A world heritage site and a much visited tourist destination, Sigiriya which according to available historic records is a palace and fortress complex built atop the 180 m granite rock and around it during the latter part of the 5th century. The remains of stairways, pools and chambers at the top of the rock as well as the stone stairway leading to the top at the entrance of which is the gigantic remains of a lion’s paws and the garden complex with pools, fountains, walls and moats at the base of the rock give credence to this interpretation.
The early history of Sigiriya points to it having been a monastic complex with the gardens being built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa credited with having built the entire complex after whose demise it went back to being a monastery and was then abandoned. Kasyapa is said to have fortified Sigiriya to keep invaders at bay.
Whatever it may have been, the Sigiriya complex is one the best examples of urban planning in the first millennium anywhere in the world, a brilliant combination of artifice and the clever use of topography where the existing features of the landscape were woven into the overall design. The water, boulder and terraced gardens at the base of the rock are some of oldest examples of landscaped gardens in the world. Security wise the complex was well guarded with outer and inner walls and moats. The buildings atop the rock are some of the oldest surviving examples of their kind.
While remarkable in every way Sigiriya is remembered and widely known for its frescos of women depicted in clothing and accessories of the period, painted in various poses. According to ancient graffiti found on the ‘mirror wall’ adjacent to the paintings there were initially paintings of 500 women covering the whole western face of the rock. That would indeed have been a sight. No wonder many ancient people though that this was akin to the abode of the gods!!
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Thanuja Silva is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Auburn Silver. She has a passion for fashion and a deep interest in admiring new and exotic attractions around the world. Google+