Located in the vast forests of central Sri Lanka, there lies an ancient fortress in the sky. Myths and legends swirl and wrap themselves around this enchanting place, shrouding it both in mystery and wonder. Its name, Sigiriya.
Sigiriya is a place like no other. This ancient palace fortress, built on the top of a giant megalithic rock, both dominates and towers over the surrounding landscape. Located in a remote location in the Matale District of Central Sri Lanka. This incredible place has mystified visitors to the site throughout its long and colourful history.
The area around Sigiriya is believed to have been inhabited since prehistoric times. A rock shelter to the east shows evidence of occupation going back nearly five thousand years to the Mesolithic period. There is also evidence that the many rock shelters and caves in the area around Sigiriya ,were occupied by Buddhist monks from as early as the 3rd century BC.
Sigiriya was formed into a palace, fortress and pleasure garden by the ancient King Kashyapa over two and a half thousand years ago, at the beginning of the 5th Century BC. Known as ‘Lion Rock’ in English, the name of the monument refers to the entrance of the rock. The only way to reach the palace on the rock was to climb up through the open jaws of a mighty stone carved lion. Unfortunately, the lions head has been lost to history, however the giant paws of the beast still remain.
Archaeologists still don’t know why such a massive effort went into building this city on top of this giant rock. Many have argued it was for protection. However others have maintained that it still doesn’t justify the mammoth and near impossible task of dragging building materials to a height of 200 metres. In ancient traditions, building on top of a high mountain or rock was a way of reaching to the heavens and being close to god. This hilltop palace was probably viewed as a gateway between our world and the next.
Though there maybe be dissension as to why Sigiriya was created. There is no argument to the fact that this wonder stands alongside the other great behemoths of human ingenuity. Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Sigiriya, three of the great lights of our creation. Which show that even a thousand years ago the power of the human mind shone with a blinding brightness.
A theory put forward in 1907 states that the whole face of the hill appears to have been a beautiful picture gallery. The paintings would have covered most of the western side of the rock, stretching across an area 140 metres long and 40 metres high. There are references in the graffiti to 500 ladies in these paintings. However, most have been lost forever, thought to have been destroyed by the more religious inhabitants of the rock.
Although the frescoes are designated to be from the Anuradhapura period. The painting style is considered unique, the and style of the paintings differing from Anuradhapura paintings. Still to this day, the true identity of the ladies in these paintings have not been identified. There are various ideas about their identity. Some believe that they are the ladies of the king’s, while others think that they are women taking part in religious observances. Still others see a close resemblance to paintings seen in the Ajanta caves in India. We may never know who or why these images was created, we can only marvel at their sheer beauty.
The Mirror wall
Originally this rock wall was so highly polished that the king could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. Made of brick and covered in highly polished white plaster, the wall is now covered with verses scribbled by visitors. Some of them dating from as early as the 8th century. People of all types wrote on the wall, on many varying subjects such as love, irony, and experiences of all kinds. However further writing on the mirror wall has now been banned for the protection of the old writings.
The most famous script on the wall was written between the 8th and 10th century and reads: “I am Budal, Came with hundreds of people tо see Sigiriya. Since аll the others wrote poems, I did not!” Nonconformists will always stand out from the crowd.
The Ruins in the sky
Lying high up atop of the rock, the palace foundations are still visible to this day. Beautifully laid out with both ponds and gardens, this one and a half hectare site has some of the best views in the whole of Sri Lanka. Click on the images to get a closer look.
The Water Gardens
The entrance to Sigiriya is impressive. Surrounded by rock hewn pools, man made rivers, fountains and the long lost remnants of ancient structures, this is a places to behold indeed. World renowned, these gardens are a living memory to the skills and of the ancients. Exhibiting sophisticated hydraulic technologies that have been in use for centuries and are still working up to this very day. See for yourself these beautiful gardens, which even after all these years still bring beauty to this mighty Rock.
Sigiriya, one of the little known wonders of our world and a truly awe inspiring achievement of the ancient Sri Lankans. If you are ever lucky enough to be in this region of the world. You must visit this spectacular place and feel its history. There are very few places left now where you can run your fingers over rocks, where one thousand years ago our long lost ancestors did the same.
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Have a read and get inspired, then head out and see the world!