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Sigiriya Rock Fortress Excursion, Sri Lanka

Region: ancient-cities | Location: Sigiriya
Sri Lanka Sigiriya Rock Fortress
 Other regions: capital-colombo | east-coast | hill-country | south-coast | west-coast
Sigiriya is one of the Sri Lanka’s most awe-inspiring archaeological sites and a leading tourist attraction. Sigiriya is a fascinating rock fortress which was the stronghold of a fifth century king who sought refuge.

The Sigiriya Rock Fortress was built during the reign of King Kassapa (AD 477 – 495), and it is one of the seven World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. The Sigiriya consists of a sheer rock that rises 200m with the ruins of a palace on the top and vast pleasure garden complex at the foot. Approach the rock through the beautiful water gardens before making the ascent to the three acre summit. Before reaching the Sigiriya royal palace at the summit the visitor passes a gallery of heavenly maidens painted upon the rock face and a wall of graffiti where visitors of 1000 years ago felt compelled to inscribe their impressions of the maidens in the gallery. The visitor then passes through two enormous lion paws, the remains of a gigantic brick lion before making the final approach to the summit where magnificent views of the surrounding jungle await.

History

For just two decades in the 5th century AD, Sigiriya rose to prominence following a power struggle between two brothers, Kasyapa and Mogallana. Kasyapa murdered his father by walling him alive and then usurping the throne which rightfully belonged to his brother Mogallana. Fearful that his defeated brother would return from exile to extract vengeance, Kasyapa shifted the capital to Sigiriya to build Sigiriya Rock Fortress.

The megalomaniac yet spiritual Kasyapa clearly had an eye for beauty. The pleasure gardens include a series of symmetric pools, cannels and fountains that still spurt water after 1,500 years. Partway up the rock are the famous Sigiriya frescoes, featuring 21 bare-breasted damsels that may represent celestial nymphs, but were surely modelled on Kasyapa’s own consorts. Halfway you’ll encounter a pair of giant lion’s paws, part of the original entrance, which required visitors to pass through the open mouth of a lion. The summit yields a dramatic vista of the surrounding jungle and contains the foundation of the palace complex, replete with bathing pool. But all this was to be in vain.

Mogallana finally arrived and declared war. Kasyapa descended from his palace in the clouds to face his brother astride an elephant, eventually talking his own life when facing certain defeat. Mogallana returned the capital to Anuradhapura, converting Sigiriya into a monastery complex.

Location

Sigiriya is located in Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is within the cultural triangle, which includes five of the seven world heritage sites in Sri Lanka. Located north of Dambulla, 168km from Colombo.

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