Monday, October 21, 2013

Sigiriya - The Enigmatic Monolith of Sri Lanka

Trip Name: Sigiriya - The Enigmatic Monolith of Sri Lanka

Year and Month: August 2012

Number of Days : One Day

Crew : Family Members and Relatives

Accommodation : None

Transport : Van

Activities : Sight Seeing

Opening Hours : 7 am - 5.30 pm

Tickets : Foreign Adult -  30 USD
              Foreign Child
-  30 USD
Natives          - 100 LKR

Weather : Gloomy, Windy, Partially sunny

Route :
Medirigiriya > Minneriya > Habarana > Inamaluwa Junction (turn left).

Special remarks :
  • Morning or Evening is the best time to visit.
  • There is a canteen but I wouldn't recommend it.
  • Bring a water bottle
  • Tickets can be obtained from either car park office or Sigiriya garden entrance.
Resources :
  • For inquiries contact Central Cultural Fund, Sigiriya Project. Tel - 94-(0)66-2286946  94-(0)66-2286946.

View Larger Map
We were returning from Polonnaruwa, from our family's August vacation. We were somewhere between Habarana and Inamaluwa Junction when my niblings said that they wanted to visit Sigiriya. Since we had no other plans for that evening  we all decided to comply with my sisters "Little Governors" . It took us some 30 minutes to arrive at Sigiriya Car Park and from there we had to walk through dusty path with boutiques on both sides and then Sigiriya Sanctuary/Preserve consecutively to get to the Sigiriya Pleasure Gardens Entrance.

Dusty Path

Sigiriya Sanctuary

On our way we visited newly built Sigiriya Museum. I strongly recommend that you visit this place as it would allow you to gain lot of useful and fascinating  information about this mighty creation our forefathers passed down to us.

Info Gallery

Before Excavations

"Pahangala" The Preaching Rock

Mahameru Stone

Mahameru Stone

Entrance to the Relic Gallery

Replica of Sigiri Apsara Fresco

Replica of Sigiri Apsara Fresco

On our way to the entrance gates my youngest nephew asked me "චුටි මාමේ සිගිරිය හැදුවේ කව්ද??" (Uncle, who built Sigiriya?). I was so happy he asked me this I went on telling about King Kashyapa and his story of this place. But right after answering that I was bombarded with questions from the entire squad. So I had to explain and tell stories all the way up to "Lions Paw Entrance".

According to oldest recordings (archaeologically accepted), we can trace back human presence in the area of Sigiriya to the 3 century BC and it is assumed that there were inhabitant tracing back to prehistoric time. During 2 century BC to 1 century AD Sigiriya was used as a monastery for Buddhist monks. Archaeologists have been able to excavate 37 monastic cells which were presumably used by the Buddhist ascetics.

Then this fortress of solitude becomes a urban capital with the betrayal of prince Kashyapa. With the help of general Migara, prince Kashyapa carried out a coupe killing his father ( King Dhathusena of Anuradhapura) and seizing the throne which was rightfully his brothers. Kashyapa's brother, Moggallana fled to south India promising revenge and retaliation. Fearing this threat King Kashyapa moved traditional capital city from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya and made Sigiriya rock his palace. Sigiriya flourished during his reign. It became a fortress, a palace and a capital city of a kingdom. Various additions like small urban cities, gardens, fountains, defensive structures were added to it. King Kashyapa's reign lasted from 477 - 495 AD until his downfall. Prince Moggallana with the aid of south Indian allies  led the attack he promised. According to folklore King Kashyapa wanting to outflank his brother led his war elephant through a muddy field where they got stuck. Trying to pull out, it looked like King was trying retreat but only he was trying to pull out from the muddy field. Seeing this His solders thought Kashyapa was retreating and abandoned him and fled. Facing certain death Kashyapa took his own life.

After moving the capital city back to Anuradhapura King Moggallana restored Sigiriya back to the Buddhist monastery it was. After this there is no evident records are found on Sigiriya until the 16th and 17th century. During this time Sri Lanka was ruled by Kingdom of Kandy and Sigiriya was used as merely an outpost.

