A wish for a healthier, longer, better life that became true.

November 02, 2023

Poson full moon poya day is one of the largest festivals of great religious significance celebrated in Sri Lanka, particularly in the holy city of Anuradhapura. Every year millions of Buddhists visit Anuradhapura and the surrounding areas for religious rituals. An area abundant of with lakes and reservoirs, where there are numerous during the Poson festival, these bodies of water overflow with devotees from all around the country whose tradition is to bathe to purify themselves before embarking on their sacred journey to the Udamaluwa'.

AIA’s Poson Safety programme, now in its 28th year is focused on protecting these pilgrims from drowning by facilitating safety awareness signs and lifeguards around the lakes and reservoirs. Prior to the programme, launched in 1993, there were incidents of death due to drowning in these areas, during Poson. Hence AIA stepped in to literally save lives, with the programme which has resulted in zero deaths due to drowning since.

 As such, AIA is always proactive in ensuring the safety of pilgrims during Poson, with not only the lifeguards and warning signs but also with on-ground activations and digital and ATL campaigns. This year, AIA tapped into a potent local insight to unroll an impactful and thought-provoking initiative to deter pilgrims from taking any risks in the water.  

So, with a cultural insight that exemplifies the philosophy of Buddhism – selflessness, a traditional Buddhist ‘wishflag’ (praarthana kodiya) was made with a simple message “May the devotees not get into unsafe waters”. AIA distributed these wish flags at key entry points to the city, near the reservoirs, lakes and rivers in Anuradhapura.  

These wishes were not just read by the pilgrims but also taken to heart, as seen by their effusive comments. They also went an extra mile to hang these wish flags on the sacred Bo tree in the holy city of Anuradhapura in a heartfelt gesture of imbibing it into their prayers and also, making the flags more visible reaching a wider group of people.

AIA’s initiative was admired by the local authorities, clergy and the devotees for combining a strong cultural insight to deliver an impactful message. But what matters to us the most is that from the 2.5 million devotees who visited Anuradhapura this year, zero deaths were reported during the Poson week.