On Vesak Poya, the trek to Samanala Kanda culminated with the procession of God Saman. Sacred paraphernalia was brought down to Galpottawala Raja Maha Vihara at Pelmadulla on the eighth from Sri Pada. Last year, former President Maithripala Sirisena declared Adam’s Peak as a conserved area. The season of trekking Samanala Kanda commenced with Unduvap and concluded with Vesak Poya.
Buddhists believe Lord Buddha on his third visit to Sri Lanka kept his footprint here at the bequest of God Saman. Various religious groups claim it was the footprint of their believer. Portuguese believed the footprint was that of St. Thomas or Queen of Ethiopia.
Lt. Malcolm is believed to have ascended the mountain in 1816 but Tennent says he climbed the mountain on April 27, 1827. He had made measurements of the area where the sacred footprint is placed. He records the land area as 1,777 square feet. It is 74 feet in length and 24 feet in breadth. According to him, there is an 8ft tall boulder which is said to have Lord Buddha’s foot. He says: “Atop is the sacred footprint. According to mythical conception woven of folklore, the real impression of the foot lies under the boulder on a blue sapphire. To prevent it from sacrilegious profanation, God Sakara, it is said, had it covered with a boulder. “
Dr. John Davy who had climbed the mountain says: “The footmark is a superficial flow 68 inches long and 31 inches and 29 inches wide at the toes and the heel respectively. It is ornamented with a margin of brass and studded with a few gems. The cavity bears some coarse resemblance to a human foot but the size is gigantic and seems partly natural and partly artificial. There are little raised portions to represent the intersection between the toes.”
When I was a child of six or seven years, I was taken to climb Sri Pada. But the weather was so bad that I could not climb beyond the point of “Indikatupana.” My grandmother encouraged me to visit a number of Buddhist sites during her lifetime. She was a wealth of information. I was left with an aide at Indikatupana. She made her way to the top of the hill. She returned the next morning having witnessed the sunrise. During this period, I was offered coffee from those boutiques set up for this purpose. It took me another decade to decide to climb the sacred mountain.
From time immemorial, the last lap of the climb is aided by iron chains and stanchions, but who erected them goes unrecorded. Commenting on this, Robert Percival who served with British Garrison noted: “The iron chains on the rock of Adam’s Peak have the appearance of being planted there at a very early date. Who placed them and or for what purpose is unknown. They were set up, according to most observers is by a mystic force.”
However, some say the Portuguese called it Adam’s Peak while others believed it was a moorman who called it such. These are referred to in Tennent and Davy’s Ceylon, but to us it is Samanala Kanda. There was a time when we use to see thousands of white butterflies make their way towards Samanala Kanda. Old folk used to say they go towards the high mountain and perish there for a better life. Perhaps, the name Samanala Kanda could have been derived from this scenario.
Sasthrapathi Parivenadhipathi Kirielle Gnanawimala Thera says in his writings that Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, Nissankamalla, Maha Parakramabahu, Parakramabahu I and II as well as several kings of Sri Lanka worshipped at the sacred mountain. The prelate points out that this was inscribed in a stone at the foot of the climb, but that the inscription was defaced due to devotees burning ‘copra.’
According to Tennent, a Venetian Nicolo de Cante, who had climbed the mountain, the footprint is not that of Adam but he does not say how he arrived at this conclusion.
Much has been said about Sri Pada and according to sources the footprint is not where we are supposed to think it is. It is said that the footprint is on a blue sapphire underneath the present location. William Sheen points out that there is a cavity on the side of the original rock formation which could be seen and he thinks the footprint could be there on a blue sapphire. Perhaps, it is so and could be so. It is not possible that Gautama Buddha would have left his footprint on an empty rock and that God Saman would never have let him do so on a raw rock formation when there are so many gem minerals in the locality.
According to Rajavaliya, Parakramabahu-I visited this sacred mountain and ordered the building of a temple. After his climb, Parakramabahu-II granted 20 miles of land around Samanala Kanda for the benefit of devotees.
Many years ago, there were ascetics from India who used to visit from village to village collecting money for the building of steps in Samanala Kanda. They in fact constructed steps for the welfare of those devotees visiting the mountain. These ascetics could be the generation of those who are believed to have been placed by Rajasinghe-I of Sitawaka to be in charge of the mountain. According to Chulavamsa, King Vimaladharmasuriya-II worshipped at Sri Pada and stayed there for seven days and offered a silver umbrella to be over the footprint.
The belief of Muslims is based on the Old Testament and calls it “Adam Malai” due to the belief that the sepulcher of Adam lies on the top of the mountain. Hindus believe it is the footprint of God Shiva. It is believed by Hindus that God Shiva had settled to remain on this summit for the sake of mankind. Hence, they have coined the word “Sivanolipadam.”
However, things have changed and more comfortable forms are made to climb the mountain with the dawn of the season. The authorities removed the statue of God Saman, the white elephant and other sacred objects from Galpottawala Raja Maha Vihare built by King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe, but they have not forgotten to stop at Maha Saman Devale in Ratnapura where a ritual is conducted so that the season for devotees would be free from any mishap.
The two historic paths to the summit of the sacred mountain are through Hatton and Ratnapura.
There is an instance recorded by John Still in his book titled ‘Jungle Tide’ where he points out how a group of pilgrims fell into the precipice below the last phase of the climb while holding on to a loose chain.
The large lamp atop the mountain was an offering of King Wickremebahu, which burns day and night, and the oil is taken away by devotees for their own good. This lamp seems to have been replaced in 2014 according to the news. But it is also said that the old lamp still remains.
According to the incumbent of Sri Pada, Uva Wellassa Vice Chancellor Venerable Berengama Dhammananda Thera, the effigy of God Saman and the other sacred objects would be taken down to Nallathambiya this year under the guard of the army.