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What is Ira Sevaya at Sri Pada?

Sri Pada season started on 1st December 2009, the Uduwap Poya day. It will terminate on the Wesak Poya day next year. Sri Pada Mountain is also names as Samanola Kanda, (Samanola Mountain) and Adams peak also. Every year millions of pilgrims, irrespective of their religion, join the processions to climb the Samanola Mountain to worship the foot print of the lord Buddha. If it is not for worshiping, no one will climb the hill particularly in the night. I do not know whether it is hundred per sent true to believe that it has the holy value of owing the foot print of Buddha on top of it even though the historical facts witness the incident. For this reason, the pilgrims have a series of believes, expectations and myths about their experience and sights of many events which are not common in their day to day life. Even though all of them are natural events, pilgrims understand them as events those occur only in the Adams peak environment and many believe that such events have close relationship to the foot print and the God Saman (Saman Deviyo). The Ira Sevaya, (fluctuation of suns images before sun rise) is one of the most beautiful and colorful visual observation one can see in the world. When one observe the sky in the early morning from the Adams peak, the eastern sky over the horizon changes its colors very fast. So pilgrims can observe beautiful designs in the sky and changes of colors just like the observations when he is in front of an expert painter. Mixed with all this coloring effect, the sun (apparently images of the sun) can be seen above the horizon. It is not a single image, but plenty of them. . The images are seen in different different locations before you see the actual sun above the horizon a little later. One who does not know what is really happening in the eastern sky, may believe that the sun moves up and down several times to worship the Foot print of the Buddha as it is mentioned so in myths about Sri Pada. As it is not an easy thing to count the number of visible images of the sun and most of the pilgrims including some veteran Buddhist monks and learned professors use to say that Sun worships three times the Buddhas foot step before its rises. As the event could not be explained with believable words not only the laymen-pilgrims, but also religious pilgrims including Buddhist monks still have believes of the God sun (Hiru Deviyo) worshipping the foot print of the Buddha before it starts provision of energy to the world. It is pathetic to see that some media personnel, Buddhist monks and learned professors taking part in television programs broadcast from the Sri Pada still explain this event to listeners without concerning the science behind these natural events. This so called Ira Sevaya or the apparent movement of the sun before sun rise is not a site special to Sri Pada or Sri Lanka but it can be seen from any hill top and also from airplanes, provided the clear sky environment is available over the eastern sky and the observer is at a significantly high altitude. I have heard that special locations of top of

hills in some parts of India have been reserved for tourists for them to observe this beautiful scenery. A light ray encounters a number of effects when it travels in a media or passes a sharp edge, or travel through a common surface between two transparent media. Such behaviors are explained under the terminology like Reflection, Refraction, Diffraction, Scattering, Diffusion and Total Internal Reflection which have meanings different from each other. If one has studied these phenomena in Physics (Advance Level), he can explain the science of the natural events like rainbow, mirage, fluctuation of sun before sun rise, eclipses, halo event and colorful pattern seen in the sky particularly in North Pole and South Pole skies. The apparent movement or shift of the sun a few minutes before sun rise seen at the top of a hill is caused both by Total Internal Reflection (TIR) and diffraction of suns light beams by the lower atmosphere. Light rays go through Total Internal Reflection(TIR) when they meet a common boundary between two media one denser than the other (like glass and water, water and air or glass and air). Requirement for a beam to undergo TIR is the incident rays should travel through the dense medium before meeting the common boundary. When the incident angle exceeds a particular value (called critical angle), rays are reflected just like they are reflected by a plain mirror. Light rays from the un-risen sun are incident through the dense air which is at very low level, close to the earth surface, of the atmosphere towards rare layers which are above surface layers. Under these circumstances, light rays get reflected towards the rare layer at boundaries separating dense/rare air layers. Even though the actual position of the sun at this time is covered by the solid earth for an observer/pilgrim at the top of a hill like Sri Pada, he can see the sun through the reflected light rays. The apparent positions of the sun which are seen through reflected rays are images of sun and are seen above the horizon. All these happen while the sun and the earth are relatively moving. Therefore an observer sees large number of images of the sun when the time passes and the apparent positions of images are not the same and therefore one sees changing positions of sun and he can easily misunderstand this and a movement of the sun. A few minutes later, sun rises above the horizon and this is the real sun. As the Total Internal Reflection does not occur now one can see only one figure which is the real sun just above the horizon. This position of the real sun is usually below the positions of the images. This phenomenon TIR is shown in the diagram. Please note that the diagram is not drawn to a scale and is a little exaggerated to show you the phenomenon clearly.

Ira Sevaya may be partly a result of the diffraction of solar light beams at the tip of the earth in the early morning. A light ray find the body of the earth as a tiny sharp edge and therefore it undergoes through the phenomenon diffraction at the earth surface and breaks the ray in to a number of branches which are transmitted in different directions. Similar in TIR, a number of images are formed by diffraction too and an observer on a high location can see fluctuation of images of the sun again before sun rise. Both of these phenomena, Total Internal Reflection and diffraction , may cause the so called Ira Sevaya which is a natural event happening all over the world every day. Both sun and earth are moving and rotating bodies. Sun is common to the whole world and it provides energy to the whole world positioning billions of kilometers away from us not close to Adams peak. Present day children should be directed in the correct way to understand the real facts of our universe and other matters related it. Myths will mislead the educating children and it is the rights of all responsible personnel including lecturers, teachers and also media personnel to highlight the truth about the natural events not the myths. Otherwise the next generation will be never armed with scientific understanding to face the present and future world.

K. R. Abhayasingha, Former Director of Meteorology Phone: 081-3800083 Mobile: 077-7287587 Email: