A Pilgrim’s Progress- Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

The sun peaked over the horizon, and in a matter of minutes, the darkness which had cloaked me for hours vanished, replaced with a warm, orange glow. Though a good sized crowd was gathered at the summit, you could have heard a pin drop, such was the silent reverence for the place. © Shutterstock

You can climb Adam’s Peak in daylight hours, and many people do, but pilgrims typically prefer to walk through the last hours of the night to catch the sunrise at the top. The theme of darkness overcome by light is recurrent in many faiths, and here it seems particularly appropriate as Muslims and Christians, Buddhists and Hindus all journey to the mountain to pray. Visitors of no faith come too, but the experience seems particularly poignant for believers.

For the followers of the Abrahamic faiths, it was here that Adam first set foot on earth when he was cast out of the Garden of Eden, having eaten the forbidden fruit. An oversized footprint, nearly two metres in length and cut into the rock near the summit is, for Buddhists, the mark left by the left foot of the Buddha; for Hindus, that same footprint belongs to Lord Shiva. Adam’s Peak is, according to local Tamil legends, also Mount Trikuta, described in the Ramayana Hindu epic as the capital of the demon king, Ravana.

The journey from darkness into light is a common theme in religion, and is embodied literally in climbing Adam's Peak through the night to witness the sunrise. © Shutterstock

I climbed Adam’s Peak in April, at the peak of the pilgrimage period, and like my Buddhist companions, I made the journey barefoot as a sign of humility. Starting around 2am, we opted for the Hatton trail because though it is steep, it is significantly shorter than the other routes. Our way was lit by tiny lights along the path, as well as by the near-full moon and stars. We climbed step after rough step, hewn into the rock or bolstered with stone and concrete, and made our way through the forested mountainside. There are rumoured to be wild animals in the forest, including leopards and elephants, but thankfully they keep their distance from the path and those who climb along it.

There are nature-made pitstops to rest along the way, flanked by tea stalls and snack sellers. There is also a chance to stop at the modern Peace Pagoda, erected on the mountain in 1978. Though certain sites are of particular significance to one religious community or another, all are welcome to stop, rest, reflect, and pray. To this end, Adam’s Peak stands tall as an ecumenical beacon in a world where religious tolerance is sadly often found wanting.

For more information about other travel and adventure destinations in Asia, get Asian Geographic’s Passport Magazine, ‘Travel Through History’, Collector’s Edition 2016-2017.


Article by Sophie Ibbotson. Photos © Shutterstock.



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