However there are various alternative versions to the story. Some archaeologists believe Sigiriya to be a project started by King Dhathusena which is finished by his son King Kashyapa as a tribute to his father. Some theorize it was a pleasure garden for Kings. However a new theory backed by various Sri Lankan archaeologists suggest that Sigiriya never was a fortress but a Buddhist Monastery the whole time. But including the mostly believed "Kashyapa's betrayal" and all the other theories lack profound proof. So for the time being, story behind this marvelous place is still a mystery.

We had arrived at Sigiriya garden entrance by the the time I explained all this to my niblings. There is a ticket check point here. I snapped few photos while the lady in the counter checked our tickets. The moat here is much more prominent than the first one. Moats were used as defensive structure to safeguard royal palace and citadel.

Inner Moat

Inner Moat

Crossing Inner Moat

After crossing the moat we had to climb over the inner rampart which runs in parallel with the moat. After climbing the rampart we came to the Royal pleasure garden. It's filled with ponds, fountains and remains of fallen buildings. If you visit Sigiriya during rainy season, you will be able to witness these fountains working.

Inner Rampart

Inner Rampart


More Ponds

And MORE!!!

Info - Click to Enlarge

Water Fountains

Might have been a Jacuzzi

After passing these fountains and ponds were able to catch first clear view of Sigiriya Fortress. It was a magnificent to behold.

Mirror Wall and Fresco Chamber Seen From Water Garden

Then we came across some of the cells I described earlier. These cells were used by Buddhist monks long before King Kashyapa's reign.



Then we continued to walk through the famous boulder arches of the Boulder Garden. Walking on this stony path reminded me how our ancestors successfully adopted nature to their requirements without destroying its beauty.

Entering Boulder Gardens

Boulder Gardens

After Boulder Garden its a continues climb and walk on the Terraced Garden until you came by the world famous Sigiri Apsara frescoes.

Terraced Garden

Terraced Garden

Terraced Garden

Mirror Wall Seen from Terraced Garden

Terraced Garden

On our way to see Frescoes

Spiral Staircase

View of the Pleasure Garden

After filling our eyes and hearts with the beauty of Sigiri Apsarawo we started to walk on the path alongside The Mirror Wall. This infamous wall is full of poems and free verses written by  people who came to admire the beauty of Sigiriya.

Sigiri Apsarawo

Sigiri Apsarawo

Sigiri Apsarawo

The Mirror Wall

The Mirror Wall

The Mirror Wall

The Mirror Wall

More Boulders

End of the Terraced Garden and Mirror Wall

Yes, I wanted to walk on it
After the mirror wall we came to the terrace of Lion's Staircase. Its believed that Sigiriya got its name because of this structure. Many speculate that in ancient times there was a complete face or at least some sort of structure that resembled a lions face and only the paws are remaining today.

Lion's Staircase

Lions Paw

Lion's Paw

Lion's Staircase

However a new theory regarding this has risen with the modern moment of Ravana enthusiast. If you closely examine each paw you will notice that there are only three toes on each paw. Lions have five toes on their  front paws. Even though the fifth one is bit high and we should be able to observe clear four toes when seen from front. But the Lion's Paws on Sigiriya only has three on each. So this led the argument that its in fact not the paws of a lion but a "Gurula" (a mystical bird in Sri Lankan folklore which only has three toes in a single paw). These argument put forth the idea that Sigiriya is a creation of Great King Ravana and Gurula was a representation of King Ravanas knowledge in aero technology.

Entering the Lions staircase you have to climb a steep iron staircase to get to the top of the fortress where all the royal buildings are situated.

Lion's Stairecase

Little Buggers looking for Food

It was breathtaking sight. I tried to imagine this place when it was still a functioning fortress. It must have been a gallant sight to behold. Solders marching, King in his royal court, Queen accompanied by maids. Contemplating on it gave me goosebumps. We spent a great part of our journey enjoying the scenery. From here we can see the Pidurangala, a Raja Maha Vihara which is believed to be renovated by King Kashyapa.


Royal Palace

Enjoying the Scenery

New and Old

A pond

Map and Info - Click to Enlarge

Sigiriya Tank



Panorama of the Surrounding
After enjoying the surrounding we slowly started to climb down and reached car park after one hour.

Heading back Through Boulder Gardens

Even though we left Sigiriya it will always be remembered as an iconic representation of Sinhalese history

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