peak surrounded in mist and mystery
By D.B. Kappagoda
The Sri Pada Season began with Unduvap Poya last year. During this
time of year pilgrims prepare to climb the peak before dawn. Their
wish is to watch the sunrise appearing on the eastern horizon in
the belief that the sun is paying homage to the sacred foot print
of the Buddha.
ancient times people have braved chilly weather to witness this
spectacle, to the cries of Sadhu!, Sadhu! full of religious fervour.
Visitors from overseas have marvelled at this phenomenon and recorded
their experiences in their writings.
are many legends woven around Sri Pada and the discovery of the
path to the summit. One such story relates how people worshipped
the sun god who lived in this mountainous region. The legendary
King Ravana after abducting Sita from India kept her in captivity
at a secret place close to Sri Pada. The story relates Sita frequented
Sitagagula where she had her baths in the cold water that flows
down the mountain side.
story is that the Sumana Saman deity whose authority prevailed in
the area surrounding Sri Pada when the Buddha's third visit to Sri
Lanka was made, invited the Buddha to visit his domain and requested
Him to place His foot print on the summit of the peak.
Samanthakuta Varnanava gives information of the religious beliefs
of the people when Sri Pada Kanda became a sacred place of Buddhist
worship. The Mahavansa, The Great Chronicle describes the visit
of the Buddha during the 8th year of the Enlightenment on Vesak
Full Moon Poya day. It was on this day that the Buddha placed His
foot print to mark His visit.
Rajavaliya which gives the history of rulers of Lanka, mentions
how prince Vijaya who arrived on the Island with his 700 followers
had sighted the mountain peak from the vessel in which they were
writings by travellers to Lanka like Fa Hsien and Ibn Batuta had
recorded how they climbed the holy peak. Our rulers built premises
for those who visited on pilgrimage. Along with other places of
Buddhist worship, Solosmasthana Sri Pada Kanda became accepted as
one of the sixteen places steeped in history.
During the Anuradhapura period King Duttagamini Abhaya (Dutugemunu)
promoted the cause of Buddhism by building shrines throughout the
country and helped the Sangha to propagate the Buddhist faith among
the people. People came to call Sri Pada Samangira according to
the text Sahas Chatuppakarana.
of king Duttagamini Abhaya’s giant warriors Theraputhabhaya
had climbed Sri Pada and worshipped at the foot print. On his return,
he met Elara's leader at Marukanda where he killed him. It has been
said that there had been 900 bhikkus living around Sri Pada Kanda
at that time.
the Polonnaruwa period King Vijayabahu commissioned buildings at
Sri Pada and gifted the Gilimale village for the maintenance of
the sacred place.
The King made the Kehelgamuwa route more convenient for pilgrims.
His charitable acts are mentioned in his Ambagamuva inscription.
He built a separate terrace - Maluva for people belonging to low
castes. This maluva is paved with sand and hence the name Veli Maluva.
According to the Rajavaliya, King Parakramabahu had climbed Sri
Pada Kanda and constructed the Saman Devalaya on its summit.
Nissankamalla in 1187 AC had climbed Sri Pada and commissioned the
construction of buildings for the convenience of the pilgrims which
he had mentioned in eight of his inscriptions.
King Parakamabahu of Dambadeniya ordered the route to Sri Pada to
be cleared and gifted a statue of the Saman deity which was kept
at the premises of the sacred foot print. These donations we mentioned
in the Chulavamsa.
Asgiriya tudapata (Palm leaf decree) records that Parakramabahu
IV, of Kurunegala had donated the income of Sri Pada for the welfare
of the Sangha belonging to Asgiriya Viharaya. It was during the
rule of king Parakramabahu VI of Kotte that monies were spent on
repairs at Saman Devalaya.
in the past provided necessary grants for the maintenance of Sri
Pada but when King Rajasinha of Sitavaka ascended the throne, he
handed over the control of Sri Pada to Saivite priests.
continued till King Keerthisri Rajasingha when Ven. Vehelle Dhammadinna
became the chief incumbent of Sri Pada. Endemic plants, creepers,
insects, birds and reptiles can be seen on the path to Sri Pada.
There are colourful flowers and foliage that meet the eye of the
greet each other with the words "Karunavai Karunavai"
while descending or ascending the steep rocky steps. The verses
from Tun Sarana fill the air with piety. The Buddhist thought, "May
I never be subject to ailments and diseases. May I never be moved
to anger and utter harsh words" show the way to overcome the
vanity of life and lead one to the final salvation of attaining