Things to know about Sigiriya – Incredible Citadel in the Sky

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Sigiriya or Lion Rock – the world famous rock fortress of Sri Lanka and Asia’s best preserved city of the 1st millennium rises to the sky from the arid plains of north central Sri Lanka. It is 181 km from Colombo, 153 km from the tourist resort of 153 km and 98 km from the hill capital of Kandy.Mooted as the World’s Eighth Wonder by renowned science fiction writer and futurist , Sir Arthur C Clarke Sigiriya was designated as a World Heritage City in 1982 by UNESCO.

Sigiriya today draws thousands of sightseers from the island and abroad. Hotels in Sigiriya are a plenty and caters to all types of purses. Hotel Sigiriya , located in the shadow of the rock fortress with its luxurious appointments blended with traditional Sri Lankan culture and cuisine would be an excellent choice of accommodation for visitors to Sigiriya.

Incredible as it may seem, Sigiriya with its incredible beauty was conceptualized by a mind tormented with the guilt of patricide and fear of retribution. King Kashyapa (477 – 95) killed his father to acquire the throne. Yet, King Kashyapa feared retribution by Prince Mugalan and subjects loyal to King Dhatusena. Therefore, he decided to fortify himself atop a steep and forbidding rock rising 200 meters to the sky in the inhospitable jungle clad plains of north central Sri Lanka.

Kashyapa’s inspiration for Sigiriya was Alakamandawa –believed to be the domain of God Kuvera , the God of wealth and plenty.

The area surrounding the great rock has been beautified with elaborately landscaped water gardens , boulder gardens moats , ponds etc., At the summit are the ruins of the Royal Palace and gardens.

Grand stairways were erected to the base of the rock and on a small platform on the northern side of the rock a gigantic sphinx lie lion figure was erected. The ascent to the summit was through its chest via a near perpendicular stairway. Only the paws and the first steps remain of the lion and the stairway. It is this lion which gives the rock its name Sigiriya or the Lion Rock.

Sigiriya has many unique features including the Sigiriya Frescoes. Beautiful paintings of damsels or heavenly maidens are painted on the sheer rock face. Only 22 of an estimated 500 paintings remain but some are still in good shape. The paintings show a remarkable similarity to the Ajanta paintings in India.

The Mirror Wall is an unusual parapet wall which precariously hugs the near vertical rock face as it winds its way around the western side of the rock Visitors over a thousand years ago noted their impressions especially of the painted damsels above. Their graffiti is known as the ‘Sigiriya Kurutu Gee’ and today some say that they were world’s first bloggers.

Sigiriya dazzled for two decades and with Kashyapa’s death lost its glory. Use as a Buddhist Moanstery initially it fell into oblivion until the 1890′ when it was discovered by a Britisher Jonathan Forbes. Interest and restoration commenced from about this time and Commissioners of archaeology H.C.P. Bell and Dr. Senarath Paranavitana have done much for Sigiriya. In 1907 John Still came upon Sigiriya and wrote about its wonders.

Nigel Walters is a travel writer, who writes under the pen name, Fritzjames Stephen. His content is based on the myriad of experiences and indulgences that the world has to offer travellers across all walks of life.


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