The mountain has accumulated a mass of legends centered around the curious depression at its summit, the Sri Pada or Sacred Footprint. The original Buddhist story claims that this is the footprint of the Buddha himself, made at the request of the local god Saman different faiths subsequently modified this to suit their own contrasting theologies. Sometime around the eighth century, Muslims began to claim the footprint as that of Adam, who is said to have first set foot on earth here after having been cast out of heaven, and who stood on the mountain's summit on one leg in penitence until his sins were forgiven. Hindu tradition meanwhile, had claimed (though with no great conviction) that the footprint was created by Shiva. In the final and feeblest twist of the Sri Pada legend, the colonial Portuguese attempted to rescue the footprint for the Christian faith, claiming that it belonged to St Thomas, the founder of the religion in India, though this belief has never really taken root.
Despite all these rival claims, Adam's Peak remains an essentially Buddhist place of worship (unlike the genuinely multi-faith pilgrimage town of Kataragama). The mountain has been an object of pilgrimage for over a thousand years, at least since the Polonnaruwa period, when Parakramabahu andVijayabahu constructed shelters on the mountain for visiting pilgrims. In the twelfth century, Nissanka Malla became the first king to climb the mountain, while later foreign travellers including Fa-Hsien, Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo and Robert Knox all described the mountain and its associated traditions with varying degrees of fanciful inaccuracy.