Sripada, also known as Samanala Kanda (which is at a height of 2293 metres) is the third highest mountain in Sri Lanka. Buddhists believe that Gautama Buddha placed his footprint on this peak. Sripada is a popular tourist attraction. Foreigners call this place ‘Adam’s peak’ and believe that the foot print placed on the mountain is that of Adams or St. Thomas. Hindus claim it to be the foot print of God Siva and call it Sivanadipadam. Hence, a large number of devotees embracing different religions climb the mountain annually during the season; which is from Duruthu Full moon poya day to Vesak Full moon poya day the following year. In laymen’s language this season starts in December and concludes in May. Devotees regard the rest of the year as the off-season. It is believed that the off-season is set aside for celestial beings, especially to God Sumana Saman whose abode is believed to be located on this mountain peak.
Rich in biodiversity
Sripada is virtually surrounded by forest and hills. These mountains which are in the vicinity are not as tall as Sripada. The area covering the Horton Plains national park and the Knuckles Range in the central highlands was recognised as a world heritage site in the year 2011. Sripada is also important as a watershed. Four main rivers of Sri Lanka, Mahaweli, Kelani, Kalu and Walawe originate from Sripada. The area to the south and east of this mountain yields precious stones-emeralds, rubies and sapphires for which the island is famous for. This area is known as Ratnapura.
Buddha’s second visit to Sri Lanka
When Gautama Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the second time to settle a dispute among Nagas led by Chulodara and Mahodara, the ruler of the Kelaniya kingdom, Naga King Maniakkhika, who had gone there to listen to Dharma from the Enlightened One invited The Buddha to visit his kingdom, Kelaniya. The Enlightened One accepted the invitation and during the eighth year after the Enlightenment he visited Sri Lanka for the third occasion. On this occasion God Sumana Saman extended an invitation to the Buddha to visit his abode at Samanala Kanda in the Central hills of Sri Lanka. According to Mahavamsa, Gautama Buddha had proceeded to Samantha kuta from Kelaniya with super natural powers through the air. It is believed that this mountain is protected by God Sumana Saman. Devotees too are protected by him.
Sripada is first referred to as Samanthakuta in Deepawansa during the fourth century and in Mahawansa in the fifth century. A mention is made in Mahawansa that King Valagamba had taken refuge in the forest of Sripada. King Vijayaba had visited Sripada during the fourth century. Italian traveler, Marco Polo noted that Sripada was an important place although he had not mentioned of the foot print. People from all walks of life climb Sripada to worship the sacred foot print and also for enjoy the hike.
Pilgrims climb this mountain only during the season. pilgrims avoid climbing the mountain during the off-season due to adverse weather conditions. The off-season makes travelling difficult for the pilgrim because of rain, wind and falling snow.
Start of the season
It takes about five hours to climb the mountain by foot. The mount is located in the Southern reaches of the central Highlands in the Ratnapura district of the Sabaragamuwa province and the Nuwara Eliya district of the Central Province. On Unduvap Poya Day the image of God Sumana Saman is taken in procession to the top of the Adam’s peak from Galpottawa Sripadasthna Viharaya and kept there till the end on the Vesak Full moon poya day. During the whole of the off-season the image of this deity is housed at Galpottawa Viharaya. Hence this temple is called Sripada pansala. Since this temple was constructed by King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe it is also called Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe Raja Maha Viharaya.
During the season hundreds of thousands of devotees (Both local and foreign) climb the mountain in their attempts to do merit. Devotees and tourists enjoy the hike in spite of the fact that it is a tedious excursion. To endure the tiredness and fatigue they rest on the way from time to time together in groups, bathe and clean themselves at Seethagangula, share refreshments including eats like aggala.
On their way to the peak after passing Seethagangula, pilgrims find Sama Chathya; the peace pagoda. This stupa was built by the famous Buddhist monk, Ven. Nichi Fugi in 1976. Today it is maintained by several Buddhist monks.
Samanalaya is the butterfly in Sinhalese. During a certain season of the year butterflies fly towards this mountain in great numbers. Hence Sripada is also called Samanala kanda. It is believed that butterflies too have the habit of going on pilgrimage to Sripada.
Pad Piyum, Pada Padma and Pa Kamal
There are many foot prints of the Buddha painted or engraved by painters and sculptors. In Sripada it is like a lotus flower and hence it is called “Pa Piyum”, “Pada Padma” and “Pa Kamal” meaning foot of lotus. Buddha’s feet were different from those of celestial beings and human beings as He is the Eminent One.
Thirty two marks in the body
Since The Buddha is the Exalted One, the Eminent One without a superior, it is said that there are thirty two auspicious marks on His body- “Detis Maha Purusha Lakshana”. These marks are there to indicate that The Buddha is “Devathi Deva” (god of gods) and “Brahmati Brahma” (Brahma of Brahmas.)
There is a belief that there are one hundred eight auspicious marks on Buddha’s feet. Mention is made of some of them in Naraseeha Gatha; said to have been recited by Queen Yasodhara to describe the personality of the Enlightened One to her son, Prince Rahula.
Auspicious marks in the ‘Siripathula’ or Buddha’s feet are described in the book titled “Mangala Lakuna” which is used in temple education. According to this book and another book titled “Himagata Vannana” there are twenty four auspicious marks on Buddha’s feet. Mention is made about the marks on Buddha’s feet by the venerable Professor, Bellanwila Wimalagnana Thera in his books titled “Budu pilimaya Mudra saha Asana and “Buddha Maha Purusha Sankalpaya”. These auspicious marks are found only on the body of the Exalted One- The Buddha who is passionless and free from desires.
According to Mahawansa The Buddha had placed His foot print at Yonakapura. Professor Gunapala Malalasekera is of the opinion that Yonakapura, mentioned in Pali books is Ayodya, was a country under the rule of Greeks somewhere during the eleventh century B.C. It was supposed to be a country situated near Afghanistan. A Buddha statue which is supposed to be the tallest in the world and found in a mountain range near Afghanistan substantiates this view.
Dolos Maha Pahana
Dolos Maha Pahana is the coconut oil lamp lit at Sripada. It is called so because it is kept burning throughout the twelve months of the year. The lamp continues to light regardless of whether devotees avoid climbing the mountain during the off-season. During the off-season there are people both clergy and laymen to attend to the rites including the need to keep the oil lamp burning.
Sunrise and shadow of the mount
When the sun is just about to rise the pilgrims and tourists rush to the eastern side to watch an amazing spectacle. The sun almost leaps over to the eastern horizon giving rise to a shadow which takes the form of a perfect triangle which represents the mountain. As the sun keeps on rising the shadow shifts towards the base of the mountain until it completely disappears. This is a breath breaking scene.