Sigiriya Rock Fortress
The Sigiriya rock fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. The rock, which is 180 meters above ground level, was produced by magma from a long-ago volcano. King Kasyapa I, fearful of retaliation from his rightful heir, Mogallana, decided to build his royal residence here so that no one could approach him. He styled the fortress entry gatehouse —Lion Gate on the mid-level terrace in the shape of a lion, with the feet and paws visible today – to appear like a big enticing white cloud. The palace, which was built in the 5th century, is an example of the time’s engineering excellence. Sigiriya, also known as the Lion’s Rock or Sinhagiri, is reached by ascending 1200 steps to the Lion Rock Fortress on top of Sigiriya. Moggallana came from exile in 495 A.D. and vanquished the King, restoring Anuradhapura to its former status as the capital. Then Sigiriya rock fortress was utilized as a Buddhist monastery until it was suddenly abandoned in the 14th century. In 1982, UNESCO designated Sigiriya Rock as a World Heritage Site, naming it “Ancient City of Sigiriya Sri Lanka.
The water gardens are positioned in the Sigiriya rock fortress’s core area on the western side. Though the Water Gardens appear to be one garden system in concept, there are four distinct sections to its production, which are currently known as the Water Garden Nos. 1, 2, 3 and the Miniature Water Garden. The first garden is made up of a parcel of land that is surrounded by water. It is connected to the main precinct by four causeways, each with a gateway at the beginning. This garden was designed in the style of an ancient garden known as char bagh, and it is one of the oldest existing examples of the style. Water Garden No. 2 is also known as the Fountain Garden since it features fountains. The Fountain Garden is flanked on both sides by two summer residences. Visitors will be curious as to how the fountains were refilled. The answer can be found in the moats that surround the summer palaces, which are connected to hidden subterranean tunnels that feed the fountains invisibly and ingeniously. Here are fountains fashioned of circular limestone plates. The third garden is on a higher level than the previous two. It has a big octagonal pool in the northeast corner with a high podium. On the eastern edge of the garden is the citadel’s huge brick and stone wall. The Miniature Water Garden is a ‘miniaturized’ version of the other three garden systems, a micro-scale copy of the overall concept. The overall balance, symmetry, and integration of the Water Gardens, as well as the interconnection between the various elements of the Water Gardens. The success of Sigiriya rock fortress has been gained in that way.
At the foot of the Sigiriya rock fortress, the Boulder Gardens stretch from the northern to the southern slopes of the hills. The paths to the palace on the rock summit are twisting footpaths accented by natural boulder arches that snake through the boulder garden. Many of the boulders have fracture lines carved into them. They appear to be rock-carved steps, but they were really used as footings to support the brick walls and timber frames of the numerous structures built against or on top of the stones. Before and after Kassapa, the gardens were the epicenter of Sigiriya rock fortress monastic activity. There are about twenty rock shelters used by monks in this area, some of which bear inscriptions dating from the third century BC to the first century AD. The caves were likely plastered and painted at one time, and vestiges of this decoration can still be seen in a few spots. The Cistern Rock, which gets its name from a large cistern carved out of a natural boulder and large granite slabs, the ‘Audience Hall,’ which has a five-meter long main throne carved out of the living rock, the ‘Preaching Rock,’ which has a seat carved out at the flattened edge of a fairly high boulder, and the ‘Asana Cave,’ which has a seat carved out inside a natural cave.
When you’re at the top of the Sigiriya rock fortress, don’t forget to check out the Sigiriya mirror wall. This Mirror Wall was formerly a white plastered wall that has now been discolored in colours of ochre and orange. It starts at the top of the stairwell in the tiered gardens and continues for 200 meters along a gallery with colorful frescoes to the Lion staircase on the northern side of the cliff. Many inscriptions on the gleaming white wall recorded the thoughts of visitors to the rock. Today, they are known as Sigiriya Graffiti. The white plastered wall was so finely polished, according to one inscription, that it reflected the fresco paintings on the opposite side, earning it the nickname Mirror Wall. This wall has been carefully kept for over 15 centuries, demonstrating the extraordinary artistry of the time’s craftsmen. Statements of astonishment, vows of love, comments, curses, laments, diary entries, and simple statements of visit can all be found in the graffiti. Many show a high level of literacy as well as a great passion for Sinhala, Sanskrit, and Tamil art and poetry. These early scribblers have left us with invaluable historical information.
The Lion Staircase, which faces north and has two massive lion paws in front, is the final ascent to the royal residence atop Sigiriya rock. Only the paws and a stairway remain from what was once a massive gatehouse in the shape of a sphinx-like lion. The lion gatehouse stands 35 meters tall, 21 meters wide, and 11 meters apart from the rock wall. Only the claws and a staircase remain of what was once a massive gatehouse. Its initial size is clearly indicated by its paws and fingernails, which are as tall as a man’s. These lion paws are built of brick and plastered. Its brightly colored eyes flashed, and its mouth gaping, as if it was ready to engulf anyone who approached it. Apart from the first steps and paws, the lion from the fifth century has vanished. Climbing to the top requires a series of metal stairs, however the original grooves and steps cut into the Sigiriya Lion Rock can still be seen. The two massive lion paws were discovered in 1898 by HCP Bell, a British archaeologist who was responsible for a large amount of archaeology in Sri Lanka.
The Sigiriya Rock Fortress Paintings are located about halfway up the western rock face of Sigiriya, or roughly 100 meters from the base. These can be discovered on the inside of a rock face that has been carved to form a 70-foot-long depression. The paintings would have covered the majority of the rock’s western face, which is 140 meters long and 40 meters high. In these artworks, there are references to 500 ladies in the graffiti. However, the vast majority of them have been gone forever. Other frescoes, in addition to those on the rock face, can be seen elsewhere, such as on the ceiling of the “Cobra Hood Cave.” Despite the fact that the frescoes are from the Anuradhapura period, the painting style is unique. The paintings’ line and method of application differ from those of Anuradhapura. The lines are painted in a way that adds to the figures’ impression of volume. The elaborate and costly gem-studded jewelry worn by the women in these paintings also suggests that they were members of the royal family, specifically Kashyapa’s daughters. The murals are also said to portray apsaras, or deities, coming down from the heavens to bless the Sigiriya rock fortification. These images are strikingly similar to paintings seen in India’s Ajanta Caves.
The Central Cultural Fund manages the museum in Sigiriya, which is often regarded as the most attractive in South Asia. It was founded in 2009 at the base of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The museum’s design was influenced by Sigiriya’s elegant architecture. It adhered to the Green Building concept, utilizing the mastery of water and the usage of trees to create a true experience. Visitors can also experience the Sigiriya ascension via the rising terraces and large stairways on the upper floors. You must pass down a tunnel to enter the museum, and once you reach the first floor, you will be greeted by the protohistory area, which includes a number of relics, including ancient pots and iron implements. The second level is dedicated to Sigiriya’s monastic era, with several exhibits from that time period. Sigiriya rock fortress features, including the water gardens at its entrance, the rusted mirror wall, and even the peak, are all visible through glass panels. Next to the main ticketing booth, the museum is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is included in the price of admission to the Lion Rock, so it’s well worth a visit.