Sri Pada, also known as Adam's Peak, is a holy mountain situated 7,360 feet above sea level in the Central Hills of Sri Lanka, near Ratnapura. The mountain's Sinhalese name means Sacred Foot: it refers to the legend that, on Buddha's third visit to the mountain, he left his footprint on the summit. Every year between January and April thousands of pilgrims make the climb up two long, long stairways - possibly the longest in the world - to the summit to visit the temple at the top and to see the Sacred Footprint: a hollow in a rock nearly two metres long, revered for centuries. Marco Polo was reputed to have made the pilgrimage to see it in 1292, on his return from China, where he had heard of the legend from Kublai Khan. Sri Pada is possibly the only cross-denominational pilgrimage site of its kind in the world, and is sacred to Hindus, Christians and Muslims as well as Buddhists.

Many different legends have grown up around Sri Pada over the centuries. Hindus believe that the footmark was made by Lord Siva, the third godhead of the Hindu Holy Triad (the other two being Brahma and Vishnu). The god is supposed to have settled on the summit to shed his divine light upon mankind. Hence they call the mountain 'Sivanolipadam' (Foot of Siva's Light). Christians have woven many stories about the mountain: one legend tells how Adam, falling to earth after his expulsion from Eden, landed on top of the mountain and stood there, on one foot, for a thousand years to expiate the sin of eating the forbidden fruit. Eventually (and probably with enormous relief) he died, leaving his single footprint worn into the rock, and was buried on the peak. Muslims, who share a variation of this story, call the mountain 'Adam-malai' (Mount of Adam) and also see it as the site of Adam's tomb. Portuguese Catholics, arriving in Sri Lanka in 1505, called the mountain Pico de Adam (Adam's Peak), but believed the footprint to be the mark of St. Thomas the Doubter - also known as Didymus, reputedly a step-brother of Jesus - who left it behind as he ascended to Heaven from the peak.

The footprint is on a stone slab on a stone plateau on the very tip of the mountain. It is roughly the shape of a human foot, with little ridges to indicate toes. There are gems studded into the slab, and according to legend an enormous blue sapphire lies under the slab, placed there by either a king or the god Sakra (depending on which legend you prefer) to protect the real footprint, hidden beneath. At night, the top of the mountain is lit by an enormous brass lamp which burns day and night during pilgrim season, and was placed there by King Wickremabahu III in the 14th century. Pilgrims try to reach the summit before dawn to view the incredible natural phenomenon of the 'ira-sevaya' ('effulgence of the rising sun') puncturing the eastern horizon in a ball of fire, and casting a huge cone-shaped shadow of the mountain across the valley: a far more breathtaking sight than any amount of sacred footprints. has more information and a few pics.