Adam's Peak

Adam’s Peak, known locally as “Sri Paadaya,” is a majestic conical mountain rising 2,243 meters (7,359 feet) above sea level in central Sri Lanka. Revered by multiple faiths, it holds profound significance in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, and Christian traditions, each attributing the footprint found atop the peak to a different deity or figure—Buddha, Shiva, Adam, or St. Thomas.

Beyond its religious importance, Adam’s Peak serves as a vital watershed, with the districts surrounding it known for yielding precious gems such as emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, earning the island the ancient name of Ratnadvipa, meaning “Island of Gems.”

The journey to the summit typically begins via the Nallathanni or Palabaddala routes, with the ascent predominantly undertaken from Hatton. The trail consists of thousands of steps, often built in cement or rough stones, illuminated by electric lights to facilitate safe night-time climbs, even for families with children. Along the way, pilgrims and visitors find rest stops and wayside shops offering refreshments and supplies.

References to Sri Pada date back to ancient chronicles like the Deepawamsa and Mahawamsa, with historical figures such as Ibn Batuta and Marco Polo documenting their visits to the sacred peak. The English traveler John Davy was among the first Europeans to visit the peak in the early 19th century, noting the oversized foot imprint adorned with brass margins and gems.

For Buddhists, the footprint symbolizes the left foot of the Buddha, left behind during his visit to Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Buddhist deity Saman. Tamil Hindus, on the other hand, consider it as the footprint of Lord Shiva, while Muslims and Christians view it as the place where Adam, the first ancestor, set foot after being expelled from the Garden of Eden.

A shrine dedicated to Saman, the Buddhist deity believed to protect the mountaintop, stands near the footprint, adding to the spiritual ambiance of the site. Climbing Adam’s Peak at night is a remarkable experience, with the path illuminated by starlight and the anticipation of witnessing the spectacular sunrise from the summit, casting a perfect triangular shadow over the western backdrop of the mountain.

The pilgrimage season typically spans from December to May, offering favorable weather conditions for climbing. During this period, pilgrims and tourists flock to witness the awe-inspiring natural spectacle as the rising sun casts its majestic shadow over the landscape. However, climbing during other months is often deterred by heavy rain, strong winds, and thick mist, adding to the mystique and challenge of scaling this sacred mountain.