Sigiriya - what is it? A 'Garden of Eden' or The Fountains of Paradise? Thoughts and Impressions of My Visit.
I want to outline my impressions, based on facts and observations – including observations of some things that are unexplained in terms of what we are familiar with in the 21st Century. As these are simply my impressions, I would appreciate comments (and, perhaps answers) to any questions my own comments and observations give rise to. My visit to Lion's Rock made me realize that this place is more mysterious than commonly known, and worth more serious attention than I ever expected.
There is a lot of information and photographs, so you can read full version of my Story by following links on my Sigiriya Travel Page:
Chapter 1: Detailed Photo Essay on Sigiriya, or Lion's Rock, in Sri Lanka: Thoughts and Impressions of My Visit. Sigiriya - what is it? A 'Garden of Eden', ancient resort, or just a pyramid on the top of a rock?
Chapter 2: More mysteries of Sigiriya: The Mirror Wall, frescoes in the sky, balanced stone of thousands of tones weight, reptilian paws of Ishtar Goddess, miracle inhuman pool and pyramid on the top of a rock with unexpected guards.
And finally on top after an arduous climb, the royal compound, the ruins of the palace with all it´s rooms and halls, it´s terraces and gardens, an awesome place. The place offers a spectacular panorama of the surrounding valley.
After the corridor is located a terrace with the impressive main entrance, an old construction built in the form of a lion (only the Claws remain) . This is a good place to take a break and enjoy the magnificent views before continuing the climb.
This corridor running through the rock, was built of a material that reflects the figures of people who passes through it, so it is known as the mirror wall. They say it was crafted from so that the king could see the reflection of the girls walking. At the end of the corridor there´s a great viewpoint.
After climbing a little, there´s a spiral staircase to the fabulous cave of the Maidens, beautiful frescoes of thousands of years old. It is said that the entire wall was filled with these paintings. Some of them are in perfect condition.
Located in the central section of the fortress, after passing the western gate there are several deep pools wich were connected to the moat, these were the water gardens built symmetrically with fountains, pools, ponds and gateways.
After the Water Gardens south of the entrance, is located the Boulders Garden. This second garden contains several large boulders linked with pathways, and are asymmetrical, as they were built around the existing rock formation, it´s salid that each boulder had a pavillion on the top. The main staircase pass through two big boulders, just before the place where the Audience Hall of the king were situated.
Also in the Boulders Garden area, next to where the Audience Hall was located, there is a big five metre long granite throne, carved from the bouder itself. It was used as a resting place for the king during audiences.
The site is considered one of the most developed urban planning sites of the first millenium, with complicated designs of symmetry and asymmetry. It has five gates (with the western gate reserved for the royals). All the complex is surrounded by a huge moat built for it´s protection.
The rock summit covers 1.6 hectares. Where once stood Kassapa's palace, only the foundations remain today. There is a 27m by 21m pond here which was probably used for water storage.
The palace would have occupied the summits highest point, the lower areas would have been the living quarters of the servants and soldiers. At the lowest end of the summit are a series of terraced gardens.
The climb to the summit can be strenuous, but it's definitely worth it. Standing on the summit taking in the magnificent views, as Kassapa would have done many centuries earlier, is an experience I'll never forget.
This is the fallen half of a split boulder. The pillars & roof which would have stood on it are long gone. The polished stone floor remains along with a five metre carved throne. This is where legends say that Kassapa sometimes held court.
The cave gets its name from the boulder above it that resembles a fully opened cobra's hood. The cave was used by Buddhist monks as early as the 3rd century BC. Paintings in the cave though date back to the reign of Kassapa.
Crossing the moats and approaching the rock through the main entrance, you first arrive at the Water Gardens. These are ornamental gardens containing symmetrically arranged ponds, water channels and tiny fountains.
The first section of the gardens comprise of a central island surrounded by L shaped pools. On the island would have stood a pavilion. The second section of the gardens is the Fountain Garden. This contains pools, water channels and ancient fountains.
Although the gardens are covered in vegetation and dried up in places, it doesn't take much to imagine them in their former glory. To get an idea of their size and splendour you should look down on them from the rock summit.
A great ending to to your Sigiriya adventure is to take an elephent ride through the lily lake, located near the bottom of Lion Rock. It lasts about an hour and you go through some forest then through a lake covered in lilys, loads of birds, monkeys, water buffalo etc. It costs about $25 which sounds expensive but the guys will take photos of you whilst you go round, including some great ones of the the rock in the background which are amazing momentos.
We've been on elephants/ camels etc before but this was def the best experience as you get in touch with the wild life/ setting it's very peaceful and a nice way to reward yourself after your climb up the rock.
It's located on the lake which is right by the Sigiryia Village and Sigiryia Hotels - you can't miss it.
This was a journey that I’ve been waiting to for a long long time. Although it was organized by my in-laws, it just happen to fall within an inconvenient weekend. But nevertheless it happened. I packed my bags and headed to the North central province with my wife and in-laws hoping to get back in-time for my wildlife classes.
After a quick tea break we continue on our journey to arrive in Sigiriya! A small town located in the Southern portion of Anuradhapura.. Close by, a massive rock structure that was used by King Kashapa to hide from his broth Mogalan stand up like a giant 400m loaf of bread amongst the greenery…
King Kashapa, a prince at the time killed his own father for the thrown in the 4th century AD and fled to Sigiriya to take refuge in the Rock. The Rock is visible in all directions and is a great lookout tower for anyone seeking shelter.. However his elder brother Mogalan who was the rightful heir to the throne fled to India to raise an army to recapture the Kingdom which was stolen unrighteously… However during the decades Mogalan spent obtaining an army, Kashapa spent lavishing his Rock kingdom with luxuries from over over the world. From Lilly gardens to Swimming pools to Conference halls to Air-conditioning – he had it all. Not to mention the hundreds of women.
Once Mogalan did raise an army and came back to fight Kashapa, the tables have turned and Kashapa had grown lethargic. Its recorded in history that during battle, Kashapa’s Elephant while advancing forward smelled water nearby and detoured away from the battle field – mistaking this action as a retreat, soldiers fled the scene leaving Kashapa behind. Once Kshapa noticed the dismay it was too late. As his brother was nearing, Kashapa lifted his dagger and drew it into his neck and fell to his death..
[Sigiriya - The Climb]
As many people all over Sri Lanka has made the journey to Sigiriya, we attempt to haul ourselves up the giant rock. I keep wondering why someone would ever want to live in a rock?.. However as the path unfolds, I see structure upon structure that look like brick and stones. The fortress was once indeed a giant fortress that housed servants, elders, concubines, wives, cooks, gardeners, guards, horses, etc… To top it all, he had the mansion built with primitive air-conditioning by channeling and harnessing the power of water vapor through a series of pipes and drains. It was good that we had read about the structure and we knew to keep quiet when approaching the many Hornet nests…
[3 hours go by]
Once we reached the summit after 2 hours, it begins to rain! With Absolutely no shelter around, I quickly took my Photo’s and headed strait for the nearest tree that grew in the gardens near the swimming pool which was built by the king to irrigate the gardens below.
[Journey back down]
As I look back on that day, I’m definitely in favor to reclaim victory of that climb once again. The paths were never dangerous as there were railings and stairs to accommodate the 2hour climb.
[Heading to Anuradhapura]
Once we reached the valley below half dead, we sought out a vendor with cool water bottles! – $1 for a bottle which I quickly grabbed and poured it down my throat since the heat of day has well set in.
Looking into the trees, I noticed a giant squirrel looking for food. However from the look of things, THIS giant was quite acquainted with the generous humans as they passed along.