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The mountain is located in the southern reaches of the Central Highlands, in the Ratnapura district of the Sabaragamuwa Province - lying about 40 km northeast of the city of Ratnapura. The surrounding region is largely forested hills, with no mountain of comparable size nearby. The region along the mountain is a wildlife reserve housing many species varying from elephants to leopards, and including many endemic species.
Adam's Peak is important as a watershed of Sri Lanka. The districts to the south and the east of Adam's Peak yield precious stones-emeralds, rubies and sapphires, for which the island has been famous, and which earned for its ancient name of Ratnadvipa.
Sri Pada is first mentioned (as `Samanthakuta') in the Deepawamsa, the earliest Pali chronicle, (4th century), and also in the 5th century chronicle Mahawamsa, where it is stated that the Buddha visited the mountain peak. The chronicle Rajavaliya states that the King Valagamba (1st century BCE) had taken refuge in the forests of Adam's Peak against invaders from India, and later returned to Anuradhapura. The Mahawamsa again mentions the visit of King Vijayabahu I (1058–1114) to the mountain. The famous Chinese pilgrim and Buddhist traveler Fa Hien stayed in Sri Lanka in 411–12 CE and mentions Sri Pada although it is not made clear whether he actually visited it. The Arab traveler Ibn Batuta on arriving on the island in 1344 CE, and Marco Polo, have recorded their visits to Sri Pada. John Davy (1817) was the first English traveler to visit the peak, and recorded observing an oversized foot print carved in stone and ornamented with a single margin of brass and studded with gems.
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