This enchanting hallowed mountain and ancient pilgrimage site, is shrouded in intriguingly woven legend and history. It is a conically-shaped mountain, some 16 kilometers North-East of the Gem-City Ratnapura rising abruptly and startlingly from a lower valley, to a staggering 7,360 feet (2,243 meters) above sea-level. Sri Pada proudly boasts one of Sri Lanka’s most breathtakingly unobstructed views over land and sea, typically over the southern hill-country regions.
Buddhists believe that the left-foot-mark on the summit of Sri Pada is that of the Lord Buddha, which he left behind as a symbol for worship when he visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of the Buddhist God Saman, the tutelary deity of the mountain wilderness.
The mountain was also the landmark of ancient sea-faring Arabs who came to Sri Lanka to trade in gems, spices, and ivory etc. These Arabs, having sighted the conical mountain miles off shore, prayed to God for having brought them safely to the island. They believed that atop this mountain lay the sepulcher of Adam (the first parent of the human race).
The famous nomadic Arab pilgrim Ibn Batuta alias Abu Abdullah Mohammed (1304-1377), had ventured to reach the summit of this holy mountain via Ratnapura. Prior to him, the famous Venetian merchant and traveler Marco Polo (1254 - 1324), too had ascended the mountain to pay homage to the celebrated ‘Foot of Adam’. The Hindus on the other hand believe that the rock (Civan-Oli-Pata) or “mountain path of God Siva’s light”.
Every year, irrespective of their religious and cultural beliefs, thousands of pilgrims, tourists and devotees make the demanding climb up to its peak. The most popular time for venturing on this climb is usually between the months of December to April ideally before the monsoons set in. The almost ritualistic climb to the summit takes several hours and is best done in the late evening or at night offering a timing where the visitor reaches the peak just before the break of dawn. It is just as the new day breaks at dawn, where one is greeted with an exhilarating view of the Sunrise and the landscape below that stretches for miles, lighting up the forests and rich landscape as it advances. A truly almost ‘enlightening’ experience that is the highlight to those visiting this majestic mountain peak.
Many pilgrims make this climb in the belief that they are performing a worthy act of religious worship where they perform religious rights at its peak after the hard climb up. The climb offers several resting places along its route where pilgrims rest, cook and have a simple meal, while some even could be seen taking a nap before continuing upwards. The climb is not recommended for the very young, or very elderly, pregnant mothers and otherwise those of poor physical condition, as it offers a physically challenging hike to the summit.
A river that separates the peak from the surrounding mountain range is another anticipated attraction where many pilgrims take the ceremonial ‘cleansing bath’, change into clean clothes and then proceed to cross over a fort-like bridge to the sacred mountain. The path to the summit is lit up in some places and also offers metal railings to aid those making the climb giving its visitor a somewhat mysterious yet truly exciting experience.