pilgrims ascend Sri Pada

The Pilgrimage

This pilgrimage usually takes place about the month of April, which is the dry season just before the southeast monsoon breaks. The great desire of every pilgrim is to reach the peak before dawn so that they could witness the glorious spectacle of the sunrise and thereafter perform their religious rites. Young and old married women carrying children and many old men, who really appear physically incapable of the strenuous effort, make the ascent strengthened by the belief that they are doing an extraordinary meritorious act. For some it is a pleasure trip.

The climb is by no means easy. It takes several hours to get to the top. There are several resting places (madam) at various points on the path, where pilgrims are able to rest, cook and eat their meals or even spend a night. There is a river that separates the peak from the surrounding mountain range in which pilgrims take a ceremonial bath of cleansing and change into clean clothes before crossing over a fort bridge to the sacred mountain itself. From this point the path is an ascent of steps, very steep at some points. Especially at these and other points iron rails are fixed to support the climbers. Since many pilgrims make the ascent during the night in order to reach the peak before dawn, the pathway is today lit with electricity. Formerly there were only lanterns at various points. Groups of pilgrims sing devotional songs as they climb. Cries of "Sādhu sādhu sā" are heard especially as one group passes another.