Sigiriya, the giant rock fortress that was built to resemble mountainous lion, was a fortified rock city built by King Kashyapa in the 5th century AD, who made it his capital. He had this fortress built to seek refuge from his avenging brother for having committed patricide and regicide to take the throne. Having selected this magnificent natural rock, the palace was located atop it and at the halfway point (on a small plateau), created a gateway to resemble a lion. The name “Sigiriya” stems from the word “Sinha” and Giri” which stand for Lion and Rock, thus “The Lion Rock”. The capital and palace was abandoned after the demise of King Kasyapa after his 18 year rule and was up until the 14th century, used a as a Buddhist monastery.
This magnificent monument, commonly known as the eighth wonder of the world, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a display of the advanced architecture that prevailed during ancient times. Sigiriya is 200 meters in height, and is in itself has a series of attractions within the rock fortress. It gives you a look into how urban planning occurred in ancient times, with a great irrigation system and waterworks dotting the palace in its gardens.
As you approach the entrance of the Lion Rock fortress you are met with a set of giant paws with steps nestled between them. Climbing to the summit and through the jaws of the lion, you come upon a three-acre area that was the palace top, which now gives glimpses of the remaining foundation and the ground plan. The panoramic vistas from the summit are breathtaking from every corner. You can also see the large rock-cut pool that acted as a swimming pool. The 360-degree panoramic views can really give you an insight into the majestic life that King Kasyapa led, with vistas as far as your eyes can see; it was an impenetrable, mighty, and self-sustaining fortress.
The Royal Gardens
The Royal Gardens that can be found at the Lion Rock are grand, intricate, and lavish. These landscaped gardens included the water gardens, boulder gardens and terraced gardens. The way it was designed was systematic and fluid, with the terraced gardens flowing down into the boulder gardens and then into the water gardens down below. The water gardens found at the foot of Sigiriya are geometrical and well planned. If you were to imagine how these pools, fountains, running water displays, the embellishment brought with flora, and fauna looked during ancient times, you could see how majestic life was back then. Some of the carvings found in the boulder garden such as the Cobra Hood Cave, Preaching Rock, Cistern Rock and Audience Rock Hall should not be missed.
The Sigiriya Damsels are some of the famous frescos in the land. A depiction of feminine beauty and one of the most popular attractions at the summit of Sigiriya, the frescoes offers us insight into the life of the court that was held in the presence of the King. These beautiful paintings are among the rare non-religious paintings that date back as far as the 5th centuries and similar to those found in rock paintings of Ajantha in India.
Mirror Walls and Graffiti
Passing the frescos of the Sigiriya Damsels, you arrive at the incredible mirror wall that has survived after a two millennia. Said to have been made with a combination of lime, egg whites, and the use of wild honey, the smooth glaze offers reflective feature ancient graffiti. Being the oldest graffiti found in Sri Lanka, its 700 verses have also been published by historians.