From far in the distance, our destination stands high above the landscape. Sigiriya, the Lion Rock cannot be missed.
The history of this 200 metre high granite rock goes back to the 3rd century BC when Buddhist monks were thought to have established a retreat here. However the reason the fortress was built on Lion Rock occurred in the 5th Century AD. A family feud over the heirarchy resulted in King Dhatusena’s son by a consort, Kasyapa, exiling the favoured son, Mogallana and eventually having his father walled up in a chamber until he died. Realising that Mogallana would attack to avenge his father, Kasyapa built a fortress at the top of Sigiriya.
The invasion did eventually happen but the fortress did not save Kasyapa as he left it to meet the troops on the ground. He eventually killed himself when he feared he would be captured.
Sigiriya was then handed back to the Buddhists who abandoned in 1155 until it was rediscovered by the British in 1828.
Extensive landscape gardens surround the rock. Built between 477AD and 495AD, they are amongst the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. To reach the rock, you follow the path through the Water Gardens with its two ponds on either side.
Boulders found at the foot of the rock were used to created the Boulder Gardens through which we start our climb of the 750 steps.
A walkaway has been built around the wall of the rock. A feature of this rock face is Sigiriya’s famous painted frescoes, the Sigiriya Damsels. Originally they were thought to be of King Kasyapa’s concubines but it is now thought that they are more likely to be pictures of celestial nymphs. Just past here is the Mirror Wall, an area of rock face originally coated in highly polished plaster. The wall is covered in graffiti and records early visitors impressions of Sigiriya.
After passing the damsels, the climb takes you to a terrace where you can rest before heading up the stairs to the final part of the climb. Originally a giant lion sculpture meant you would arrive at the top via the lion’s mouth but all that remains are two gigantic lions paws.
After the final assault up a rickety iron ladder attached to the wall of the rock, you arrive at the top of Sigiriya. The views from here over the country side are magnificent but it is the remains of the King’s Upper Palace that amaze me. I am left intrigued as to how this could have been constructed.
The view from the top of Sigiriya shows how extensive the gardens are….and how far we have climbed!
Sigiriya was a forty five minute trip from our hotel, the Heritance Kandalama in Dambulla.
The entrance fee for the ancient city of Sigiriya is $US30 per person
I would recommend an early start to beat the heat and the crowds!