Sri Pada: Myth, Legend and Geography in Sri Lanka
Sri Pada © Dominic Sansoni
The most famous physical feature of Ceylon is Adam's Peak, which is situated in the Ratnapura district. It is on the edge of the central massif but its surrounding group of mountains called the Wilderness of the Peak, is so extensive in comparison to the bulk of the other mountain groups that it appears to form a nucleus of its own, separate from the others. It is about 7500 ft high and, though it is the second highest peak in the land, its position in relation to the topography is so dominant that it stands out above all others.
The physical features of a land are often spoken of first, by a foreign visitor. Physical descriptions compare it to a pearl and a teardrop. Lying at the southern point of India its pendant shape appears like a drop of water as it falls. South of it there is nothing but the Antarctic. It is on the major sea route between West and East Asia and therefore was a trading station for the Arabs and a trading station and a colony for the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. The Arabian Nights has possibly the first reference to it.
Now the island of Serendib lieth under the equinoctial line, its night and day both numbering twelve hours. It measureth eighty leagues long by a breadth of thirty and its width is bounded by a lofty mountain and a deep valley. The mountain is conspicuous from a distance of three days and it contains many rubies and other minerals, and spice trees of all sorts. I ascended that mountain and solaced myself with a view of its marvels which are indescribable and afterwards I returned to the King. (Sixth Voyage of Sindbad the Sailor, from The Thousand and One Arabian Nights)