Adams peak or Sri pada always been a top-notch religious attraction with a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka and visited by thousands of visitors even before the start of tourist to the island in the 1900s. Historians opine that Adamspeak was a top religious attraction along with its counterparts such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa since the pre-Christian era. For most foreigners, Adams peak is a popular expedition, which is a part of many Sri Lanka road trips.
Trekking through Sri Pada gives you the opportunity to see some beautiful and unspoiled scenery, with a touch of history and religion. Unlike most mountain climbs in Sri Lanka, there is a specific time period to climb the mountain of Sri Pada. The period begins in the month of May (Parallel to the dry weather season in the west coast, check my article on the best time to visit Sri Lanka) and ends in December. The climb of Adam’s peak primarily a religious matter. Most people make the upward trek to worship the footprint of Buddha. Some people, especially the foreign tourist doing it as a nature exploration trip as well as a minor adventure activity.
Adams peak is a 2,243 meters (7,359 ft) tall conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. Adams peak is the fifth highest mountain on the island. Ahead of Adams peak is Piduruthalagala in Nuwara Eliya(2524m), Kirigalpotta in Horton Plains (2395m), Totupolakanda in Horton Plains (2357m) and Kudahagala (2320m). Four main rivers named Mahaweli, Kalu, Kelani and Walawe and several other tributaries flow from Adams peak area giving rise to a number of waterfalls in Sri Lanka. This area consisting of birds, mammals, reptiles as well as flora endemic to Sri Lanka is rich in biodiversity.
History of Adams peak
History of Sripada Mountain is going back to the era of Ramayana. According to folktale king, Ravana hid queen Seetha in Adam speak Mountain having abducted her from India. There is a supposition to the effect that the name “Sita Gangula” originated because it was the place where queen Sita bathed.
It has not been discovered clearly as to when exactly veneration to Sripada started. However, it is noted that it is the sun-worshipers who made first offerings to Sri Pada. In 140 BC when king Dutugemunu was on his deathbed he had called the monk called Pullabhaya and had requested him to bless him. Then the monk had reminded the king of the great noble deeds he had performed. Out of them, that which soothed the king’s mind most was the incident which had taken place during a famine. He had offered Cunji to Arahath Maliyadeva and then the remaining to 900 monks resided at Sripada.
Mahawamsa, the chronicle of Sri Lankan ancient history states that Queen Vajira, wife of king Kashyapa’s son Shakra, the chief commander of the army – got a nunnery constructed and offered to the Buddhist nuns. Although due to certain invasions Adam’s peak got away from public attention during some reign, this noble sacred place got close to devotees.
Fauna of Adams peak
Endemic birds such as wood pigeon, “Lanka Arapatha”, red-faced malkoha, Orange-billed babbler, Sri Lankan junglefowl are prevalent in this area. Apart from a large number of various animal species including mammals such as barking deer, mouse deer, leopard, reptiles such as green pit wiper live in this area. A large number of flowering plants can be seen in the area including extremely valuable plants used in Ayurveda herbal medicine. Adams peak is abundant of gems such as Pink sapphire, orange sapphire, Blue Sapphire, Ruby, Yellow sapphire, cats eye.
Historical names of Adams peak
Historical records reveal that adams peak had been known as Samanthakuta, Samanhela, Samangira, Samanala kanda, Samanala giri, Samanala kuta, Rohana and Rohana parvata and in veda book called Prananoeni in Yamat and in Narapati Jayacharya as Sri Parvata, Shramana Kuta, Sheela Kuta Parvata and Shuna Kuta.
According to the facts given in Mahawamsa Seehalavattu, Rasawahini, it can be deduced that Samana Kuta was a Buddhist forest meditation centre where Arahats lived. It has been discovered that footprint had been the object of worship prior to the sculpture of Buddha in Sri Lanka and also is Dambadiva (ancient India).
Adams peak is located in the southern reaches of the Central Highlands, in the Ratnapura district – lying about 40 km northeast of the city of Ratnapura. The devotees climb the mountain using several footpaths, however, the distance to cover on every route is about the same and takes around 6 hours.
The most crowded month of Sri Lanka season is April, Mainly due to the school holidays and, the favourable weather will less rain. Other than worshipping the footprint of Buddha other most important objectives of the people who embark on this adventure tour of Sri Lanka is to see the first sunrays of the day. Daybreak is a beautiful spectacle as the rising sun cast a triangle-shaped shadow on the surrounding lowland areas. The mountain climb at night is not recommended due to the wild animal threat. Still, the path to the top is illuminated only a few people go up in the night.
Sri pada/Adam’s peak the Most Sacred Mountain with Rich Historical Past
In Sri Lanka, the different religious groups celebrate the numerous religious festivals and observances during specific periods of the year. For Buddhist, it is November, starting the season to visit Holy Peak (Sri Pada). It is believed that Buddha left his footprint on the holy mountains on his third visit to Sri Lanka, making it one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka.
There is possibly no mountain more famous than Adam’s peak / Sri Pada in Sri Lanka. The depression right on top is being interpreted by at least three religions as being sacred to them. To Buddhist, it is the footprint of Buddha, for Muslims, it is the footprint of Adam. Muslims believe that Adam stood there for an age, on one foot to get over his disobedience, thus creating the depression. The Hindus call it “Sivam Adi (oli) Padam”. It is the creative dance of Siva that the “print” calls to remembrance.
Sri Pada is also considered as the abode of Saman, a pre-Buddhist god, one of the four guardian deities of the country. The mountain is also called Samanala Kanda, which also means the mountain of the “Samanalayo”, the butterflies. It is a well-known fact that during the pilgrim season, clouds of yellow butterflies appear in the area converging from every possible direction upon the holy mountain.
