Saman is one of the four great protective divinities of Sri Lanka, and the one who boasts the most modest and purely Sri Lankan origins. He is believed originally to have been a pious Indian trader (or possibly a king) who, thanks to the merit he had acquired, was reborn as a god residing at Sumanakuta (as Adam’s Peak was originally called). According to the quasi-mythological chronicle of Sri Lankan history, the Mahavamsa, Saman was among the audience of gods to whom the Buddha preached during his visit to Mahiyangana, and upon hearing the Buddha, he immediately entered on the path of Enlightenment. When the Buddha returned to Sri Lanka on his final visit, Saman begged him to leave a footprint atop Sumanakuta to serve as a focus for worship; the Buddha duly obliged. Saman is still believed to reside on the mountain, and to protect pilgrims who climb it. He is usually shown in pictures with a white elephant, holding a red lotus, with Adam’s Peak rising behind.

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