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Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), Ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka

Date of Submission: 29/04/2010
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
It commences from the Eastern Province and runs through North Central Province and ends up in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
Ref.: 5531
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Coordinates:

1. Seruwila - N8 22 14 E81 19 12

2. Trincomalee - N8 35 32 E81 11 47

I. Koddiyar bay - N8 29 59 E81 14 51

II. Koneshwaram - N8 34 56 E81 14 43

III. Kompanachchi - N8 10 E81 13

3. Somawathie - N8 7 39 E81 11 49

4. Polonnaruwa

Ι. Dalada Maligawa - N7 56 52 E81 00 04

ΙΙ. Dimbulagala - N7 52 2 E81 07 02

ΙΙΙ. Pulligoda -

5. Mahiyangana - N7 19 15 E80 59 28

6. Teldeniya -

7. Kundasale - N7 16 48 E80 41 26

8. Katugastota - N7 18 58 E80 37 16

9. Kandy

Ι. Dalada Maligawa - N7 17 37 E80 38 29

ΙΙ. Gangaramaya - N7 17 45 E80 38 59

ΙΙΙ. Asgiriya - N7 17 58 E80 38 07

ΙV. Natha Devale - N7 17 37 E80 29 59

10. Gampola

I. Town - N7 09 50 E80 34 13

II. Gadaladeniya - N7 15 26 E80 33 21

III. Ambekke - N7 13 04 E80 34 03

IV. Lankatilaka - N7 14 02 E80 33 54

V. Kehelgamuwa - N6 54 00 E80 29 57

11. Sri Pada - N6 48 33 E80 29 59

 

Pilgrimages associated with the cult of relic veneration have been an age old tradition since the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. According to text there had been three types of relics; the bodily remains of the Master, the objects of use or of wear attributed to the Master and his memorials. The pilgrim route commencing from Seruwila and running through Somawathie, Polonnaruwa, Mahiyangana, Kandy and ending at Sri Pada touches such significant enshrinments as those of the Frontal Bone relic, Right Tooth Relic, Hair Relic and the Gem studded chair, Left Tooth Relic and the Foot Print mark of the Great Master, the Lord Buddha.

Being a most important natural port of ancient times, the Port of Seruwila (Trincomalee and Koddiyar bay) had been a popular location for international transactions between the East and the West. The Island was called the Great Emporium by Cosmos Indicopleustus, a Greek chronicler of the sixth century AD. The extensive size of Sri Lanka in the second century world map of Ptolemy records metaphorically the importance given to the island in his map.

The river valleys were known routes for the settlers to migrate along. Prince Vijaya from North India came in 5th century BC and met Princess Kuveni who belonged to an aboriginal clan in the island. The great Mahaweli river was one of the favourite migrant routes of those settlers. Consequently, this particular river valley became a significant religious, political and economical route cum boundary and haused a considerable number of large and small religious sites along the winding terrain.

The Mahaweli river (meaning: The Great Sandy River), whose drainage basin is the largest in the country, covers almost one fifth of the total area of the island. The river has its origin in the mountain range of Sri Pada of the central hills, and flows in a northern direction passing Gampola and then at Kandy, the river makes an easterly turn and flows up to Mahiyangana, where the river once again turns north and flows across the coastal plains of the north east Sri Lanka up to Polonnaruwa. From Polonnaruwa, it flows across the deltoid plains (the flood plain). Soon after flowing past the national Park associated with the sacred relic site of Somawathie, the river splits into two delta arms to reach the Bay of Bengal: the one flowing towards Koddiar bay at Trincomalee to continue as a major submarine canyon, making Trincomalee one of the finest deep sea harbors in the world, and the other flowing in a north-east direction past the sacred relic site of Seruvila, to reach the Ullackalie Lagoon located to the south-east of Trincomalee.

It is evident that the route was populated and utilized throughout the historical phase since pre Christian times due to the existence of Brahmi Inscriptions at nodal locations and consequent to the accounts left by Kings like Gotabhaya in the second century BC, discovery of Sacred Foot Print by King Valagamba in first century BC, Fa Hian in the fifth century, Kings Vijayabahu and Prakramabahu in eleventh and twelfth centuries, Marco Polo in thirteenth century, Al Beruni in the fourteenth century, Iban Batuta in the fourteenth century. King Nissankamalla in the twelfth century, King Vikramabahu and King Vimaladharmasuriya in the sixteenth century, King Sitawake Rajasinghe in the sixteenth century, King Narendrasinghe in the eighteenth century, Robert Percival in the early noneteenth century and also the continuity of pilgrimages to Sri Pada from all over the island even up to the present day, both by local and foreign visitors.

