Sri Lanka Holidays
Facebook  Twitter  Google Plus  LinkedIn    My status 

About Us   |   Contact Us   |   Sitemap 

Pick Your Tour

7 Nights Tour

10 Nights Tour

11 Nights Tour

14 Nights Tour

15 Nights Tour

Sri Lanka, the Land of Delights 

Sri Lanka Holidays

Home |  Nature/Adventure |  Ancient Glory |  Rich Package |  Sri Lanka Holidays |  Total Holiday Experience |  Travel Guide |  Lanka History |  Hotel Guide

Must Visit Locations

Adam's Peak, the mountain of Sacred Footprint of Sri Lanka: The History

(Butterfly Mountain) (Adam's Peak) (Samanthakuta, meaning Domain of God Maha Sumana Saman)

The midnight ascent: "It's a pilgrimage, not a joyride" Ven. Dharmapala Seelananda, trustee of Sri Pada Mountain (The Sacred Footprint of Sri Lanka)


It looms into view, looking for all the world like the Paramount Pictures logo. That is at the new town of Maskeliya, Sri Lanka (the old town was flooded to make way for the tank). A perfect shape of a pyramid, but then again without the hallow of the white stars of Paramount logo. But then, in the absence of stars, mountain does even better with one of a kind phenomenon. That is at the summit: a light & shadow play few moments following the crack of dawn during the period January to April when the incredible sunrise produces the famous spectacle known as the "Shadow of the Peak", which leaves all ventured on to the summit spellbound.

As the first rays of dawn light up sacred mountain (2243m) you're treated to an extremely fine view: the hill country rises to the east; in the west the land slopes away to the sea; Colombo at sea level, 65km away, is easily visible on a clear day. Interesting as the ascent is, & beautiful as the dawn is, Adam's peak saves its mesmerising paramount show time for a few minutes after dawn. As the sun rises, the shadow of the Peak seems to be projected in from the air without lying upon the forest below as one's eyes expect: a perfect shadow of the peak onto the misty clouds in the direction of far coast. Still more as the sun rises higher, this eerie triangular shadow on the misty clouds races back towards the peak, eventually disappearing into on to its base. This is an awesome optical phenomenon in a magnificent summit of a sacred mountain of boundless beauty.

And that optical illusion is for the real, to the boot, unlike the Paramount logo. Herman Hesse had a transcendental experience on Adam's Peak. He later tried to witness a possible duplication of the light & shadow show in India, but it eluded him. Not even Incredible India of yester years Midnight Rainbow (Bengal) & of Maduri Dixit could fix it, could produce such a superlative spectacle as in Lanka. He then returned to Ceylon, climbed the Adam's Peak once again & it happened once again. Can I see it again? By all means. English author John Stills described the peak as "one of the vastest & most reverenced cathedrals of the human race". "When Adam was expelled an angel took him by the arm & set him down here," wrote the Papal Legate Marignolli over 500 years ago when he descended from the most famous of Lanka's mountains. This is paradise. Com'n let's dance at the base. And climb.

Then again, this is not simply a nature & adventure mountain climb to begin narrating with the matter as superficial as the logo of Paramount pictures. We have been light hearted. Please forgive me, god Maha Sumana Saman! Let's get serious now. No where else in the world is a pilgrimage site which is held sacred by the devotees of four religions, as Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka. Sanctity of the mountain has been held aloft by adherents of each of four religions of Sri Lanka, namely, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Islamists.

The mountain has been climbed for at least 1000 years. King Vijayabahu (1055-1100 AD) built shelters along its route, work continued by Parakaramabahu the 2nd (1125-1169 AD) who cleared jungle & built a road & bridges to the mountain. Marco Polo commented on the chains provided for pilgrims in the 13th century, while Muslim traveller Ibn Battutah visited in the 14th century & described the two approach routes still used, labeling them the Adam & Eve tracks.

Sri Lanka's world famous Holy Mountain is the ultimate center of the attraction, epitome of pilgrimage where devotees from all parts of the little island engage in the annual pilgrimage. Their voices echo and re-echo from their innermost hearts in the cold clammy atmosphere with resounding chanting "Karunawai" (meaning compassion, a Buddhist ideal) as they ascend or descend.

