Sigiriya - Matale - Sri Lanka

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About Sigiriya

Sigiriya or the so called ‘Lion Rock’ - which earned this nickname based on the gateway that is found in the middle part of the side of this rock, built in the shape of a mammoth lion - is a tourist attraction as well as a sacred place. The green village surrounding this place caters to the requirements of the travelers and pilgrims. This site is deemed as the eighth wonder of the world.

This amazing archaeological legacy rises 200m above the forested plains surrounding the site. The engravings on the walls of this site illustrate that it was a location of refuge for Buddhist monks as far as the 3rd century BC.  Renowned for facets such as advanced ancient urban planning, intricate irrigation and engineering techniques, this rock fortress was deemed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1982.

The Sigiriya rock fortress and city became prominent in the fifth century AD. This was when the distressed but ambitious King Kasyapa killed his father and overthrew his brother, who was initially announced as heir to the kingdom of Anuradhapura. Overridden with misery, fear and remorse; king Kasyapa departed and took shelter among the dense jungles found in the central part of Sri Lanka.

Here the king commanded his workforce to build his palace on top of the gigantic column of rock as well as create a fabulous city around its base, to imitate the legendary ‘Alakamanda’ the city of gods and Kubera, known as ‘The God of Wealth.’

Within 7 years, the site was vibrant with fountains, lush gardens, terraces, staircases and ponds. Some mention him as a playboy of the ancient world due to the splendid pleasure palace he envisioned to suit his taste. The rock was transformed to replicate a white cloud with its sides illuminated with frescoes depicting semi nude females well-known as the Sigiriya Damsels.

Finally Mogallana, the brother of king Kasyapa, invaded the city and in the height of the battle that ensued, king Kasyapa was left stranded and committed suicide in order to prevent capture. After conquering the empire, Mogallana handed over the fortress and city to the Buddhist monks, who later turned its caves into a safe haven for hermits. Except for the short periods in the 16th and 17th centuries where the Kingdom of Kandy used it for military purposes, the site remained mostly forgotten until the British reclaimed it in the year 1828. The remains of the king’s palace, the lion gate, the frescos on the mirror walls as well as the caves, moats and gardens can be explored.

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