The Sri Pada is a pilgrimage site that has been held sacred by the devotees of four religions namely Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Islamists. While the Buddhist believe that the Lord Buddha left a trace of his left foot print at the summit on a gemstone, some Christians say the "footprint" in the rock atop the rust-red, peak is that of Adam when he set foot on earth after being exiled from Eden. Hence it is called Adam's Peak. Other Christians say it is the Footprint of St. Thomas, who brought Christianity to Southern India in the first century AD, while to Hindus it is the Footprint of Lord Siva, hence, called Sivan Adipadham or Sivanolipatha Malai, while some of Sri Lanka's Muslims call it the Footprint of Al-Rohun (Soul) or Adam, a prophet according to Islamic beliefs.

The cult of venerating the foot print and the relics of Lord Buddha by visiting Sri Lanka has also become a popular practice among the Buddhists World and that practice encouraged the creation of similar places of worship in their own countries. The Buddhist priests in Sri Lanka were persecuted by King Magha at the end of the thirteenth century and were forced to leave the country to countries like Cambodia, Thailand etc. As a result, even today Footprint shrines of the Buddha exist in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and the Union of Myanmar.

Hence, the international expansion of the cult of the Foot Print was being made an object of veneration among the Sothern Buddhists of Asia belonging to the Theravada sect of Buddhism.

Subsequently, with the death of the King Maga (1215-1236), the King that followed, namely, Prakramabahu II of Dambadeniya invited the Sri Lankan monks that had migrated to return to their temples in Sri Lanka. Many of them who accepted the invitation returned to the capitals occupied during the thirteenth century namely Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala, Gampola etc. where the returning monks brought back with them the newly created Foot Print Shrines in those countries back to the new temples established around the capitals of Sri Lanka of thirteenth century and after. Those temples thus retained and additional relic shrine that had evolved in the Southeast Asian countries of that time and the new cult established in the shrines of Sri Lanka, apart from the main religious edifice of Sri Pada.

The existence of a pilgrim route from Seruwila to Sri Pada resulted in the carving of inscriptions, erection of shrines, (Buddhist temples, and Hindu Kovils) and resting places or Ambalamas, preaching halls in temples, creation of means for crossing rivers etc. in the immediate vicinity of the river and or in some cases using easy contour for pedestrian walk. The mile stones, were the man made creations added to the route that stands out as material evidence for the popularity of the route. The evolution of different types of relic shrines and evidence for cross cultural interchanges also took place in the island through out the history from time to time which aspects are also noted at different points of the route.

It is evident that the route was populated and utilized throughout the history since pre-Christian times by the existence of numerous religious sites and inscriptions at nodal locations along the banks of the Mahaweli river, and also by the accounts of visitations made by King Gotabhaya in the second century BC. The discovery of the Sacred Foot Print is attributed to King Valagambahu in the first century BC. From the accounts in the chronicles and the archaeological evidence, the final ascent of the pilgrim route beyond Gampola was through Ulapane and Ambagamuwa. The Mahavamsa account of establishing Ambalamas (way side rest houses) for the pilgrims by king Vijayabahu I (1055 - 1110) is well supported by his inscription at Ambagamuwa. The king has also established alms halls for the benefit of the pilgrims. King Parakramabahu II (1236 - 1271) had rehabilitated the pilgrim route and erected the bridges across the streams.

The presence of Hindu shrines at Koneshwaram at Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Kandy etc. provide further evidence to the multi religious character of this pilgrim route. The location of numerous living and ruined religious sites along the circuitous route provides additional evidence to the popularity of this pilgrim route.

It is revealed that there are more than two hundred such places (see Map) with some sort of connection to strengthern the trace of the route connecting the major relic enshrines at, Seruwila, Somawathie, Polonnaruwa, Mahiyangana, Kandy, Gampola and Sri Pada (Adam's Peak), each of which site has significance in terms of values based on beliefs or physical creations or natural features or some times in combinations of one or two of these.