When considering the mountain's history it lends a certain feeling of a supernatural aura brooding, a hidden divine power. On the 8th year after Enlightenment, Buddha visited Kelaniya at the request of the Naga King Maniakkika. On this occasion it is said that Buddha was accompanied by 500 monks. After His sojourn at Kelaniya Buddha visited three other places, namely, Digavaapi, Kataragama and this beautiful mountain in the Central highlands, 7360 feet high. Here the Buddha left the trace of His left foot at the summit on a gemstone, on the request of God Maha Sumana Saman, the guardian of the Peak.

Some Christians say the "footprint" in the rock atop the rust-red, peak is where Adam first set foot (hence is called Adam's peak) on earth after being exiled from Eden. Other Christians say it is the Footprint of St. Thomas, who brought Christianity to Southern India in the 1st century AD, while to Hindus it is the Footprint of Lord Siva (hence called Sivan Adipadham or Sivanolipatha Malai), while some of Sri Lanka's Muslims call it the Footprint of Al-Rohun (Soul).

While beliefs of some depend on mere faith, the claims of the Buddhists alone refer to recorded history and partly legend. Buddhists, who have covered the original "print" with a larger than life concrete copy, say it was made by the Buddha on his third visit to Sri Lanka.

Whichever legend you care to believe, the fact remains that the mountain has been a pilgrimage site paid homage by kings & commoners alike for over 1000 years. King Parakramabahu & King Nissankamalla provided ambalama (resting places) up the mountain to shelter the weary pilgrims. The "season" for pilgrims is during the calm bright months from January to April.

Geographically Adam's Peak is important as the main watershed of Sri Lanka, four of the principal rivers of the Island, including the River Mahaweli, the longest & the largest, having their source from this mountain, and falling to the sea on the eastern, western and south eastern coasts. The districts to the south and the east of Adam's Peak yield precious stones-emeralds, rubies, sapphires, etc, for which the Island has been famous, and which have earned for its ancient name of "Ratnadvipa".

Butterfly migration

In the crisp air and sunshine, legions of brave yellow and white and jewel coloured butterflies are in their final flight to the summit as if these lovely ephemeral creatures, a sublime creation of nature were in the company with the pilgrims. At the end of their ascent, they die there in waves, providing another phenomenon, hence is called Samanala Kanda meaning Butterfly Mountain. Merciless black death takes over all of those lovely butterflies as all of us would be taken over. Only the death is definite. All else is indefinite & impermanent. Be kind to all. Don't murder. May all murderers swiftly recover from their maladies! It kills me to see you killing my race: human.


Buddhist devotees who climb the Peak regard God Maha Sumana Saman as their benevolent protector. Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanam Piya Tissa (307-266 B.C). He was the grandson of King Pandukabhaya (437-366 B.C), the pre-Buddhist founder of Anuradhapura, capital of Lanka, which lasted for 1500 years up to the middle of the 9th century AD.
Sri Pada - Sacred Footprint
It is believed that the first person to discover the Sacred Footprint was King Valagambahu (104-76 BC) while he was in exile in the mountain wilderness, better known to our people as "Sri Pada Adaviya" (Domain of Sacred Footprint), to escape the marauding Cholians. He had been led to the summit of the mountain by a deity in the guise of a stag. Thereafter not only ordinary pilgrims but Royalty with their court retinue paid homage to the Foot Print of the Buddha from ancient times. The Sinhalese kings alone, in their devotion and persistence made the Peak accessible to the crowds of devotees who annually trekked the mountain.

The first historical mention about Sri Pada comes during the reign of Vijayabahu. Professor Senarath Paranavitana states: "It is in the reign of Vijayabahu" (1065-1119 AD) we have the earliest historical evidence in chronicles and inscriptions by the cult of the Footprint on Adam's Peak. It is recorded of this monarch that he, having seen the difficulties undergone by the pilgrims on their way to worship the Buddha's footprint on Samanthakuta dedicated the village named 'Gilimale' to provide for their needs. Stone inscriptions of Vijayabahu have been found at Gilimale and Ambagamuwa confirming the statement of the chronicle.

