Tall and towering, the majestic stature of Adam’s Peak cuts an impressive figure along the southwestern edges of the Hill Country. This renowned nature attraction and pilgrimage site draws hordes of travellers and worshipers keen on making the arduous climb up to its soaring summit. Never one to say no to a challenge, we joined in the throng of enthusiastic trekkers eager to embark on their hike. Follow along, as we make our first attempt to surmount Adam’s Peak!
“It’s a pilgrimage, not a joyride,” says Ven. Dharmapala Seelananda, trustee of Sri Pada Mountain, on the arduous climb up Adam’s Peak.
Sri Pada Mountain, more commonly known as Adam’s Peak among travellers, cuts a towering figure along the southwestern edge of the Hill Country. A highly popular travel destination, Adam’s Peak is also one of the country’s most celebrated pilgrimage sites.
Buddha’s Footprint: Tales and Legends
Many legends and tales have been spun about a depression, shaped in the form of a footprint, at the summit of the mountain, . It has been said that this is the footprint was created by Buddha, at the request of the divine Saman. Sometime around the eighth century, Muslims claimed that the footprint belonged to Adam. They believed that the peak of the mountain was the first place he set foot on after being banished from heaven. It was said that the imprint was created as he patiently stood on one foot at a single spot, until all of his sins were forgiven. Similarly, the Hindus have their own take on this mystical footprint, making claims that it was created by Shiva. Despite the variety of claims made by believers of different religions and faiths, Adam’s Peak remains a site of worship for Buddhist pilgrims.
Embarking on our Expedition
Keeping in mind Ven. Dharmapala Seelananda’s words, we braced ourselves up for a challenging hike up to the soaring summit of Adam’s Peak. We started the climb in the cool, dark hours of the morning at about 2:30 A.M. Hikers keen on venturing up to the peak of the mountain are known to start their climb anytime in the wee hours of the morning, from midnight to 3:30 A.M.
Starting off from Dalhousie, we ventured from the car park up a slope with a gradual ascent. On the way, we pass under an archway, as well as the Japan-Sri Lanka Friendship Stupa. After this point, the path gets remarkably steeper – no longer an uphill slope, it becomes a flight of steps. It is not difficult to follow the well-trodden path, for there are plenty of clear markings left. Hikers will also find a number of rest stops and tea houses lining the path up to the summit.
On the day of our climb, few tourists and travellers were seen making their way up the trail. In fact, we appeared to be an oddity, as we were lone travellers amidst a long string of locals. Several times, we caught sight of the locals shooting curious glances and friendly smiles. Perhaps it was due to the fact that we were attired in sports shoes, visibly huffing and puffing as we made our way up. In contrast, the locals wore flip-flops or were barefooted, their lithe and light figures moving nimbly up the stairs.
Surmounting the Summit
After surmounting a staggering number of steps, we arrived at the top of Adam’s Peak. For a moment, we were speechless, standing still as we took in the breathtaking views surrounding us. It was a clear morning, with hardly any mists present to obscure our views of the scenery. The magical hour of sunrise offered a glorious sight – rising from the horizon, the sun was a glowing orb that lit up the sky with beautiful amber hues.
Pausing for a break at the summit, we settled down at a tea house, and watched on as local pilgrims carried out their worship. They made their way up a series of steps leading to the sacred footprint on top of a boulder. A cluster of pilgrims crowded around the site, throwing offerings that they had brought along into the hollow imprint. Next, they proceeded on to the shrine of Saman to offer their thanks. We were told that pilgrims who have made more than three trips up to the summit could ring one of the bells at the peak. Each act of striking the chime is one of great significance, for it represents every successful ascent that was made up the mountain.
After taking a breather, we turned around, gearing ourselves up for our next challenge of making a smooth descent down to the foot of the mountain…