 

The sites proposed for serial nomination

Seruwila

The Seruwila Raja Maha Vihara is an important Buddhist relic temple belonging to the sixteen holiest Buddhist shrines [Solosmasthana] in Sri Lanka. that was originally built by King Kavantissa in the second century BC. This consist of an ancient monastic building complex comprising a Bodhighara (roofed Bo tree shrine), a Chapter House, residences and baths which represent the vital elements of an ancient Buddhist monastic complex. The frontal bone relic and the hair relic of Lord Buddha is said to have been enshrined in the Stupa, according to the ancient chronicles and the inscriptions discovered at the site.

Among the decorative features at the site are several carved stone structures. The most expressive of these are the Chapter House, the unique nine cobra hooded Buddha statue, decorative stone balustrades, sculptured stone lotus stands, and the many stone columns of ancient buildings spread over the site including the drip ledged caves used by the meditating monks. The site depicts outstanding examples of buildings and a landscape of the second century B.C. a site belonging to a period just after, Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka.

Close by is the famous copper magnetite ore site that has been mined from ancient times. The ancient port of Illankathurai to the east and the famous natural harbor Trincomalee to the north has been in operation from very early times and has functioned as a major port connecting the Indian Ocean with the inland sites.

 

Trincomalee (Koneswaram)

Located at the eastern sea board, where the Mahaweli river enters the sea. It is one of world's largest natural deep-water harbours. Mahavamsa, the great chronicle calls it Gōkanna. The earliest known reference in the chronicle to this sea-port is found in the fifth century B.C., when Panduvasdeva landed at Gokanna as the successor to Vijaya, the first recorded king of the Island.

The Hindu shrine of Koneswaram is located on the summit, known as the Swami Rock, overlooking the ocean. Tirujnana Sambandar a Saivite saint of the seventh century A.D., the inscriptions and other related accounts refer to the decorative features of the temple in the devotional hymns. This is the earliest reference to the temple, which in point of time goes back to a far distant epoch in relation to the Hindu influence. The inscriptions and other related accounts, refer to the shrine of magnificent proportions and splendor retaining a 'thousand pillared Mandapam'. It was said to have been razed to the ground and despoiled by the Portuguese in 1624.

Tennent mention that the temple was ruthlessly demolished by the Portuguese in order to re-utilize its material in fortifying the heights on which it stood. He continues to mention that 'some of the idols were rescued from this desecration, and conveyed to the Pagoda of Tamblegam; but fragments of carved stone-work and slab bearing inscriptions in ancient character, are still to be discerned in the walls of the Fort, and on the platform for the guns.....The scene of this sacrilege is still held in great dismay and the site is considered with the profoundest respect by the Hindus. Once in each year, a procession, attended by crowds of devotees, who bring offering of fruits and flowers, at sunset, to the spot where the rock projects above the ocean-a series of ceremonies is performed, including the mysterious breaking of a cocoanut against the cliff; and the officiating Brahmin concludes his invocation by elevating a brazen censer above his head filled with inflammable materials, the light of which, as it burns, is reflected far over the sea.' (Tennent's Ceylon, Vol. II, pp. 484-485).

 

Somawathie

Located in the north-central Sri Lanka, alongside the west bank of the Mahaweli river, the sacred site of Somawathie is situated in an isolated area within a strict natural reserve and a wild life sanctuary. The site is best approached either from Polonnaruwa or from Minneriya, via Sungavila, the last village on the route to the site, the distance from both these towns being 40 km. approximately. Although the chronicles mention that this site was established in the southern kingdom of Rohana and by the eastern banks of the Mahaweli river, the present site now identified as Somawathie is located to the west of the river and hence not within the kingdom of Rohana, the river being the demarcation of the boundaries of the two kingdoms. This initial confusion of the identity of the site was subsequently solved with discovery that the river has changed its course during the last 800 years, due to geo-physical conditions. In fact, the current sandy road, which leads to the site and dotted on either side by Kumbuk trees, that are normally grown closer to the water bodies, was the original path of the river some 800 years ago. The change of the course of the river in relation to this site correlates well with the aerial survey conducted in 1965. The site of Somawathie is at present situated within a nature park, the Somawathie Strict Natural Reserve and Wild Life Sanctuary. The park spans across the eastern and north-central plains of Sri Lanka, in the deltoid, where the Mahaweli river flows across. This park, which is 37,762 hectares in extent, is contiguous with the Flood Plains and the Wasgomuwa Natural Parks to the south and with the Trikonamadu Natural Reserve to the east, and the western borders of the park provides a link to the Hurulu Forest Reserve, part of which is protected as a biosphere enclave. This sacred site at present, is surrounded by unique diversity of a natural habitat consisting of reverine villus (natural water bodies) and flood plains, along with the largest concentration of wild elephants in the island. Aside from elephants, who can be observed feeding on mainly water tolerant grass species and aquatic plants growing in the plains, leopards, water buffalo, sumbhur, the fishing cat and the rusty spotted cat may also be seen, while the flood plains are idyllic for many species of aquatic and raptor birds as well.

