Adam's Peak (also Adam's Mount; Sinhalese Samanalakanda "butterfly mountain", Tamil Sivanolipatha Malai), is a 2,243 metres (7,359 ft) tall conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well-known for the Sri Pada "sacred footprint", a 1.8 m rock formation near the summit, in Buddhist tradition held to be the footprint of Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Muslim tradition that of Adam.
The mountain is located in the southern reaches of the Central Highlands, in the Ratnapura district of the Sabaragamuwa Province - lying about 20 km northeast of the city of Ratnapura. The surrounding region is largely forested hills, with no mountain of comparable size nearby.
Access to the mountain is generally provided by a bus that travels between Sripada and the nearby town of Maskeliya, to the northeast. The summit of the mountain, however, may only be reached on foot.
Due to its historical significance to the various peoples that inhabit the region, the mountain, itself, is referred to by a variety of terms.
Sri Pada is the term, derived from Sanskrit, used by the Sinhalese people in a religious context. This name is also understood in Pali, and may be translated roughly as "the sacred foot". It refers to the footprint-shaped mark at the summit, which is believed by Buddhists to be that of the Buddha. Other traditions assert that it is the footprint of Adam, left by his first entrance into the world.
Shivanolipatha Malai and Shiva padam are two Tamil names holding similar meanings, but both refer to the footprint as being that of the Hindu deity Shiva rather than that of the Buddha.
The Sinhala name of the mountain is Samanalakanda, which refers either to the deity Saman, who is said to live upon the mountain, or to the butterflies (samanalaya) that frequent the mountain during their annual migrations to the region.
Other local and historic names include Ratnagiri ("jewelled hill"), Samantakuta ("Peak of Saman"), Svargarohanam ("the climb to heaven"), Mount Rohana and other variations on the root Rohana.
It is revered as a holy site by Buddhists, Hindus, and to a lesser extent by Jews, Muslims and Christians. It has specific qualities that cause it to stand out and be noticed; including its dominant and outstanding profile, and the boulder at the peak that contains an indentation resembling a footprint.
For a long period Adam's Peak was supposed to be the highest mountain in Ceylon, but actual survey makes it only 7353 ft. above sea-level. This elevation is chiefly remarkable as the resort of pilgrims from all parts of the East. The hollow in the lofty rock that crowns the summit is said by the Brahmans to be the footstep of Siva, by the Buddhists of Buddha, by the Muslims of Adam, whilst the Portuguese Christians were divided between the conflicting claims of St Thomas and the eunuch of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. The footstep is covered by a handsome roof, and is guarded by the priests of a rich monastery half-way up the mountain, who maintain a shrine on the summit of the peak.
It is an important pilgrimage site, especially for Hindus and Buddhists. Pilgrims walk up the mountain, following a variety of routes up thousands of steps. The journey takes several hours at least. The peak pilgrimage season is in April, and the goal is to be on top of the mountain at sunrise, when the distinctive shape of the mountain casts a triangular shadow on the surrounding plain and can be seen to move quickly downward as the sun rises.
Climbing at night can be a remarkable experience, with the lights of the path leading up and into the stars overhead. There are rest stops along the way.
The mountain is most often scaled from December to May. During other months it is hard to climb the mountain due to very heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick mist, although it has been done before by a team of girls from a school in Windsor, on a world challenge expedition. It is almost impossible to hike there through lesser known jungle tracks because of flooding rivers and animals.
Buddhists say that the footprint mark is the left foot of the Buddha, left behind as he strode away, the right footprint being (depending on legend) in Amphoe Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi Province, located about 150 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. This place is called in Thai Phra Bat or Phra Phutthabat.
Tamil Hindus think it is the footprint of Shiva.
Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka ascribe it to where Adam, the first Ancestor, set foot as he was exiled from the Garden of Eden. The legends of Adam are connected to the idea that Sri Lanka was the original Eden.
A shrine to Saman, a Buddhist "deity" (People who have done yeoman service to regions are deified by Sri Lankan Buddhists) charged with protecting the mountain top, can be found near the footprint.