Three routes to reach the summit of Adams peak
There are at least three routes to the mountain. One is from Rathnapura via Carney Estate; those who take this route have to walk about ten miles. The second from Kuruwita involves 12 miles on foot. It joins the first route for the last 3 miles. The third is from Hatton via Maskeliya and the walk is only about four miles, it only the steps throughout the climbing on this route. It is the common belief that one needs to do a ritual bath at seethe Gangula (pond of cold water located halfway up on the climbing) before coming to the summit. After the bath devotees wear the white and continue with the climbing.
Most people use the Hatton and Ratnapura starting points and traverse through the forested area of the mountain to reach the Nalatanni. Usually, the Sripada climb starts after the religious activities and taking a traditional bath. The first important attraction along the way is the “Makara thorana” or dragon pandol. The sacred area begins after the dragon pandol. The trek that goes through the jungle begins here and the climbs get tougher.
The “Sama Chetiya” is the second important attraction after the pandol. This is a relatively modern construction, which originated about 20 years back. Next stop for travellers along the way is the Seeta gangula. Seeta Gangula considered being the place, where Buddha took a rest. This is the place, where people make a ritual bath and dress up in white cloth. The most difficult part of the climb is known as Ahasgauwa and it is the steepest part of the entire climb. This is the most upper part of the mountain and appears almost vertical. This part of the mountain is visible to some places of more than 100-kilometre distance.
The trekking of Sripada culminates at “Dolosmahe Pahana”. It is situated on the Sripada Maluwa or summit of the mountain. The most important object for visitors is situated here, which is known as the footprint of Buddha. The view from Sripada Maluwa over the surrounding area is very picturesque, most notably the sunrise is the most attractive scenery from here.
The whole trek takes about 6 hours and the mountain is more than 2000 meters high. Usually, the travellers start their climb at night with the aim of reaching the summit at about 5.00 AM. It allows them to see the awe-inspiring sunrise from the summit. This is the most crowded trek in the country with thousands of people go up the mountain during the pilgrim season. If you like to enjoy nature while having some experience of religious, cultural and traditional angles of Sri Lankan life, I think Sri Pad must be in your travel plan.
Upon reaching the summit, everyone’s wish is to worship the sacred footprint. It is worshipped by keeping the head on the slab, which covers the footprint located underneath. Though it is crowded especially during the season, everyone gets a chance of worshipping the footprint. Worshipping is accompanied by chanting the religious text. Devotees offer flowers and poured oil into the “Dolos maha pahana” The eternal lamp which lights throughout the year. Once the ritual is over, pilgrims ring the bell located on the summit. The novice would ring it just once to indicate it is his first visit. Others vary according to the number of visits. One might feel exhausted during the return trip due to the nearly six hours climbing as well as the sleepless night spent on the way so it is a slow trek to reach the bottom and return home.
Miracles of Adam’s peak Sri Lanka
There are many stories are heard every day that are related to unseen forces operate in various places in the world. Of them sacred places are prominent. It is not an exaggeration that the number of such incidents taken place in historical places such as Anuradhapura. Situlpauwa, Kataragama, and Kandy are three places with a large number of such incidents. Something noteworthy of these incidents is such occurrences are seen by some people and they are not visible to others but some incidents are seen by all. The miraculous phenomenon remains a secret even for the scientists of the 21st century. Despite many types of research to discover the scientific background of such incidents, there is no significant progress can be seen until today.
There are many such tales of Sripada sacred area that have been carried down from ancient times to display the unseen power of God Saman. It is said such miracles took place much more frequently during the time when Sripada pilgrimage was much more difficult and dangerous than today. Still, such incidents are reported in the area but not as frequent as it had been.
It is not the custom to undertake the Sripada pilgrimage during the off-season. However, a group of devotees come to Sripada from various parts of Sri Lanka during this period and engage in Buddhist religious activities.
A lady of 65 years old came across a miraculous incident while she was on a pilgrimage to Sripada. This lady, who was coming from Welimada had gone to Sripada for four years continuously from 1983, she had been there only during the off-season.
Pilgrims need to do the ritual preparedness before setting off on the journey. Pilgrims need to observe several rituals for three days before the pilgrimage. That is, on all three days they take a bath at least once a day, wash clothes, and refrain from eating fish, egg or meat as well. Worshipping Buddha every morning and evening is also need to be performed during the three days. Failing to observe the rituals may create some trouble during the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage takes around a week time and varied depending on the distance from Sripada.
In one occasion when this lady was in the main shrine of Sripada with a group of pilgrims, they heard a person murmuring. To see, if one of their devotees had fallen, the group had not an idea if someone went missing until the murmur. The miracle was that sound was not coming from their group. There was no one to murmur in the vicinity, other than the members of the group. Once they checked if one goes missing, they found that one person is not with the group and the male devotees started to see where the missing person is. They found him fallen off the steps and entangled in a tree down the forest, he was facing downward. People were managed to carry him up to the steps again. After sprinkling the holy water on the face of the person, he was back to normal and started to talk.
The person had explained that he had seen a piece of white cloth falling on the ground and he tried to catch it at that moment the piece of cloth vanished and he had fallen down. Sripada is inhabited by wild animals such as leopards, elephants, wild boar etc and it could be the end of the person if they were not murmured about the incident by the unknown voice. It is believed that god Saman the protector of Sripada is keeping eye on the pilgrim and helps them to carry on their merit-making activities in the holy mountain.