The site has a history going back to the 2nd century B.C. The chronicles record that Prince Giri Aba, had constructed a stupa enshrining the upper right canine tooth relic of the Lord Buddha and erected monastic buildings within a sala grove, located close to Somapura. The site was originally an abode of meditating Buddhist monks. The chroniclers continue to narrate that these constructions were carried out on the request of his wife, Princess Somawathie (sister of king Kavantissa, a ruler of the southern kingdom of Rohana during the second century B.C.), who wanted to engage in religious activities and the stupa enshrining the sacred relics, was given the name of the princess. The numerous stone inscriptions found at the site and its vicinity suggests that the site has received royal patronage due to the enshrinement of this sacred relic. These inscriptions record the renovations, additions and other development works carried out at this sacred site as well as the mode of securing funds for the maintenance and the sustenance of this site through numerous grants by such kings as Kutakanna Tissa (41 - 19 B.C.), Amanda Gamini (22 -31 A.C.), Gamini Abhaya (112 - 134 A.C.) and Kanitta Tissa (164 - 192 A.C.). The monastery associated with this sacred relic site is also said to have been the abode of several Arahants (supremely enlightened, who broke free from the worldly sufferings; the eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth).

Due to the enshrinement of the sacred tooth relic of the Master, the site was a popular pilgrim destination during the historical period. However, with the fall of the Polonnaruwa kingdom during the thirteenth century, and the subsequent collapse of the country's north-central dry zone civilization, the sacred site of Somawathie also faced the same fate of neglect like other important monuments and sites in the region due to the abandonment and the drift of the populace towards the southwest of Sri Lanka.

The modern religious interest of the site arose in the 1940's, with the commencement of the government program to revive the paddy cultivation by rehabilitating the irrigation network and re-settling the people to farm this fertile but abandoned north-central region of the country. A leading Buddhist monk of Kandy's Malwatte Chapter led a group of pious devotees to this site in 1948 and initiated a rehabilitation program to facilitate veneration at this sacred relic site. The stupa enshrining the sacred relics, which was in a ruinous condition was restored based on the plans prepared by and under the supervision of the Department of Archaeology through generous financial support and volunteer labor of the pious devotees. The restoration of the stupa for public worship was completed in 1981.

The antiquarian value of the site narrated by the chronicles is well supported by the archaeological investigations carried out at the site. The stone inscriptions found at the site and its vicinity provides proof of the date and importance of this sacred site.

The yupa stone pillar, found near the stupa, which was originally fixed vertically on top of the dome relates to the earliest phase of stupa architecture, before the evolution of the present superstructure. The stone slabs with the sacred foot prints of the Lord Buddha found during the excavations, are also related to the initial phase of the ritual practices of Buddhism. These archaeological findings further confirm the antiquity of the stupa. The archaeological excavations carried out at the stupa itself have also revealed that the stupa has at least two phases of construction; the stupa belongs to the last historical phase encases a smaller stupa at a depth of about 2 meters from its outer surface. This suggests that the original stupa was much smaller and it was enlarged subsequently. This also confirms the stone inscriptions found at the site, which indicates the additions and development works undertaken by various kings. It is believed that the sacred right tooth relic of the Lord Buddha is enshrined within the smaller stupa.

The site is also popular for its unexplained occurrences that are taking place in recent times. Thousands of pilgrims have seen beams of light originating from the stupa and radiating skywards, and the colour of the whole sky changing to a yellowish hue, making all white cloths worn by the pilgrims appearing yellow. It is also said that the sounds of the drum beats originating from the dome of the stupa could be heard on some days. It is significant to note that most of these unexplained occurrences take place on special ceremonial days where there are thousands of pilgrims including political leaders and other dignitaries at the site to witness these events. Whatever the scientific truth of such occurrences, this suggests the sheer and strong belief of the presence of the sacred relics of the Buddha at the site.

