A Guide to Sri Pada (Adam's Peak), Sri Lanka
The Holy Mountain of Sri LankaSri Pada is believed to be the footprint of Buddha by the Buddhists, the footprint of Adam by the Muslims and the footprint of St. Thomas by the Christians.
The Sri Pada (also known as Adam’s Peak) season begins with the rising of the full moon on Uduvap Poya day in December (falls on 1 December in 2009) and goes on for five months until the Wesak full moon the next year in May. Thousands of devotees flock at the summit of the 2,234 metre high ‘Samonala Kanda’ (Mount Samonala) to worship the imprint of a foot on a huge granite rock every year. For the older generation it is a dream fulfilled, while the young people make the journey mostly for the adventure of the overnight climb mingled with piety.
Buddhists call the mountain ‘Sri Pada’ (Sacred Footprint) and believe it to be the footprint of the Buddha. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a 1,600-square-foot platform on which there’s a depression the shape of a human foot—a very large foot, about 1 yard wide and nearly 2 yards long. Buddhists call the mountain ‘Sri Pada’ (Sacred Footprint) and believe it to be the footprint of the Buddha. Hindus think it belongs to the god Shiva. Christians claim St. Thomas left it there before he ascended into heaven. Muslims believe Adam made it after he descended from heaven (hence the name Adam’s Peak).The place has therefore become sacred to followers of all faiths.
Sri Pada is the fifth highest mountain on the island, located at the south western corner of the Central Hills. The word ‘Samonala Kanda’ signifies ‘Mountain of God Saman’, the guardian deity of the Sabaragamuwa province, which includes Sri Pada.
The climb up Sri Pada, which can take three to four hours, is marked by crumbling steps, hundreds of colourful butterflies, lots of leeches in the surrounding forests, and tea shops for breaks along the way. In some places, there are old iron chains to help out climbers who wish to pull themselves up. It is said that Alexander the Great left them behind when he visited the mountain in 324 BC. Other famous visitors have been Ibn Batuta (an Arab pilgrim) and Marco Polo.
Looking down from the mountain summit the panoramic view of the mist covered hill tops and the forest covered low lying valleys unfold as far as the eye can see. The sunrise seen from the top of Sri Pada is an unforgettable experience. Most pilgrims climb to the summit at night in order to be at the top by dawn to witness this spectacular sight. The sun rising in the distant horizon casts bright shades of yellow in the eastern sky. It dips a couple of times in the eastern horizon as if paying homage to the Sacred Footprint. Then it continues to rise, casting a dark conical shadow of the mountain over the valley below on the eastern side.
For hundreds of years pilgrims took great risks to trek the then thickly forested mountain to pay homage to the ‘Sri Pada’ and witness the grand ‘Iru Sevaya’ as the local people call this spectacular sunrise. Nowadays the climb is somewhat safer and is undertaken by people of all ages and from all walks of life.
During the pilgrim season convenient transport services and other facilities are provided by the local authorities for the pilgrims and the many tourists who now also want to enjoy the wonder of Sri Pada.
It is advisable to follow these words of advice if you want to undertake this climb.
Firstly – be sure to bring a jacket as the temperatures will drop as night falls and the higher you climb.
Carry a light backpack with essentials such as water, some toiletries, toilet paper, snacks and of course your camera. There are small tea shops on the way up the mountain but the choice is limited and sometimes overpriced due to them having the complete monopoly of the facilities.
Wear sensible shoes such as hiking boots, running shoes or trainers. You will see many local people walking in their sandals and flip flops but this is most likely because they cannot afford the footwear not because the climb is easy, so do not be fooled.
Take your time. Just because you see an old grandmother proudly walking up with no worries in the world does not mean the climb is to be taken for granted. Take advantage of the occasional tea shops for a hot cup of steaming tea if you feel tired. This also counts for the way down which many claim is harder and more painful as the muscles in your legs will start to protest. The best time to start the ascent is around 10pm.
Properly prepared you will be assured of the experience of a lifetime.