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Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka - Lions Rock Fortress

3rd Century BC Unesco World Heritage Site

Sigiriya Rock Fortress, one of the most visited historical monuments in Sri Lanka, is also considered to be the 8th Wonder of the World by Sri Lankans for its uniqueness and significance. It is located in the Central province of Sri Lanka, in the Matale district, within the perimeters of Dambulla town.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress was built by King Kashyapa in the fifth century AD, to be his place of protection and pleasure. Sigiriya Rock Fortress is a palace built on the top of a bible-shaped rock, which is still considered to be a magnificent feat of ancient Sri Lankans. The rock rises 600 feet straight up towards the skies from the surrounding jungles.

At the foot of the massive rock, the garden that consists of fountains, ponds and neatly-laid stone pavements, is considered to be an exceptional masterpiece of ancient city planning, even by today’s standards. The hydraulic engineering technologies and methods used in the water structures, still awe the modern engineers with how precise and long-lasting they are.

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka is considered to be one of the oldest surviving examples of ancient urban sites in Asia. It is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological treasures in the world and was named a World Heritage site in 1982 by UNESCO, as the ‘Ancient City of Sigiriya Sri Lanka’.

History And Folklore Of Sigiriya Rock

There are a number of caves honeycombing the base of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, and according to the ancient inscriptions found in them, the massive rock and its caves have served as refuges for Buddhist monks as early as in the 3rd century BC, before it got caught up in the political propagandas of the country.

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka rose to the point of power and supremacy in the country only in the 5th century AD, during the power struggle of the two sons of King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura. The two sons were from two different concubines of the king; the eldest son Kashyapa from a mere consort and the youngest, Mogallana from the chief queen.

Upon hearing that the throne was declared to Mogallana after the king’s death, Kashyapa had rebelled, driving Mogallana out of the country to seek refuge in India and imprisoning King Dhatusena in order to know the location of his treasure. 

Upon becoming king, when Kashyapa threatened his father with death for the location of his treasure, Dhatusena had led him to the famous Kalawewa tank, which was built by him and gestured to its waters as his greatest treasure. It is said that a furious Kashyapa killed his father by walling him up against his own tank as a result.

After reaching the news of his father’s death, Mogallana had vowed to take revenge on his brother and expecting the inevitable invasion of Mogallana with his army of Indian mercenaries, Kashyapa fled the capital, making the massive Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka his refuge and pleasure palace.

According to the folklore, it only took 7 years for the entire fortress to be built with its indestructible structures, astounding engineering and architectural feats as well as the paintings and inscriptions.  However, no matter how indestructible Sigiriya Rock Fortress was, it is said to have fallen during Mogallana’s invasion, resulting in the suicide of King Kashyapa.

After ascending the throne as the rightful king, Mogallana took the capital back to Anuradhapura, bequeathing the Sigiriya Rock Fortress to its original occupants, the Buddhist monks who sought peace and solitude. However, the area was abandoned in 1155, and it became forgotten in time and the surrounding jungles, except for some military purposes during the Kandyan kingdom of Sri Lanka, only to be discovered by the British in 1828.

Even though the Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka was discovered by the British, the surveying and excavations fell under the Archaeological Commissioner of Ceylon at the time, Harry C. P. Bell. His findings at the end of the 19th century have been the basis of all the studies conducted at the Sigiriya Rock Fortress ever since.

Sigiriya Frescoes Paintings

The main items Sigiriya Rock Fortress is famous for, are the paintings that date back to the 5th century, which are drawn on the rock; the paintings of semi-nude females decorated in colourful ornaments, carrying flowers. The figures are said to represent ‘Apsaras’ or celestial nymphs, which are commonly found in Asian art.

Some historians also suggest that the paintings are of the ladies of the king’s royal court. These paintings were famous and have said to attract the attention tourists from all over the world during ancient times, and those who visited to see them had written verses and proses of their beauty on a polished rock wall, known as the Mirror Wall of Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka.

There are over 1800 proses written on the polished wall and some of these date back as far as the 6th century, and about 700 of these ancient poems addressed to the beautiful women in the paintings have been deciphered by the country’s foremost Epigraphist.

Mirror Wall Sigiriya

When You climb the Sigiriya rock past the steps of the rock garden, you will find a rocky slope. You have to cross this rocky slope to get to the Lion Rock. Architects of the 5th century built a magnificent wall to cross the slope safely. It is made of bricks and plastered with lime mortar. The outer slope is protected by a two meter high wall.

The very well polished surface of the wall is coated with a special lime mortar. This wall is called the ‘mirror wall’. The mirror wall is important because Sigiriya poetry is written on this mirror wall. About 1,500 poems and names written by ancient travelers from the 6th to the 14th century are inscribed on the mirror wall in their own handwriting and are still preserved today.

The 1600 year old Mirror Wall is one example of the greatness of the ancient kingdom of Sigiriya that speaks to the world. When King Kasyapa (473 – 491 AD) built Sigiriya, this wall was built on a rock slope for the protection of those who entered it.

It has been a silent example of the glory of plastering technology back then. In addition, the wall of mirrors later became an archetypal symbol due to the obscene songs written on it by visitors. The courtyard that stretches beyond the mirror wall is about 7 feet wide. It is designed as a staircase.

Among them is the stone house with the Sigiriya murals 42 feet above it. The base of the mirror wall is not the granite found around Sigiriya. It is a type of limestone that has been brought to the top of the rocks by special efforts from another area. The mirror wall Sigiriya has been preserved in its original form from the 5th century to the present day. Its plaster is very well polished and has a shiny surface.

After the collapse of the Sigiriya Kingdom, people from all over the country came to see it. Evidence of this can be seen in the hundreds of songs engraved on the mirror wall. Most of these visitors have praised the female figures in the Sigiriya murals. Sigiriya songs belong to the 8th, 9th, 10th and 13th centuries.