 

Polonnaruwa (already a World Heritage Site)

Located in the north central province of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa was the country's capital from eleventh to thirteenth centuries The Numerous Hindu shrines constructed amidst Buddhist precincts showcase the peaceful co-existence of Buddhism and Hinduism, and so provide the earliest evidence of the longstanding living traditions of the amalgamation of Hindu rituals into Buddhist practices and respect and veneration of Hindu deities by the Buddhists.

Polonnaruwa's multi-religious and multicultural characteristic are well reflected in its art and architecture. The remains of the storied royal palace, vaulted brick-built image houses of Lankatilaka, Tivanka and Thuparama, the Buddha images at Galvihara, Lakatilaka and Tivanka are the finest examples that represent the monumentality in architecture and the delicacy in sculpture during the Polonnaruwa period (eleventh to thirteenth century) and this could be attributed to the influence of Hindu religious values. These vaulted brick-built image houses also provide evidence of the spatial progression (linearly interconnected sequence of interior spaces) and of the exterior decorations (molded plaster and stucco work) which reflects south Indian architecture prevalent during the period.

The two temples of the sacred Tooth Relic, located within the sacred quadrangle provide the earliest evidence to the exceptional living cultural tradition of erecting special shrines exclusively for the enshrinement and veneration of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha that has continued to this date as an important aspect of religious ritual practices of the Buddhist tradition.

 

Mahiyangana

According to tradition, Mahiyangana was hallowed by the visit of the Buddha during the sixth century B.C., who subdued the yaksas and blessed the site. He has also preached his doctrine to the masses. One of the prominent figures at the assembly was prince Sumana of the Samantha Kuta. Prince Sumana attained the first steps in the path to 'Nirvana' (enlightenment) and requested the Master for an object for worship. The Buddha had given him a lock of hair from his head and according to tradition prince Sumana has enshrined the sacred relic in the stupa at Mahiyangana. This stupa enshrining the sacred relics was rebuilt by king Dutugamunu (161-136 BC) and has been restored many times by successive kings: King Voharaka Tissa (214-235 AD), King Sangabodhi (251-252 AD), King Sena II (847-900 AD), King Kassapa IV (912-928 AD), King Vijayabahu (1065-1119AD), King Narendrasinha (1705-1737 AD) and King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1746-1778).

Due to the presence of the sacred relics, the ruined stupa was renovated several times in the recent past: in 1851, by the Ven. Iddamalgoda Dhammpala, in 1880 by Ven. Yatawatte Sri Candajothi Maha Tera, in 1942 by Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake, minister of Agriculture & land of Ceylon under British rule. The relic chamber paintings of the tenth to eleventh century period and discovered during the recent restoration work indicates the antiquity of this stupa.

 

Kandy (already a World Heritage Site)

Kandy, situated in the country's central highland was the capital of the last kingdom of Sri Lanka from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Built to enshrine the tooth relic of Lord Buddha for the purpose of honoring the Master, the tooth relic temple as a type of shrine has a history going back to the fourth century A.D. when it was brought from India to the Island. The shrine has several ritual spaces such as the central chamber on the upper floor where the sacred tooth relic is kept in a series of protective caskets for worship, the drumming hall where the rhythmic drum beats fill the air with religious music, spaces for the congregation, service spaces, and the Octagon, as a podium for royal veneration.

The annual pageant of the Sacred Tooth Relic which has a history going back at least to the seventeenth centuries is stilled held to honor the relic. It is regarded as one of Asia's grandest traditional festivals and the worlds most colorful processions. It parades the streets of Kandy during the full moon of Esala (July / August) with about 100 caparisoned elephants, over a 1000 dancers and drummers, hundreds of flag and torch bearers, whip-crackers and Kandiyan chieftains in full regalia. The main attraction of the pageant is the richly dressed, majestic tucked elephant of the shrine, which carries the replica of the relic casket, and the pageant is watched by hundreds of thousands of devotees and visitors.

The monk's chapters at Malwatta and Asgiriya are the highest institutions that command surveillance over monasteries of the Siamese Order in Sri Lanka.

Kandy's religious square consist of both Buddhist and Hindu Shrines confirming its multi-religious character.

 

Gampola (Gadaladeniya, and Lankatilaka)

The kingdom of Gampola or Gangasiripura (modern Gampola) as its capital was founded in 1341. The shrines of Gadaladeniya, and Lankatilaka were built during this period. These shrines are significant in that they indicate strong evidence of a synthesis between Buddhist and Hindu worship.