The thousands of pilgrims who make their annual pilgrimage to Sri Pada today perhaps do not realize the difficulties their ancestors had to undergo in order to pay their need of homage at the Sacred Foot Print. Whatever route they undertook to ascend the Peak their difficulties must have been almost insurmountable. Marco Polo (1254-1324 AD) who visited the Peak in the 14th century remarked that in places flights of steps were out in the rocks but none upwards and towards the summit.

The mountain has been climbed for at least 1000 years. King Vijayabahu (1065-1119 AD) built shelters along its route, work continued by Parakaramabahu the 2nd (1250-1284 AD) who cleared jungle & built a road & bridges to the mountain.

King Nissankamalla (1198 AD-1206 AD). is stated to have visited the Samanthakuta with his four-fold army and worshipped the Footprint with great devotion. He had re-granted the Village Ambagamuwa and it has been recorded in an inscription found in a cave known as Bhagavalena. He had constructed a concrete slab to protect the Footprint.

A Pali poem "Samantha Kuta Vannama" by a monk named Vedeha in the 13th century confirms the increasing interest shown by the Sinhala-Buddhists to the cult of this Footprint. In our recorded history, a good number of ancient kings have visited the mountain from time to time. Parakramabahu the 2nd (1250-1284 AD) visited the Footprint and paid homage. His minister, Devaprathiraja constructed roads leading to the mountain and installed iron chains on iron posts to make the ascent easy and conducted great festivities in celebrating to worship of the Footprint. Parakramabahu's son, Vijayabahu, and other kings like Vikramabahu, Vimaladharmasuriya (1592-1603), his son King Narendrasinhe (1705-1737) were among Sinhala Kings who had visited the Footprint to pay homage.

King Vimaladharmasuriya constructed a silver umbrella over the Footprint. King Sitawake Rajasinhe (1581-1593), the ferocious warrior king, who strode in to battle against Portuguese at the age of eleven & throughout his reign inflicted heavy defeats on Portuguese at Mulleriyawa (Mulleriyawa marshy land had turned into a red flood with the blood of the slaughtered Portuguese) & held the Portuguese Fort in Colombo under siege (besieged Portuguese were reduced to survive on slaughtering dogs & chasing cats & rats for meat), had also visited the Footprint. Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe (1738-1745 AD) had also visited the mountain. King Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe (1746-1778) during whose reign, Buddhist renaissance took place had visited the Footprint and restored to the temple properties frozen by King Sitawake Rajasinhe, who was told, by the Buddhist monks, that patricide was an almost eternal sin & couldn't be redeemed during his lifetime. Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe also donated the village, Kuttapitiya and the copper plate charter in support of this donation is still in existence.

Among the artifacts devised to ascend then almost inaccessible peak were massive iron chains affixed to stanchions of the same metal secured to the bare rock face. The chains were secured to the stanchions with rivets of iron and bronze. Commenting on the ancient artifacts on Sri Pada, the Englishman Robert Percival, who served with the British garrison in Colombo in the early nineteenth century, notes: "The iron chains on the rock face of Adam's Peak have the appearance of being planted there at a very early date, who placed them there or for what purpose they were set up there is difficult for anyone to know". The beliefs and superstitions of the natives present difficulties. Whatever it is, all evidence indicates that the Peak was in the limelight long before the recorded history of the Island. Remains of these artifacts are still evident. Early pilgrims to the peak made use of these chains to hoist themselves up to the summit.

The Mountain of Sarandib

"We saw it from the sea when we were nine day's journey away, & when we climbed it we saw the clouds below us, shutting out our view of base. On it there are many evergreen trees & flowers of various colours, including a red rose as big as the palm of a hand. There are two tracks on the mountain leading to the Foot, one called the Baba track & the other the Mama track, meaning Adam & Eve. The Mama track is easy & is the route by which the pilgrims return, but anyone who goes by that way is not considered to have made the pilgrimage at all. The Baba track is difficult & stiff climbing. Former generations cut a sort of stairway on the mountain, & are fixed iron stanchions on it, to which they attached chains for climbers to hold on by. There are ten such chains, & the tenth is the "Chain of the Profession of Faith", so called because when one reaches it & looks down to the foot of the hill, he is seized by apprehensions & recites the profession of faith for fear of falling. From the tenth chain to the cave of al-Khidr is seven miles; this cave lies in a spacious place, where there is a spring which is also called by his name; it is full of fish, but no one catches them. Close to this there are two tanks cut in the rock on either side of the path. At the cave of al-Khidr the pilgrims leave their belongings & ascend for two miles to the summit of the mountain where the Foot is. The blessed Footprint, the Foot of our father Adam is on a lofty black rock in a wide plateau. The blessed Foot sank into the rock far enough to leave its impression hollowed out. It is eleven spans long. In the rock where the Foot is. there are nine holes cut out, in which the infidel pilgrims place offerings of gold, rubies & pearls..."

