and their one thousand followers on the correct path and helping them to find the way to liberation, final emancipation or freedom from transmigration — the state of Nirvana — the Buddha’s first visit to Lanka and the offering of His hair relic to God Saman are the main events that had taken place on Duruthu Full Moon Day.
According to prehistoric legends, the Buddha’s visit is the most significant and blessed event that had taken place in Lanka after the Rama-Rawana war which is said to have been more than three thousand years ago.
On a Duruthu Full Moon Day 2549 years ago, exactly nine months after attaining Buddhahood, the Buddha paid his first visit to Lanka after subjugating the very proud and arrogant Uruwel Kassyapa by displaying 3516 miracles and ordaining him, his brothers and their followers as Buddhist priests.
At that time Yakkhas and Nagas, believed to be the descendants of Ravana and his brother Vibhishana, were the powerful tribes in Lanka.
They were known as Yadawa (Yakkha). They were the descendants of the Yakkha generation mentioned in Maha Bharathaya, Ramayanaya and the ancient Chandra Wansaya. In these legends these tribes are known as Budha, Kurukurawa, Nahusha, Yayat and Yadawa.
When the Buddha visited Sri Lanka, humans known as Yadawa (Yak) were the inhabitants. Naga tribes too were prehistoric inhabitants of this country. These two tribes were eternal enemies and were engaged in constant power struggles. The Buddha, with his divine eye, ascertained that time was ripe to put an end to this confrontation. In the meantime God Sumana Saman realized that the Buddha was the unique being who was able to bring together the rival groups and so made an invitation. [h]
Responding to the invitation, the Buddha proceeded to Bintenna in ‘Hela Diva’ and descended at the fertile land of Minipe-Mahanaga, a grove three “yodunas” or about 50 miles away from the Mahaweli river bank. He stood there radiating rays of light from his body more pleasant and gentle than the moonlight. The aggregate of six colours, forming a halo around the Buddha in separate circles, viz. blue, yellow, red, white, crimson and the colour formed by their combination.
Seeing the Buddha, Yakka soldiers who had assembled for a meeting were angry, mistaking him for an invader on their hereditary land. Both the Yakkas and the Nagas who were in great numbers instantly took up arms.
It was time for the Buddha to tame them as they were still not ready to listen to him and understand the Dhamma. He set forth a terrible drought, heavy rains and thunder storms which the Yakkas could not endure. They were terrified and realized that the Buddha was a supernatural being and turned submissive. They obeyed the Buddha and begged for his pardon.
The Buddha laid his piece of cloth — ‘Pathkada’ — on the ground and after sitting on it called the Yakka and Naga leaders and admonished both parties. He created peace among them. According to legend, the Yakkhas who dispersed had gone to “Giri Divayina” and God Sumana Saman had undertaken to protect Lanka since then.
The Mahiyangana Dagaba also known as Miyuguna Seya was built at the site of the Mahanaga grove in Minipe where the Buddha had subjugated the Yakkhas.
On the same day, the the Buddha proceeded to Uruwel Danawwa to be of service to the Jatila brothers. He preached the Dhamma from ‘Anantha Lakkhana Suthra’ and all of them attained Arahatship.
According to legend, Devas and Brahmas assembled at Maha Naga grove in large numbers and had taken refuge in the Triple Gem. Among them was God Sumana Saman, and legend says God Sumana Saman is a member of a Deva Tribe from the central hills of Sri Lanka.
Having listened to the Dhamma, God Sumana Saman attained “Sovan” or the first of the four paths or stages leading to nirvana. God Saman begged for a relic for worshipping from the Buddha.
Thereupon the Buddha gave him a lock of his hair. God Saman placed this sacred Hair Relic of the Omniscient One in a gold casket and enshrined it in Mahiyangana Dagaba or Miyugunu Seya, seven cubits in height built by him at the place where the Exalted One stayed.
Miyunguna Seya is regarded as the first Dagaba in Sri Lanka. The significance is that it was built barely nine months after the Buddha’s Enlightenment and under the patronage of the Divine One. Yakkas and Nagas had undoubtedly honoured and paid homage to this Dagaba. This is probably the oldest Dagaba in the world which depicts countless virtues of the Omniscient One. This is also called “Mal Seya”.
After 45 years since then, the Buddha attained Parinibbana and the Agra Srawaka Arahat Sariputta Thera’s disciple, Arahat Sarabhu had collected the ‘Greeva Dhatu’ – the Collar Bone Relic of the Unique One and enshrined it in Miyugunu Seya and had it rebuilt to a height of 12 cubits or 18 feet.
According to legend, Arahat Sarabhu had brought a special kind of stone from the Himalayas to build Miyuguna Seya. Hence this Dagaba also has a unique significance as that of a dagoba rebuilt under the direction of an Atrahath Bhikkhu.
Later, King Davanampiyatissa’s brother Prince Uddhachulabhaya rebuilt Miyuguna Seya to a height of 30 cubits or 45 feet.
A hundred years later, King Dutugemunu who unified the country by bringing Ruhunu, Maya and Pihiti Rata together under him, rendered immense service to Buddhism.
According to the Mahawamsa, King Dutugemunu reconstructed Miyugunu Seya to a height of 80 cubits or 120 feet. Since then, Kings Dhatusena, Siri Sangabo, Agbo and Parakum had affected repairs but the dagoba had not been properly maintained when the country was under foreign rule.
Miyuguna Seya was in a dilapidated condition, having been neglected under Western rule and was renovated only under the direction of Ven. Iddamalgoda Dhammapala Thera in 1857 and Ven. Yatawatte Chandrajothi Thera in 1871. It had gone to ruins thereafter.
The first Prime Minister of independent Sri Lanka, D.S. Senanayake and his son who became Premier later took much effort along with the Chaiththya Vardana Samithiya to renovate the dagaba to bring to its present condition.
The Bo tree, standing beside Miyuguna Seya gives additional serenity to the environment. This will remain intact eternally to recollect the Exalted One’s first visit to our country.
It was during the month of Duruthu that the Omniscient One proceeded to Magadha Kingdom accompanied by Jatila Arahaths at the invitation of Magadha King Bimbisara. This visit was in keeping with a promise by the Buddha during the period when he was striving to search the truth.
Having seen the Buddha with Arahath Uruvel Kassyapa, King Bimbisara hesitated to believe that Arahath Uruvel Kassyapa was a disciple of the Buddha. Realizing the King’s misconception Arahath Uruvel Kassyapa performed a pelahera to indicate that all the Jatila Arahaths including himself were now disciples of the Buddha. King Bimbisara and his people were very happy and devoutly accepted Buddhism. All of them took refuge in the Triple Gem while the Buddha preached the Dhamma.
King Bimbisara offered Veluwanaramaya to the Buddha. It was during the month of Duruthu that the Buddha made a proclamation allowing Bhikkus to accept monasteries when offered by devotees.
It was also during the month of Duruthu that the Buddha preached Thirohkuddha Sutra to offer merit to the deceased relatives of King Bimbisara who were reborn as goblins.
It is in Lanka that pure Buddhism prevails even after the passage of over 2500 years. How fortunate are we to be the citizens of a country which treasures Pure Theravada Buddhism? People throughout the world respect us and our country, undoubtedly because of pure Buddhism.