The pilgrim season to the holy mountain Sri Pada (also known as Samantakuta, Samanhela, Samangira, Samanalakanda and Samanalagira), begins annually on the 'Unduvap' fullmoon day in December and ends on the 'Vesak' fullmoon day in May. During this open semester, pilgrims ascend the mountain to pay homage to the sacred footmark, which is considered holy by the Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Moslems alike, according to their individual beliefs. Therefore, Sri Pada is the only mountain in the world receiving benefactions and veneration of devotees belonging to different faiths. The summit of the mountain is a small plateau, and according to measurements made by Lieut. Malcolm (the first European to ascend the mountain in 1816), "it is 74 ft. in length and 24 ft. in breadth," the total area being 1,776 sq. ft. On the summit there is a huge boulder, about 8 ft. high., atop which is found the sacred footmark. According to mythical conception woven into the fabric of native folklore, the real impression of the Foot lies under the boulder, on a blue sapphire. To prevent it from sacrilegious profanation, god Sakra had covered it with the boulder.
Buddhists believe that the footmark on the summit of Sri Pada is that of Buddha, who, during his third visit to Kelaniya, 2,580 year ago, kept the imprint of his left foot thereon as a relict worthy of veneration. He did so at the kind request of god Saman, the tutelary deity of the mountain wilderness, whose divine eye is supposed to cast upon Deraniyagala, Boltumbe, Ellakkala, Nivitigala and the mountain Benasamanalagala.
The Christians believe that Adam, after being expelled from the Garden of Eden (Paradise), for eating the forbidden fruit, fell upon earth, and according to legend, had fallen on top of the mountain, where he is believed to have stood on one foot for one thousand years, to expiate his sin committed against the Creator, by eating the seductive fruit, despite warning given. This long ordeal had left the print of his foot on the mountain.
The Portuguese, who came to Sri Lanka in 1505, called the mountain Pico de Adam (anglicised Adam's Peak). They held the belief that St. Thomas the Doubter, having come to India, baptised Gondophorus, the Indo-Parthian king, and after leaving his footmark on the mountain, had ascended to Heaven. According to Christian view, he is not the author of the Gospel of St. Thomas (the logia containing early collections of sayings ascribed to Jesus). St. Thomas the Doubter was a disciple and a step-brother of Jesus, the most prominent figure in the Gospel of St. John, where he is also known as Didymus, and portrayed as doubting the Resurrection of Christ, until he touched the wounds of the risen Christ. Early Christian tradition describes him as a missionary and a martyr in India.
The mountain was the landmark of the ancient sea-faring Arabs, who came to Sri Lanka, to trade in gems, spices, ivory etc., and they, having sighted the conical mountain miles off shore, prayed to God for having brought them safely to the island. They believed that atop this mountain lay the sepulchre of Adam (the first parent of the human race).
The open semester begins with the removal of the statues of God Saman, the replica of his divine white elephant and other sacred paraphernalia, lying secured at the Galpottawela Raja Maha Vihara at Pelmadulla, built by king Kirti Sri Rajasinha. According to ritual, the incumbent priest of Sri Pada and the working committee, composed of Buddhist clergy and laity, enter the shrine room of the devale, and a day before the fullmoon day, and after paying homage to the Buddha, take steps to remove the sacred items to the summit. En route, the procession stops at the Maha Saman Devale in Ratnapura, and a ritual is conducted by the 'kapurala' of the devale invoking the blessings of God Saman for a trouble-free journey.
In the old days, the procession took the Ratnapura route, but now a motorcade leaves to the summit along the Hatton path via Ratnapura, Avissawella, Yatiyantota, Kitulgala, Ginigathena, Hatton, Dickoya and Maskeliya, terminating at the Delhousie bazaar (Nallatanniya) where vehicular transport facilities cease. As the fullmoon poya day dawns, they reach the summit and, after attending to formal rituals, the 'kapurala' places the statues dedicated to the God inside a niche below the footmark.