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Adam's Peak History

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Buddhist pilgrims climbs the 2245m (7242ft) high mountain to honor the legendary footprint of Buddha. A large number of pilgrims visit Adam's Peak every year. The word Sri Pada means "holy footprint". It is a holy place for 4 major religions For Buddhist it is foot print of Lord Buddha, For Christians and Muslims it is the foot prints of Adam when he was sent on earth, for Hindus the mountain is called "Shivas Peak". All of the religions pay their respect or atleast make the adventure to climb the mountain for the sake of achieving the spirit of a holy mountain.

Portuguese Christians believed St Thomas and the eunuch of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. The footstep is covered by a handsome roof, and is guarded by the priests of a rich monastery half-way up the mountain, who maintain a shrine on the summit of the peak.

The mountain is most often scaled from December to May. During other months it is hard to climb the mountain due to very heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick mist.

Buddhists say that the footprint mark is the left foot of the Buddha, left behind as he strode away, the right footprint being (depending on legend) in Amphoe Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi Province, located about 150 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. This place is called in Thai Phra Bat or Phra Phutthabat.

A shrine to Saman, a Buddhist "deity" (People who have spent spiritual life during their life on earth and done pacificism service to regions are deified by Sri Lankan Buddhists) charged with protecting the mountain top, can be found near the footprint.

It is believed that King Valagambahu (104-76 BC) discovered Sri Pada while he was in exile in the mountain wilderness, (called as "Sri Pada Adaviya")  to escape the marauding Cholians. It is believed King Valagambahu was led to the summit of the mountain by a deity in the guise of a stag. Since the dicovery both ordinary people and the royality started paying homage to the Foot Print of the Buddha. Later the Sinhalese kings made the Peak accessible to devotees who annually trekked the mountain.

According to Professor Senarath Paranavitana: "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."

In early times people climbed the peak with great dificulty but later stops were made to facilitate the pilgrims. 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.

Hece the mountain has been climbed for at least 1000 years. King Vijayabahu (1065-1119 AD) built shelters along its route, which was 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. A constructed a concrete slab was built 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 re-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.


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