It’s the peak time at Sri Pada, and large crowds throng the sacred mountain.
At least one out of ten would have trekked the sacred peak where the Buddha’s hallowed footprint is enshrined, as legend has it. The Sri Pada season begins in December, on Unduwap Poya and ends in April, the following year.
To fulfil my life-long desire, I too ventured out on my pilgrimage to the sacred peak recently. I climbed into a sardine-packed second class compartment of the Badulla bound morning train. The majority of my fellow travellers were pilgrims themselves, to my utter pleasure. Standing all the way from Colombo Fort, I was able to get a seat only when the train reached Rambukkana.
When I arrived at my destination, Hatton, it was around two in the afternoon; soon after disembarking from the train I began hunting for a decent outlet to have lunch. Finding a place for lodging at Nallathanni in Hatton is as difficult as getting a decent meal anywhere. Finally, more than the conductor of the bus that I travelled in, it was his good Samaritan wife, who with much persuasion helped me find solace in a guest house, ‘Tara Homestay’ owned by one Muttiah Narasingham. The night was tranquil, overawed by the wilderness.
Around 4.30 the following morning, I started my epic journey. Pirith-chanting reverberates the atmosphere.
It was a woman who ran a small shop selling sweets and fruits who was worried that making the local sweet, ‘dodol’ had become more costly. Her complaint was against the escalating building rent; which is Rs. 10,000 per square foot or perhaps more.
Nallathanni is the focal point to parking vehicles, Nagaviharaya, Makara Thorana, Sama Chaitya, Seetha Gangula, Indikatu Pahana, Rathu Ambalama, Maha Giri Dambe en route to the Uda Maluwa.
The present day youngsters are not so religious, having forgotten that they are on a mission to the sacred peak. In place of “Thumsaranaya”, that the older generation recited while trekking the peak, today, the young people sing ‘baila’, a sweetmeat the vendor repented.
‘Kalana Mithuru’, a three-day dansala by Jayasekera Enterprises, Kaduwela provided free snacks to the pilgrims. Ven. Ankumbure Kalyana Thera, too had joined this meritorious act. Owner Jayasekera with about 150 helpers has continued this noble task for the last several years.
A very unusual sight was a young girl supported by a walking stick who carried a large gunny bag full of local rice on her back, to hold a ‘roti dansala’ close to Seetha Gangula.
Passing ‘Rathu Ambalama’, a resting place for the weary devotees, I arrived at Indikatu Pahana where food items are very costly; I had to pay Rs. 60 for a banana. From Indikatu Pahana one could witness the Udamaluwa, clad in the lustre of the rising sun.
People of all walks, including ‘neophytes’ carrying small children uphill Mahagiridamba is a common sight during the Sri Pada season.
Sri Pada is famous for ‘worshipping’ the rising sun in its majesty, a traditional practice among the villagers. All devotees then and now, invoke the protection of God Sumana Saman for success in life and business, as well as good health.
Pilgrims should give up the bad habit of abandoning used plastic and polythene products which contaminate the environment at this most sacred location of religious significance. (Sunday Observer)