I never thought I would climb the Sri Pada, but I was forced to. Consisting of a group of over 100 pilgrims were embarked our journey from Ratnapura- Palabaddala Route, which is considered as the longest comparatively to Kurawita, Hatton route. Due to the high number of pilgrims, we were divided into teams (Nade) with a team leader, known as the ‘Nadey Gura – a person who knows the routes, the rituals, and customs to be performed.’
The journey started through the evergreen rainforest with houses on either side, with low vegetation which gradually transforms into a thick canopy of moss-covered trees. It was late afternoon and the warmth of the April sun was completely upon us. The climb grew steeper; we were soon breathless and tired. To our convenience, there were small shops selling munchies and cool drinks. We had to stop at a few to rest and regain our energy, but we were advised to quickly get on our feet, as the climb would get difficult if we allow ourselves to become lethargic. Within the first few hours, we were ravenous. To our luck, we came across a ‘dansala’ organized by the local villagers. Most of us gulped down a full plate of rice, Polos curry, Parrippu, Batu Mooju, and Pol Sambol. The spicy flavors exploded in my mouth and I craved for more; it was the perfect combination for a tired soul.
The trail went on and on and it gradually turned dark and the mist was entering the scene. The cool wind gave us renewed energy. With new vigor, we climbed steadily. Glucose became a constant companion of mine.
Our next stop was at ‘Geththampana’, where first-timers were required by tradition to hang a threaded needled into a shrub and pay homage to God Sumana Saman, after observing ‘pansil’ and hope for a safe journey ahead. The origin and the reason were unknown to us, yet we did not hesitate.
The air was getting thicker and we were getting tired. My feet were numb and climbing each step became the most strenuous thing ever. It was getting increasingly difficult to climb. We had to make a few stops to rest, but as we became aware of the passing of time, we forced ourselves to gather strength.
Having reached ‘Seethagangula’, many of our members decided to take a quick bath in the icy water. I decided against it because I had brought minimum clothing. However, while others were having their time, I had a quick wash and put my tired feet in the water. The name says it all; the water was icy cold. Within seconds my feet were numb. Yet, the soreness in my feet were gone; and I felt refreshed with renewed energy. A light drizzle was upon us and we took shelter at a small shop next to Seethagangula, where we enjoyed a hot cup of coffee with biscuits which immediately warmed by insides. I hadn’t realized how hungry I was due to my predicament. The rest of the teams gathered at this point and we enjoyed a brief moment of respite.
With rejuvenated energy, we started the ascend towards the mountains. Our plan was to rest at ‘Haramitipana Ambalama’ for dinner and take a brief nap. At the first glimpse of Sri Pada itself, a hurricane of emotions was upon me. It looked simply beautiful from afar, under the galaxy of stars.
We were at the 7600th step and we finally reached our resting place, ‘Haramitipana Ambalama’. My stomach was rumbling, and I was craving a hot meal, preferably rice, with a few spicy curries. To my sheer luck, the Ambalama featured a mini restaurant with rice, Kottu Mee Noodles, tea, and coffee. We happily enjoyed our hot meal and got ready for a quick nap. It was a sleepless night. Most of us were tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep because it was too cold. Cool air was seeping in from the thick blankets and my teeth were chattering nonstop. We even purchased gloves, socks from the nearby shop. Yet for me, all attempts at sleep failed. At 1.30am and we decided to continue our journey to the summit. However, my legs were cramped, and I was unable to move. Walking was impossible, and I was at in tears. My friend came to my rescue. She applied some Wintogeno balm and massaged my legs thoroughly, while I laid there in an utter state of misery. My only thought at that point was to reach the summit somehow. Her hands were like magic and I gradually felt the pain lessening. With sheer determination, I proceeded the journey with wobbly knees. Pilgrims, just like us had started their journey to the summit to catch the beautiful sunrise. Our goal was just the same.
The journey became highly strenuous and my wobbly legs nearly gave away. Climbing each step was painful and I was breathless within minutes. The steps were narrow, and the shops were scarce. The trail gradually became steep. We were finally at ‘Mahagiridamba’, the hardest climb of the journey. The steps were cut on stone, which is accompanied by a metal rail. I was tired, breathless and downright depressed. My thoughts were railing, and I relentlessly wondered why I had taken this bold decision to climb the Sri Pada. I was obviously in great despair and I wanted nothing more than to sleep on my bed.
I felt helpless and I held onto the rails and prayed to God Sumana Saman to give me the strength to reach the summit. I prayed and prayed because it was the only thing I could do at that point. I could not turn back. No, I do not give up that easily. So, I prayed. My belief on God Sumana Saman was very little. Yet, I have heard that God Sumana Saman was compassionate on humans when they are in despair. Thus, I decided to take the chance. Miraculously, with each climb, I became motivated. My heart pumping fast, my legs moving steadily. My eyes heavenward, I saw the Sri Pada, lit beautifully. Hearing the faint ringing of the bell, my feet propelled into action. My only aspiration at that time was to reach the summit.
With inconceivable joy and enlightenment, we reached the summit. My happiness was unmeasurable, and my gratitude was immense. It was immensely crowded with people sitting, sleeping and praying. At that moment, nothing else mattered to me; I was ecstatic.
We were fortunate enough to see the most beautiful sunrise, amidst the rhythmic Sri Lankan drums and trumpets. I was bewitched of its beauty and was amazed at the distance I had come. With that, I discovered spirituality, hidden deep within my soul. I bowed my head and paid my homage to Lord Buddha and God Sumana Saman and promised to come again.