Mountains of Sri Lanka


Sri Pada (Mountain of Butterflies)

The only mountains in the world where four major religions get together and worship. To the Buddhist, the imprint found on the summit of the mountain is the hallowed footprint of the Lord Buddha hence the Name “SriPada”. To the Hindus, the footprint is that of God Shiva. To the Christians, it is the footprint of St. Thomas, and to the Islam, it’s the foot print of Adam, hence the title “Adam’s peak”. Another name given by Sinhalese is “Samanala Kanda” meaning Butterfly Mountain due to the fleet of butterflies fling around with the start of the season.

It is 2243m in height above the sea level and about 27km (16 miles) from bottom to the top by foot or 14.4km(9 miles) by vehicle and 12km (7 miles) by foot to the top of the pointed peak.


Since the 11th century the mountain has been a place of pilgrims. King Vijayabahu the 1 and King Nissankamalla of Polonnaruwa both recorded their pilgrimage here. Pilgrimage season begins from the full moon Poya day of December and continues until the Wesak festival in May. At other times the mountain is wet and rains make the trail dangeruose. Thosands of people makes the journey every year. Most of them climb in the night. The trail is illuminated by lamps. Pilgrims rests and the refreshment stalls make the climb easier. Those who reach the summit by dawn witness a glorious view of sun rising.

Sri pada pilgrims follow a number of traditions procedures. It’s customary for first time climbers to bathe at the stream call “Seetha Gangula” and to pile white cloth on their heads. At “indikatu pana” (place of the needle). The devotees stop and hang a threaded needle in to a shrub by path’s side, marking a spot where the Buddha is said to have stopped to mend a tear in his road. It is bad form, by the way, to ask how far is it to the top...? Instead just exchange the greetings “karunawai”: “peace”. Some sing folk songs. The huge bell at the summit is strucked by every pilgrim once for each time they visited. Present visit is not counted, as it’s not completed until they return home. Wearing a sweater is a must as it could be very cold at the summit.

Major Skinner, the well known engineer of fame during the British rule over Ceylon (Sri Lanka formerly known as Ceylon), in his celebrated book, “fifty years in Ceylon”(1891) has described how he has seen the marvelous shadow of the summit which can be seen with sun rising when he had camped out there in 1840.

“I used to see the most wonderful effects when camping out. On one occasion, my sojourn on Adam’s peak lasted for a fortnight on the top of the cone, where I waited for clear weather, which I did not get. To admit of my completing of my observations. One morning as the sun was rising, the shadow of the mountain was thrown across the whole land and sea and to the horizon, and for a few minutes the apex was doubled, and so clearly marked that the little shed over the impression of Buddha’s foot was perfectly distinct in the shadow. Another most curios effect was when the mist has lain deep in the valley bellow, between the great peak range of Rakwana, it was an exact representation of the sea: the clouds rolling against the base of the mountain resembling the surf beating against the cliffs which seemed to project in to the sea, the point of the hills peeping through the mist, appeared like beautiful islands.”


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