The Royal Garden Of Sigiriya

The gardens of Sigiriya Rock Fortress are world-famous and are considered to be one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. The water gardens occupy the entire central part of the western side of the garden and there are ruins of three water gardens found here.

The first water garden consists of ‘L’ shaped ponds, symmetrically arranged to create an island in the middle. This is known as a special feature in ancient gardens and this particular one is considered to the oldest one seen in the world today.

The second garden consists of water fountains, a few of the oldest in the world, hence known as the fountain garden. There are two summer palaces around the fountain garden and the moats that surround them feed the fountains with water from concealed subterranean channels.

The third water garden is located at a higher elevation and is a bit more asymmetrical when comparing with the other two. The Boulder Garden at Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka is another one of the astonishing feats of the ancient Sri Lankans which can be seen in Sigiriya.

It consists of several large boulders linked together with stone pathways and it extends from the northern slopes to the southern slopes of the rock at its foot. Most of these boulders are said to had a building or a pavilion upon them in ancient times and the remains of the audience hall of the king can still be seen on the flattened surface of a giant boulder.

Sigiriya Lion Staircase

The Lion Staircase is one of the most scenic features at Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The two colossal paws and bricks that provide an arch to the limestone staircase are still preserved and are magnificent to this day.

This Lion staircase is the entrance to the palace on top of the rock and in ancient times, it is said that the lion structure here was full and magnificent, with those who are visiting the palace having to walk through the gaping mouth of the massive stone lion.

The Royal Palace

Three palaces made up the Sigiriya palace complex; the outer palace, the inner palace and the palace garden. While the outer palace was in the lower eastern part of the rock, the inner palace was in the higher western section and the southern section consisted of the palace garden.

All three of these sectors converge on a large, beautiful pool cut into the rock. The layout and the ground plan of the palace can still be seen clearly. The palace at the top of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress spreads around 1.5 hectares in size. The ruins of the royal palace lie towards the west side on top of the flat rock and the palace garden, which consists of a pool is situated in the east.

How the ancient builders carried water to the top of the rock is still considered to a magnificent engineering feat. On a lower elevation than the palace, a rock throne carved out of natural rock, faces the east overlooking the garden.

What You Should Know - Befor Climb

Before visiting the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, we would like to bring to your attention a few things you should know. Sigiriya is not necessarily a religious place or a temple, so there is no need to wear white or conservative outfits.

Moreover, it is vital to keep in mind that the area in which the rock is situated is very hot, with the temperature rising to 30C during some times of the year, so light-weight clothes which are easy to move in will be your best pick. There is an entrance fee at the gate and you will need to pay this small fee to gain access to the rock fortress.

The climb consists of 1200 steps up the steep rock wall, but the staircase is safe and there are small places where you can rest also. Senior citizens and small children are able to make the climb with no issues, but if you are concerned, it is recommended not to let them climb.

You can visit the Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka any time of the year and the opening times are from 7.00 AM to 5.00 PM. It is ideal to Sigiriya ( Sigiriya ) Rock Climb during the morning hours or evening hours to avoid the hot sun, and in the evenings, you will be able to catch one of the most enchanting sunsets on the island from the top of the rock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sigiriya Water Technology ?

Sigiriya Water Technology Used an Underline Pipe System and as Much as Possible Many Water Retention Ponds Have Been Constructed in the City Complex Starting From the Rock Summit to Generate the Water Pressure for Water Fountains. Built This System From Highland to Lowland to Get the High Water Flowing Speed Using the Kinetic Energy. Even Today Can See More Water Management Technologys There .

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka How Many Steps?

It Is 1270 Steps to Climb, but You Don't Have to Climb All in One Go. It Is a Medium Level Difficulty of a Climb. Morning or Evening Is the Best Time to Climb, Considering the Heat and Humidity. Can Recommend Ages Below 70 Will Be Fine.

Is Sigiriya Rock Hard to Climb?

Climbing Sigiriya Rock Is Not That Arduous but Not Hard. It Is a Medium Level Difficulty of a Climb of 1,270 Steps Up to the Summit but No All in One Go. However, We Can Recommend Morning or Evening Climb, Considering the Heat and Humidity.

Sigiriya Rock Height?

Sigiriya Rock Is a ‎world Heritage Site in the 6th Century Which Rises to an Elevation of 349 Metres(1,144 Feet) Above Sea Level and the Surrounding Plain 180 Metres Above Sea Level (600 Feet) Above.

Where Is Sigiriya Located ?

It is located near the town of Dambulla in the Matale District of the Central Province of Sri Lanka. About 20 km away from Dambulla town. Turn right at Inamaluwa Junction and drive about 11 km to reach there.

Why Was Sigiriya Built?

King Dhatusena, (455 - 473 Ad) Who Ruled Sri Lanka at That Time Was Assassinated by His Son of Prince Kasyapa. According to the Royal Dynasty, the Real Heir to the Throne Was His Brother, Prince Moggallana. Fearing a Possible Attack From Him, Prince Kasyapa Decided to Move His Capital and Palace to Sigiriya, a Safer Area.The Palace Is Built on Sigiriya Rock as It Can Be Viewed From Miles Away From the Top and It's a Flat Hill That Is Not an Easy Task to Climb. Although Prince Kasyapa Was the Eldest Son of King Dhatusena, the Heir to the Throne Was Prince Moggallana as He Was the Son of the First Queen. He Must Return to Avenge His Father's Death and Seize the Throne. Therefore, Prince Kasyapa Has Taken Steps to Build Forts on the Rock and in the Lower Plains, Cut Long Trenches and Make Sigiriya a Very Safe Place.
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