September 2017


Magnificent Sigiriya
September 2017




The view of Sigiriya rock

Considered as the Eighth Wonder of the World, Sigiriya continues to draw thousands to explore its grandeur and regality that has stood the test of time.


Words: Udeshi Amarasinghe
Photographs: Menaka Aravinda and Geeth Viduranga


Sigiriya came into the limelight during the period of King Kasyapa (477-495AD) who built his fortress on this massive rock. The architectural and engineering ingenuity of ancient Sri Lanka is greatly reflected in the well-planned gardens and constructions that have made Sigiriya a World Heritage Site, that is recognised globally.


Walking along the well-manicured paths, it is soon apparent that King Kasyapa appreciated the beauty in life. The water gardens are a series of ponds with incredible fountains and water system that during the monsoon functions perfectly even today. The ponds take various forms, some perfect rectangles and one in particular - an octagon.


The boulder garden is a series of natural rock formations that have been utilised to create a simple yet elegant series of spaces that are interlinked with stone steps.


While progressing on the ascent to the top, you encounter the various remnants that indicate the techniques used by masons and engineers of the bygone era. Linear grooves along the rocks indicated the method in which rainwater was transported from the top to the various ponds as well as cooled the royal enclosures throughout the Sigiriya fortress. The manner in which steps were placed in the boulders is evident through the symmetrical grooves etched in stone with side grooves that were believed to have held wooden balustrades.

Walking along the well-manicured paths, it is soon apparent that King Kasyapa appreciated the beauty in life.


The ascent becomes steeper and therefore exhausting as you climb farther. The steps are almost at right angles making it difficult for foes to reach the palace. This was a method employed during the periods of the kings, especially King Kasyapa as he always lived in fear of attacks.


There are well preserved rock seats that have been carved out of single boulders indicating the various meeting areas of the King. In one particular cave, there are curious grooves on both sides of the granite seat. These are believed to either have been a decorative feature or part of cooling mechanisms to provide respite for the King.


While it is King Kasyapa's reign that is mostly spoken of, Sigiriya was also a monastery before as well as after King Kasyapa's reign. As such elements of these periods too remain. Sections of murals as well as rock inscriptions can still be seen in the interior of the caves.


The famous Sigiriya Frescoes believed to be Apsaras (Celestial Nymphs) are considered to be in line with King Kasyapa's need to feel eternal or heavenly. While only a few remain, the earthen colours, beautiful clothes and jewellery reflect the vibrant culture of ancient Sri Lanka.


Proceeding along the 'mirror wall' with Kurutu gee, written by travellers over the years, you will soon reach a plateau with the amazing and majestic carvings of the Lion's Paws. It takes a moment to catch one's breath and appreciate the view. Continuing on the ascent to the summit, it is almost as if one is entering the lion's mouth.


The climb becomes steeper, but exhilarating. Toque macaque make the journey a bit more interesting as they perch closely to the steps.


A few minutes more and you are at the top, and what an achievement it feels like. The view from the summit is breathtaking to say the least with a 360-degree view. It was not difficult to imagine King Kasyapa residing in his palace surveying the surrounding land. "How was a palace with great ponds built at such a height at that time?", is a question that seemed to be on everyone's mind. Yet, those who walk around its entirety and pause to reflect, could not help but feel pride in the great achievements of our forefathers.

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    The beautiful well-planned water garden

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    The King's seat cut from a single boulder

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    Steps at right angle make the climb an exhausting one

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    The mirror wall

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    At the summit

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    One of the large ponds at the top of Sigiriya

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