Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka, and its holy footprint
Even if Mount Sinai was considered sacred at a much earlier date, Mt. Fuji surpasses it in beauty and height, and Mt. Kilash evokes a far greater sense of mystery, no other mountain has been revered by so many people, from such a variety of religions, for so many centuries as Sri Pada.
In the Middle Ages, the Garden of Eden was commonly believed to exist on earth, probably on top of a mountain, or on an island, in order to have survived legendary Noah’s Flood. For century, for those looking to find the exact location of the biblical garden, “East” was a popular direction to start their researches.
It was 1358 when a Florentine monk believed he had found what he was looking for on a very tall mountain on the island of Sri Lanka. Located sixteen kilometers northeast of the city of Ratnapura, Adam’s Peak, also known as the Samanalakanda in Sinhalese and Sivanolipatha Malai in Tamil, rises about 2.200 meters above sea level, and offers an unobstructed and paradisiac view over land and sea. According to the the Italian missionary Giovanni Marignolli, who traveled the East for 15 years, this particular mountain was “so close to the earthly paradise that from its top one could see paradise were it not for the cloud cover that hides it from view.”
At the top, there is what looks like a fossilized footprint, that the missionary claimed it was Adam’s. The foot-shaped groove is known as the Sri Pada which means “sacred footprint” and still holds religious meaning though the claim has gotten more contentious. The Hindus claim the footprint belongs to Shiva, the Buddhists claim it belongs to the Buddha, while Christian and Muslim Sri Lankan’s agree that the footprint definitely belongs to Adam’s ancient foot.
It is said that when Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka “The God of Saman” invited to place his footprint on the summit of this mountain.
For about half the year the mountain is often hidden in clouds and the torrential rains rush down its steep sides. These rains have also washed lot of rock and soil off Sri Pada and its surrounding peaks and the alluvial deposits that extend from its foot towards the south and east are one of the world’s richest gem mining areas. Here are found rubies, topaz, garnets, cats eye, aquamarine, Alexanderite and sapphires ranging in colour from yellow to blue. Like the mountain itself, lot of legends are told about these gems. The Arabs believed they were the crystallised tears Adam and Eve shed when they were expelled from Paradise, while the Chinese told another story. They said that when the Buddha visited Sri Lanka he found the people poor and given to theft. So he sprinkled the island with sweet dew which crystallised into gems thus freeing the people from poverty by giving them a commodity to trade with.
Sri Pada is surrounded by a cool misty forest with giant trees heavy with moss, rhododendrons with large red blossoms and rare orchids like the Regal and the Chandraraja, which grow in the dark moist loam. Although not actually growing on Sri Pada’s slopes but in the forests further north and west, Sri Lanka’s famous spices have long been associated with the sacred mountain too. The Arabs believed that these sweet spices grew from cuttings and seeds which Adam took with him from Paradise, while a 14th century Persian poem says that Allah created all Sri Lanka’s spices and flowers so that Adam’s transition from Paradise to earth would be less painful.
Of course, the mountain has been climbed for more than a thousand years, and boasts an illustrious list of famous pilgrims including the Arab traveler Ibn Batuta, and possibly, Alexander the Great. It remains a major shrine site and hiking trail today. Sri Pada mountain region is considered to be looked over by the God of Saman and he is much revered by the locals. The Pilgrims make sure to well behave and avoid meat during the climb out of respect to this holy place.
Images from Web.