The shrine at Gadaladeniya is an image house that is a stone built in the vaulted style and scenically sited on a rock outcrop. A stone inscription at the site confirms that it was designed by a south Indian Architect and completed in the year 1344. The shrine displays the south Indian Hindu architectural influence in the fourteenth century. The carvings associated with the two stone pillars of the front porch and the stone dome in particular, is reminiscent of the architecture of Vijayanagar in South India. The planning and layout of the shrine exemplifies the combination of the Buddha image house and the Hindu deistic shrine dedicated to God Vishnu in a single edifice.

Designed by a south Indian architect and completed in the year 1344, Lankatilaka image house is a brick building which once again showcases the influence of south Indian Hindu architectural features and sculptural elements.

 

Sri-Pada

The Sri Pada is a pilgrimage site which has been held sacred by the devotees of four religions namely Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Islamists.

Historians agree that this site, even prior to the introduction of Buddhism to the Island, had been a sacred site where the primitive people worshipped the Sun god. According to the chronicle, when the Buddha visited the Island for the third and last time, in the 6th century B.C., he had left the foot impression on the summit, on the request of prince Sumana. Following his death, prince Sumana became God Maha Sumana Saman, the guardian of the peak. While the Buddhist believed that the marking on the rock summit was the foot print left by the Buddha, some Christians say the "footprint" in the rock atop the rust-red peak is where Adam first set foot (hence it is called Adam's peak) on earth after being exiled from Eden. Other Christians say it is the Footprint of St. Thomas, who brought Christianity to Southern India in the first century A.D., while to the Hindus it is the Footprint of Lord Siva (hence called Sivan Adipadham or Sivanolipatha Malai), while some of Sri Lanka's Muslims call it the Footprint of Al-Rohun (Soul) or Adam, a prophet according to Islamic beliefs.

It is believed that the first person to discover the Sacred Footprint was King Valagambahu (104-76 B.C.) while he was in exile in the mountain wilderness to escape the invaded South Indians. He had been led to the summit of the mountain by a deity in the guise of a stag. King Gotabhaya in second century B.C. had also visited the site. Ashraff, the 15th century Persian poet describes the odyssey of Alexander the great during fourth century B.C. to Sri Pada in his 'Zaffer Namah Skendari'.

In the succeeding centuries not only Royalty with their court retinue, but the ordinary pilgrims had paid homage to the Foot Print of the Buddha. The kings, in their devotion and persistence made the Peak accessible to the crowds of devotees who annually trickled up the mountain. The Chinese pilgrim and scholar monk Fa Hian who resided at the Abhayagiriya Monastery at Anuradhapura was the first recorded foreigner to visit and pay homage to the sacred foot print. However, the earliest historical evidence in inscriptions covering the cult of the Footprint on Samanth Kuta comes during the reign of king Vijayabahu (1055-1110). Stone inscriptions of king Vijayabahu found at Ambagamuwa confirms the statement of the chronicle that this monarch, having seen the difficulties undergone by the pilgrims on their way to worship the Buddha's footprint annually at Samanthakuta, had granted several properties to provide for their needs. He had also covered the sacred footprint with a net and erected a parapet wall with gateways to secure the mountain peak. King Nissankamalla (1187 -1196) had visited Samanthakuta to worship the Footprint. He had re-granted the Village Ambagamuwa and it has been recorded in an inscription found in a cave known as Bhagavalena. He had also constructed a slab to protect the Footprint.

