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Adam's Peak

By Gaurav Manandhar at
Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak is a conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. This peak measures 2,243 m. Adam's Peak is well known for the Sri Pada, or scared footprint which measures 1.8m and is situated in rock formation near the summit. As per Buddhist tradition, this footprint is the footprint of the Buddha while the Hindus think that the footprint is of Shiva. Other religions also have their own verse of the footprint.

This peak is seen as sacred by not only Buddhist and Hinduism but also other religion like Christianity and Islam. Therefore, this peak is referred to by a variety of names. The most often name used is Sri pada which is derived from Sanskrit. This name is used by the Sinhalese people in a religious context. Sri pada has also meaning in Pali which means the sacred foot. This refers to the footprint-shaped mark at the summit. This mark is believed to be the footprint of the Buddha.

Apart from Buddhism and Hinduism, Christian and Islamic traditions assert that the mark at the summit is the footprint of Adam. He left the mark while setting foot on the Earth for the very first time.

Another Sinhala name for this peak is Samanalakanda, which refers either to the deity Saman or to the butterflies. Other local and historic names include Ratnagiri, Samantakuta, Svargarohanam, Mount Rohana and other variations on the root Rohana.

Legends associated with Adam's Peak

Since this peak is equally important to all the religions, they value this place as a holy site. There is a version of legends as according to the religions.

For Buddhists, the footprint mark at the summit is the mark of the left foot of the Buddha. This was marked when the Buddha visited Sri Lanka. He left the symbol for worship at the invitation of Buddhist God Saman. Therefore, near to the footprint mark there is a shrine dedicated to the Saman.

As for Hindus, the footprint is the mark of Lord Shiva. It is also believed that the mountain is the legendary mount Trikuta, the capital of Ravana during the Ramayana times from where he ruled Lanka.

Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka believed that the place was where Adam, the first Ancestor set foot as he was exiled from the Garden of Eden. The legends of Adam are connected to the idea that Sri Lanka was the original Eden, and in the Muslim tradition that Adam was 30 ft tall.

Adam's Peak in the early scriptures

If we look at the Buddhist scriptures then Sri Pada was first mentioned in the Deepawamsa, the earliest Pali chronicle. In this scripture, Sri Pada was mentioned as Samanthakuta. Not only in this scripture but also in the 5th-century chronicle Mahawamsa, Sri Pada was mentioned. Another scripture or the chronicle Rajavaliya which states that the King Valagamba had taken refuge in the forests of Adam's Peak against invaders from India, and later returned to Anuradhapura. The Mahawamsa mentions the visit of King Vijayabahu I (1058–1114) to the mountain, Adam's Peak. The famous Chinese pilgrim and Buddhist traveler Fa Hien stayed in Sri Lanka in 411–12 CE. He mentioned Sri Pada but it is not made clear whether he actually visited it or not.

The Italian merchant Marco Polo in his Travels of 1298 CE noted that Adam's Peak was an important place of pilgrimage but did not mention a footprint in the rock. The Arab traveler Ibn Battuta climbed to the summit of the mountain which he called Sarandib in 1344 CE. In his description, he mentions a stairway and iron stanchions with chains to help the pilgrims. John Davy brother of the noted chemist Sir Humphry Davy visited the peak in 1817. He recorded observing an oversized footprint carved in stone and ornamented with a single margin of brass and studded with gems.

Adam's peak as a pilgrimage site

Almost every religion followed in Sri Lanka believes Adam's peak as a holy site. But among them, Adam's peak is an important pilgrimages site for Buddhists. They walk up to the mountain which usually takes several hours following varieties of difficult routes up thousands of steps. The pilgrims usually summits the mountain from December to May because it is hard to climb the mountain during other months. This is mainly due to heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick mist. The main festival for the pilgrims lies in the month of April. During this pilgrimage, the people set their goal to be on top of the mountain at sunrise. During this moment they will be able to view a triangular shadow of the distinctive shape of the mountain on the surrounding plain.

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