Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, is the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, and it is also the main pilgrimage destination in the island. The most sacred relic is found on the top: a huge footstep engraved on rock which has been there for centuries or millennia; nobody knows exactly. For all the buddhists this is revered as the sacred footprint of the Lord Buddha when he was in Sri Lanka over 2500 years ago. For the Hindus, this is believed to be much older, and they affirm it is the footprint of Lord Shiva. The Muslims sustain it is the footprint of Adam, the first Man. And for the Christians, this is the footprint of Saint Thomas the apostle, who introduced Christianity in that land.Be what it may, one thing is for sure: This place is of immense relevance for a huge proportion of the human race, and because of this it has already been declared World Heritage by the UNESCO.
The relic is protected under a thick glass, which is inside a shrine. So, pilgrims are allowed to see it only when the shrine is open to the public. Pictures can be taken of the footprint inside the thick glass.
In this article I wont discuss whether the footprint is really what they take it for or not. Instead, I want to relate the pilgrimage I engaged into, I have to say, in a risky and negligent fashion across the jungle during the Monsoon season, and that could have cost me my life.
The mountain is 2243 meters high. And although it doesn’t sound too much when compared with other higher mountains in Asia, because of the thick jungle that coves the area, when you are on the mountain you are in a totally different world, and the climate is so different as well.
There are mainly four ways up to the sacred temple with the relic on the top:
1) Hatton is by far the most used path to reach the top, because it is the only one that has steps made of cement or of rock all the way to the top. It’s a tough climb of about 6500 steps (I read that somewhere). The last 2000 being quite hight steps, that require some greater effort. Still, this is the easiest path, because it starts from a higher point at a village, so the climb is not so steep. At the same time, it goes through a proper path made of stone and cement, and you are less likely to suffer the leeches or some other insects or animals that live in the jungle.
2) Ratnapura is the oldest path. And although nobody knows when it was first used for pilgrimage, many of the steps to climb up the top have been built in the 11th Century. That’s 1000 years old! This path is longer than Hatton, and requires a steeper climbing, since it starts from a lower point. Therefor it is much less popular than the first.
3) Kuruwita is one of the most difficult and less popular ones. It goes through the jungle, and the “path” is often the natural trail made by the water streams that flow down the mountain. The way is frequently quite dark due to the high trees, damp, full of leeches and you can be unlucky enough to come across a wild animal. It’s also longer (19 km. to the top from the place I started to climb), and the climb is steeper. I requires crossing some water streams as well.
4) Deraniyagala is the toughest and least popular of them all, and usually only experienced local guides take it, and only during the hight season. Taken that way usually implies spending a night in the middle of the jungle, so you have to go very well prepared. And the place is so dark and damp, that it is very difficult to light a fire. Also, leeches swarm on you. At several points you have to cross some water streams as well, and very often there is no path visible, because whatever path there is made, is soon after swallowed by the jungle.
I started to climb on the morning of the 15th of August via Kuruwita, and came down the morning of the 16th via Hatton. In my next post I’ll describe my hike and I’ll also provide some tips on how to get there and what could be required.