Sigiriya is being considered to be one of Asia's major archeological sites. The rock of Sigiriya usually refers as lions rock situated in a forest. The 180 meters (600FT) rock was used to be a palace for king Kasyapa from 477-495 AD. The palace at Sigiriya is a unique combination at 5th century Urban planning, architecture, engineering hydraulics, garden designing, painting sculpture & poetry. Some people may claim Sigiriya is the eighth wonder of the world. In 1982 UNESCO declared Sigiriya a world heritage site.
Sigiriya derived from ‘Simha giri' or lions paw. According to the chronicles Sigiriya was a royal city for king Kasyapa from 477-495AD. But some may believe the period is longer than 18 years. In 495 Moggalanna, Kasyapa's half brother defeated him in the battle field then Moggalanna again moved the capital again to Anuradhapura leaving Sigiriya to Buddhist monks. A new theory with archeological evidence suggests something different to the local chronicles they suggest this was never used as a palace. But rather this was to be a monastery built several centuries before king Kasyapa by the 3rd century B.C it is believed to be abandoned in the 14th centaury later it was discovered by British archeologist Bell in 1898 & further excavation were done by British explorer John Still in 1907.
The Sigiriya Complex & Royal Palace
The complex & royal city extends in to several square kilometers. This includes the royal complex, the city, moats, ramparts, gateways & the gardens. The royal palace built on top of the rock & other buildings and gardens built around the rock. Only the foundations of these structures remain today. The city has a wall surrounding the Sigiriya rock with a moat outside the wall for added protection reminds how well the planning of this city taken place in the ancient times. The city is about three kilometers in length and one kilometer in width. The architectural design of Sigiriya reminds how rich the ancient urban planning, palace & garden architecture of Sri Lanka & South East Asia.
The Water Gardens
Usually tourists enter into Sigiriya site is from western gate. This takes you through well preserved water garden compress of a central island surrounded by four pools. Theses four pools were used as bathing pools. The second section of the gardens, the fountain garden there are two deep pools with stepped cross sections. The third section is on a higher level comprising of extensive area of terraces and halls. The northeast corner has a large octagonal pool, and terrace at the base of a towering boulder forming a dramatic rock and water combination at a point where the water garden and the boulder garden meet. Excavations have discovered that these pools were inter-linked by a network of underground conduits, fed initially by the Sigiriya Lake.
The Boulder Gardens & Terrace Gardens
After the water gardens you will enter into boulder gardens where huge rocks placed in the shape of arches. Boulders may have been used as the foundations to the brick walls & timber columns. It is evident that in the boulder gardens are where these Buddhist monks of Sigiriya have been living in these caves that they have discolored the bare chested women paintings. After boulder arch number one few steps ahead is the terrace garden. After terrace garden around hundred steps steep before you reach half way mark of Sigiriya rock where you can breathe fresh air while sipping water here you will be able to witness a bird's eye view of the surroundings including scrub jungle, lakes, and lush paddy fields.
The most impressive feature of Sigiriya is the frescos. Climb up the spiral staircase to get into this special place, there are 20 frescos you can see today but it was originally 500 frescos. It is believed these frescos of bare chested women popularly represent either apsaras or king Kasyapa's concubayans these paintings are quite unique to Sri Lanka but much closer to the sort of paintings which can be found in the Ajantha Caves in India. There is no evidence as such that these paintings were belongs to King Kasyapa's regime even though that they suggest this belongs to Kasyapa's regime.
This well preserved Just after the frescos down from the spiral staircase that you will step into another interesting area in this spectacular archeological site. There is an area where the rock is protected by a 3 meter high wall. This mirror wall is highly famous among any tourists into Sigiriya. The inner face of the wall is highly polished where one can see his reflection in it. The wall plastered with a mixture of egg white, bee honey, & burnished lime. There are thousands of graffiti written by the visitors in the mirror wall mainly about the frescos most of graffiti is written in Sinhalese but there are some in Sanskrit & Tamil too. There are some graffiti found written in the way back 7th Century which is known to be the oldest graffiti. There are around 700 graffiti been translated by Dr Senarath Paranawithana the first Sri Lankan commissioner of archeology & another 150 have been translated recently by Benille Priyanka. Today no visitor can write their gesture to frescos in the mirror wall which is a punishable offence.
After the mirror wall you will be walking in a narrow pathway along side of the Sigiriya rock one point you will glimpse a huge rock stands support up on stone crutches. The stone was supposed to be used to attacked in case of any enemy attack into Sigiriya palace which nevertheless not been used. Just after that few steps walking you will approach to "Lions Paw" One of the outstanding appearances in the lion staircase, now preserved in two colossal paws and a mass of brick masonry. The lion must have given a vision of majesty when it was intact. The size of claws helps us to visualize the original size of the lion. After few minutes break to enjoy the surroundings & silly monkeys their start the walk straight from the lion's mouth towards summit.
The newly refurbish metal staircase will take you up to summit on top of the rock which is around 1.6 hectares. Today only the foundations remain of this spectacular palace, the view from top of the mountain is absolutely fantastic one, scrub jungle, lakes, & the western gate & well persevered garden you can observe. There is evidence of swimming pool, ponds, so called King's throne. There is no other way to get down travelers need to follow the same way that they used climb up to go down up to lions paw.
Cobra Hood Cave & Audience Hall
Once you have passed terrace garden again you will be directed towards boulder arch number two then little further picturesque Cobra Hood Cave the rock resembles like a cobra hood hence this name derived, another important feature is the audience hall where Kasyapa held court here then you will further go down before you reach south gate car park.
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