"Samantha Kuta Vannama", a Pali work by Rev. Vedeha in the thirteenth century confirms the increasing interest shown by the Buddhists to the cult of this Footprint. Parakramabahu II (1236 - 1271) had visited the Footprint to pay homage and granted several villages and properties for the sustenance of the sacred site. He had also erected a canopy over the sacred footprint. His minister, Devaprathiraja constructed pathways leading to the mountain and conducted great festivities in celebrating the feast of the Footprint. He also installed iron chains on iron posts to make the ascent easy. Massive iron chains affixed to stanchions of the same metal secured to the bare rock face were used by early pilgrims to ascend then almost inaccessible peak. The chains were secured to the stanchions with rivets of iron and bronze. Remains of these devices, which could be dated to a period not before the twelfth century are still evident. However, a strange Persian legend invests these chains with greater antiquity than is generally accepted by scholars. It credits Alexander the Great [fourth century B.C] ascending Sri Pada, and forging these chains. This is an achievement of which, interestingly, no contemporary record exists - and also throws a spanner into the Conqueror's generally accepted chronology. Ashreef, a Persian writer of the fifteenth century, in his poem of praise to Alexander Zaffer Namah Sekeanderi, speaks of these chains. In an episode the Conqueror and his companion Bolinus (Apollonius?) devises means whereby they may ascend the mountain of Serendib "fixing thereto chains with rings and rivets made of iron and brass, the remains of which exist even at this day, so that travelers, are enabled to climb the mountain...". Whatever the truth of this episode, it is clear beyond doubt that the Sri pada was a popular destination internationally by at least the fifteenth century. Kng Vimaladharmasuriya constructed a silver umbrella over the Footprint. King Sitawake Rajasinhe (1581-1593) had also visited the Footprint. Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe (1738-1745) had also visited the mountain. King Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe (1746-1778) during whose reign, Buddhist renaissance took place had visited the Footprint and restored to the temple properties frozen by King Sitawake Rajasinhe. Kirthi Sri Rajasinhe also donated the village, Kuttapitiya and the copper plate charter in support of this donation is still in existence.

The Venetian Marco Polo, envoy of the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan, who voyaged to Sri Lanka in the thirteenth century has visited the Peak in 1286 and remarked that in places flights of steps were cut in the rocks but none upwards and towards the summit. He also mentioned about the iron chains provided for the pilgrims to hoist themselves up in the final ascend to the peak. An inscription in Arabian script of twelfth or thirteenth century, glorifying Allah and Mohammed is also found in the vicinity. Traveller John Maundeville has visited and left an interesting account in the fourteenth century A.D. Moroccan traveller Ibn Battutah who visited the site in the fourteenth century remark that the 'mountain of Serendib' is one of the highest in the world and described the two approach routes still used, labeling them the Adam and Eve tracks. He reports thus: "We saw it (the peak) from the sea when we were nine day's journey away, and when we climbed it we saw the clouds below us, shutting out our view of base..... Former generations cut a sort of stairway on the mountain, and have fixed iron stanchions on it, to which they attached chains for climbers to hold on by....... The blessed Footprint, the Foot of our father Adam is on a lofty black rock in a wide plateau. The blessed Foot sank into the rock far enough to leave its impression hollowed out. It is eleven spans long. In the rock where the Foot is, there are nine holes cut out, in which the infidel pilgrims place offerings of gold, rubies and pearls...".

Al Beruni has also visited this pilgrim site in the fourteenth century. The Englishman Robert Knox who was a captive of the Sinhala kings has visited the site in the seventeenth century. Commenting on the ancient artifacts on Sri Pada, the Englishman Robert Percival, who served with the British garrison in Colombo in the early nineteenth century, during his visit to the peak notes that the iron chains on the rock face of Adam's Peak have the appearance of being planted there at a very early date. English author John Still has climbed Sri-pada many times from the early 1900's and describe the peak as "one of the vastest and most reverenced cathedrals of the human race". He movingly describes the pious discipline of the humble pilgrims and the ancients in whose footsteps they climbed: "There was no policeman there, and no one in authority at all, so far as I could have learnt; but the place was holy ground, and the tolerance of the pilgrims seemed a thing that might have been studied by Western ecclesiastics with honor and amazement, perhaps even in shame" ('Jungle Tide'-1930). The pilgrimages to Sri Pada from all over the island continues even to the present day both by local and foreign visitors.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion II

Exhibit the interchange of Buddhist and Hindu values in establishing places of worship along the multi-religious pilgrim route, where numerous Buddhist and Hindu shrines are located side by side within the same precinct. (ex. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the Hindu Devale complexes in Kandy), and where the images of Buddha and Hindu Gods are housed within a single building (ex. Lankatilaka and Gadaladeniya complexes of the Gampola period). The architecture of these shrines also reflects a tradition, which is a result of the interchange of both Buddhist and Hindu architectural forms. This is a clear manifestation of the charity and amity that has been extended to by the devotees of both religions that have origins in the Asian sub continent, in the true spirit of brotherhood and religious tolerance.

Criterion III

The circuitous pilgrim route connecting Seruwila, Somawathie, Mahiyangana, Kandy and Sri Pada along the course of the Mahaweli river reflect the unique living Buddhist ritual practice and a tradition of relic worship, which has origins in pre-Christian times. The location of numerous other religious sites along the pilgrim route from pre-Christian times and the accounts in the chronicles of establishing way side rest halls (ambalamas), alms halls, repair and renovation work connected with the roads, bridges etc. by the kings, which donative work is well supported by numerous inscriptions showcase the importance of pilgrimage as a cultural tradition. The establishment of numerous foot-print shrines in countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos etc. after the thirteenth century reflects the international popularity of the cult of the foot-print as represented at the summit of Samantha Kuta in spreading this tradition to the south-east Asian countries as a means of paying homage to the Buddha.

Criterion VI

Nowhere else in the world is a pilgrimage site which is held sacred by the devotees of four religions, as Samantha Kuta in Sri Lanka. Sanctity of the mountain has been held aloft by adherents of each of four major world religions, namely, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Islamists. Therefore, Sri-Pada is tangibly associated with the belief that the foot print located atop Samantha Kuta, is associated with the founders, gods, prophets and other important personages of world's four major religions is an outstanding phenomenon without any other parallel. The annual in-country pilgrimages to pay homage to Sacred Foot Print with insurmountable difficulties associate with beliefs according to their own religions are exceptionally significant. The specific visits made by numerous foreign visitors to Samantha Kuta, over the ages, underline the outstanding universal significance of this belief. The convergence of different ethnicities that belongs to four major religions in the world to a single place for veneration exhibits common principles of traditions, beliefs and religious tolerance with a universally exceptional spirit of humanity.

The sacred relic sites at Seruwila, Somawathie, Mahiyangana, Kandy and Sri-Pada still preserves the original concept of the relic veneration as preached by Lord Buddha himself, in its purest form, where the sole objective is to pay homage to the Master. These sites that are concentrated in to a single pilgrim route, is an exceptional testimony to a unique living tradition of the Buddhist world, which has a history of more than 2500 years.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

  • The present sacred Tooth Relic Temple at Kandy (the building enshrining the sacred Tooth Relic) still preserves the form and design, material and substance (timber architecture) and its original setting. It is still being used for the enshrinement of the sacred relic and for veneration, thus expresses its authenticity in relation to use and function and spirit and feeling. With regard to the tradition of relic worship, it is specially reflected through the annual pageant of the Tooth Relic and the unique living traditions of performing arts and crafts.
  • Inscriptions at the location and other historical narratives offers evidence that the shrines at Gadaladeniya and Lankatilaka were designed by South Indian architects, which indicates the incorporation of Hindu architectural features in to Buddhist edifices. The original form and design, material and substance, use and function, location and setting, spirit and feeling in terms of its multireligious character is well expressed.
  • The historical chronicles and Buddhist texts provide literal evidence of the enshrinement of the Buddha relics at Seruvawila, Somawathie and Mahiyangana stupas. The archaeological investigations carried out at these monuments / sites suggest that they are important religious sites dating from the pre-Christian era.
  • The sites at Trincomalee, Seruvawila, Polonnaruwa, Somawathie, Mahiyangana, Kandy, Gampola and Sri-Pada provide adequate evidence to convey the totality of the values indicated above. Location of more than 200 religious sites and Ambalam (way side rest halls), that date from the pre-Christian times along the pilgrim route further reinforces the significance of the property.
  • The accounts in the chronicles of establishing Ambalamas (the way side rest halls), alms halls, repair and renovation work connected with the roads, bridges etc. along the pilgrim route by the kings, which were also supported by numerous inscriptions showcase the royal patronage and importance of pilgrimage as a cultural tradition.
  • The establishment of numerous foot-print shrines in countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos etc. after the thirteenth century reflects the international popularity of the cult of the foot-print as represented at the summit of Samantha Kuta in spreading this tradition to the south-east Asian countries as a means of paying homage to the Buddha.
  • The numerous records and references of visits /pilgrimage by both locals and foreigners belonging to world's major four religions namely, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam throughout the ages provide evidence of the sanctity of the mountain Sri Pada with the belief that the foot print located atop it, is associated with the founders, gods, prophets and other important characters of these four religions.

Comparison with other similar properties

Similar properties inscribed on the World Heritage List are the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range in Japan and the Route of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. What is outstanding about the Pilgrim route in Sri Lanka is that it is associated with four major religions of the world, namely Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.