Climbing Adam’s Peak is considered as one of the most sacred pilgrimage in Sri Lanka. In 2015, the period of pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak or Sripada in Sinhalese will start from December 24 and will end on May 25, the full moon night of Vesak which is celebrated as the festival of light in Sri Lanka. According to the lunar calendar, this time of the year is considered very auspicious and people irrespective of caste and creed climb Adam’s peak. After dark the illuminated trails of the Adam’s peak that lead to the hilltop temple look astonishing. Weather is also good during this time and you can enjoy the panoramic view from the top and can also observe the mysterious phenomenon of the triangular shadow of the peak.
Where is Adam’s Peak?
The Adam’s Peak is at the edge of the highlands at the island’s center in the Sabaragamuwa province near Hatton and Ratnapura. Conically shaped and standing majestically at 2243 meters, it is one of the highest peaks of Sri Lanka. The starting point of climbing Adam’s Peak is generally start from Dalhousie, a small town at the foot of the peak. The lovers of adventure can take a long way through Kuruwita that is close to Ratnapura but it is not illuminated.
What motivates the pilgrims to climb Adam’s peak for centuries?
Adam’s Peak or Sripada in Sinhalese means ‘sacred feet’. Why this name? It is because at the top of the peak is the imprint of a foot which mobilize the pilgrims since ages. Already in the fourteenth century, Ibn Battuta, the famous traveler of all time tell his ascent of Adam’s Peak. Buddhists are convinced that this is the footprint of Buddha that he left during his second visit to the island. Hindus see it as the mark of Shiva, Muslims see it as mark of Adam in the Garden of Eden and Christians, since the Portuguese colonization, have a conflicting claims of St Thomas and the eunuch of Candace, queen of Ethiopia.
Climbing Adam’s Peak at Night
The duration of the ascent depends on one’s own pace. Those who see it as a small sporting achievement can do it in a little more than two hours. The normal ‘walkers’ can take up to 4 or 5 hours.
The climb is generally done at night. There are around 5000 to 6000 steps till the temple (sources differ on the exact number!) that pilgrims prefer to climb around 2:30 am to arrive on time for the scheduled ceremony at sunrise. The Sri Lankan pilgrims of all religion, often families or from the same town follow their ‘leader’. Elderly, children, and even infants, on the back of their parents do this pilgrimage of climbing Adam’s peak with fervor. Driven by the power of faith it is not uncommon to see aged women climbing the stairs on knees.
On the Bright path of Adam’s Peak
Carrying plastic bags are prohibited at the time of climbing Adam’s peak. You will find clothed bags at the bridges which you are supposed to return after your ascent.
Initially, steps are deep and gradual requiring two to three strides. It put your foot muscles on test! While walking, you will also come across sleeping pilgrims. Many stalls dot the route: you can buy something to eat, warm up with tea and even purchase caps and blankets! What triggers a smile at the beginning proves to be very useful at the end.
Along the way you’ll be challenged by the rituals of the pilgrims, including the kilometers of white thread that mark the trees and the trail. These white threads are used by the Buddhist monks to wrap around the wrists of the faithful as a blessing of Lord Buddha.
The site is very busy during the full moon and the crowd is too large. An order of service is organized in the last part of the course which mark the access to the temple. This is a great event to test someone’s patience before reaching to the Promised Land!
The Ringing of the bell, chants and the dawn
The sun begins its slow ascent while the priests sing songs accompanied by drums and flutes. The sky changes every moment with beautiful light of dawn. Everyone waits for the magic moment when the shadow of the peak will take a perfect triangle shape. It is still an unexplained phenomenon that enhances the sacredness of the place.
Ringing the bell is part of the ritual of the pilgrims and one rings the bell depending upon the number of visits to Adam’s Peak. The number of ‘Ding, ding’ that resonates throughout the valley sometimes helps to estimate the number of pilgrims who climbed the Adam’s Peak.
One can have the exhilarating feeling of living on top of the world, perched on a sacred mountain in the depths of Sri Lanka!
Is it a climb for all? What to bring?
Climbing Adam’s Peak requires good physical strength. You are required to take proper rest before leaving for taking the stairs at night. It is not difficult since it can done at your own pace but unequal steps can be painful. It is essential to drink water regularly. The descent is sometimes seen as more difficult as it is imperative to stay focused and to balance your body while going downwards.
Carry a lightweight backpack with a warm sweater, dry and spare socks, sunscreen and sunglasses for the descent, cereal bars, some sugar cubes to alleviate hypoglycemia, bottled water or thermos with hot drink and possibly a walking stick.
Climbing Adam’s Peak entice you? It was never so easier. Contact one of our travel expert in Colombo who will advise you and integrate this fantastic adventure in your tailor made trip to Sri Lanka!