Sigiriya also known as the Lion Rock is to be found deep in the middle of Sri Lanka in the green tropical forests. It is an ancient palace which was built by King Kasyapa and is situated in the central Matale District near the town of Dambulla of the Central Province, Sri Lanka. This is a historical and archaeological site that holds special place in the cultural history of this country. This palace was built by the king over 1500 years ago and today this place stands as one of the oldest example of ancient urban planning and is also an example of the ancient Sinhalese culture. Today this place is amongst the UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and is also the most visited place of Sri Lanka. The rock is about 660 feet tall and the palace was built on the top of this massive rock. It features frescoes, a thousand year old graffiti covered wall and Asia’s oldest surviving landscape gardens. The splendid rock fortress is visible from miles from all the directions. Also the view from the top of this rock from the fortress is magnificent.
In 477 A.D. King Dhatusena was the one who ruled over Sri Lanka. But his throne was seized by one of his illegitimate son, Kasyapa. Kasyapa feared that after the death of Dhatusena the throne would be taken over by his brother Moggallan and hence to get the throne for himself he killed Dhatusena and in the meanwhile his brother survived the assassination and fled to India in order to raise his own army. Kasyapa crowned himself as the king and ordered to relocate the royal seat to Sigiriya. He chose this place because this place would give him a strategic advantage as it offered a 360 degree view. A huge lion was carved out of the rock which served both as a welcome to visitors and a warning for the enemies and a palace was constructed on the top of the rock. Sigiriya was both a palace and a fortress which had five gates and consisted of a citadel that is an upper palace on the top and lower palaces on the ground level. There were also beautiful lavish gardens constructed throughout the place. After a few years his brother arrived and declared a war on the king and Kasyapa committed suicide by cutting his own throat and the capital was shifted to its original location again and Sigiriya had been converted into a monastery complex.
Today only the lion’s massive paws remain which indicates how enormous the rest of the carving must have been. A new stairway has now been constructed on the side of the rock to allow access to the top to the visitors in order to walk around the ruins of this palace and to catch the breath taking view from the top of this massive rock. There are also two water tanks that used to be for bathing and drinking which still fill up with the rain water but during the reign of Kasyapa there was a sophisticated pumping system that was used to fill these tanks from a lake situated at the foot of the rock.
There is a stone stairway that takes the visitors to the caves and hollows where the Buddhist monks lived and worshipped and further to a gallery which is half way up the rock enclosed by a three meter high wall. Large sections of the mirror wall are still intact where the king used to watch himself as they were highly polished. It is here where the graffiti artists have inscribed their messages and a few of them being ten centuries old. Further 14 metres above the mirror wall by climbing the spiral staircase there is an ancient graffiti which refers to the Sigiriya Maidens that has been protected for centuries from the rain. It is not known as to who painted these stunning frescoes but the Maidens give evidence of the highly advanced Sinhalese civilization at that time.
Another breathtaking feature of Sigiriya is its gardens which are divided into three distinct components namely the water gardens, the cave and boulder gardens and the terraced gardens. The water garden is in the central section of the western precinct. Over here three principal gardens are to be found. The first one is a plot surrounded by water. The second one consists of two long and deep pools that are set on either side of the path. There are two shallow streams that lead to these pools and there are fountains made out of limestone plates placed here. The third one is located on a higher level compared to the other two and has a large octagonal pool with a raised podium. The second being the Boulder Gardens comprise of many large boulders that are linked by winding paths. These gardens extend from the northern to the southern slopes. The terraced gardens, the third type are the most impressive ones. They are formed from the natural hill at the base of the Sigiriya rock. These landscaped gardens are one of the oldest surviving gardens in the world.
Thus, this rock has a very deep rooted history and even after the death of King Kasyapa the grandeur of this astounding rock lives on.