Ibn Battutah
The Mountain of Sarandib is Adam's Peak, to which Adam is supposed to have descended when expelled fro Paradise. Ibn Battutah visited Adam's footprint on its summit.

God Maha Sumana Saman

God Maha Sumana Saman is one of the four deities, who undertook to protect the island and Buddhism in Lanka, according to Mahavamsa, the great chronicle in Sri Lanka. Sakra, Natha & Upulvan are the other three deities.

During the Buddha's first visit to Mahiyangana he preached his doctrine to celestial beings. One of the prominent figures at the assembly was Prince Sumana of the Samantha Kuta. Prince Saman attained the first fruit of the path of 'Nirvana' (Sotapatti Phala) and requested the master for an object for worship. The Buddha gave Him a lock of hair from his head and it was enshrined in the Mahiyangana stupa, the first Dagoba constructed in the Island during the lifetime of Buddha at the initiative of Prince Saman.

When the Buddha visited the island for the third & last time of Kelaniya, at the request of Prince Saman, the Buddha left the trace of His footprint on the mountain, according to Mahavamsa. Following his death Prince Saman became God Maha Sumana Saman. The god has never been identified as a Hindu God. There are two important and significant shrines constructed at Ratnapura and Mahiyangana dedicated to Maha Sumana Saman.

Visit of Alexander the Great

Ashraff, the 15th century poet describes the odyssey of Alexander the great to Sri Pada in his 'Zaffer Namah Skendari'. After landing in the Island and indulging himself and his retinue in orgies and revelry he explores the wonders of the Island. Here Alexander is known to have sought the assistance of the Philosopher Bolinas, a celebrated Greek occultist and magician, to climb the Sacred peak, then supposed to be zealously guarded by various deities. The belief that Alexander visited Sri Pada existed before Ashraff. Ibn Batuta, the romantic 14th century Arab pilgrim traveller from Tangiers in Morocco who sojourned in the Island visiting the Sacred Mount, refers to a grotto at the foot of the peak with the word "Iskander" inscribed on it. This 'Iskander' and 'Skendari' of Ashraff are identical; both names refer to none other than the celebrated Alexander the Great himself. Notes Batuta in his memoirs: "The ancients have cut steps of a sort on the vertical rock face, to these steps are fixed iron stanchions with suspended chains to enable pilgrims clamber up to the top with ease and minimum risk."

Apart from scanty and much belated Arab sources, history is strangely silent for over seventeen centuries on the visit of Alexander to the Island and his journey to Sri Pada. Neither the Great Dynastic Chronicle Mahawamsa nor any other historical record of significance refers to it. Records of Alexander's exploits were centered mainly in and around Persia and the Persian Empire, the legends and folklore of the early Persians were, as a matter of course, handed over to their Arab posterity.


Sri Lanka Hotel Guide - Hotel Information, Special Offers, News and Trends and much more

Sri Lanka Travel Guide - Travel Information, Special Offers, News and Trends and much more

Photo Gallery

click on photo to enlarge

Road Sign to Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak Triangle

Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak

Hotels in Cultural Triangle  |  Hotels in Central Highlands  |  Beach Hotels  |  Geoffrey Bawa Hotels  |  Eco Hotels & Lodges  |  Tea Bungalows  |  Resorts & Spa's

Ayurvedic Treatments  |  Ceylon Tea  |  Spice Island  |  Island of Gems  |  Travel Guide  |  Sri Lankan History  |  About Us  |  Contact Us

Copyright 2007-2012 - All Rights Reserved by Riolta Lanka Holidays (Pvt) Ltd. Web Site Design by Web Crafts (Pvt.) Ltd.