Sigiriya, the ‘Lion Rock’, is a sixth century fortress perched on a 200 metre high rock and is visible for miles around. This wondrous site holds the ruins of the capital built by King Kassapa I (477-495 A.D.) on the steep slopes and at the summit of this granite peak. Following Kassapa’s death it reverted to being a monastery complex until about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. The ruins were discovered in 1907 by British explorer John Still. This World Heritage Site, holds the remains of an upper palace on the flat top of the rock, a mid level terrace with its Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes of the ‘Heavenly Maidens’. In addition, there is the lower palace on the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of metres surrounding the base of the rock.
It is worth a trip to Sri Lanka if only to visit Sigiriya alone. The summit of the rock looks seemingly inaccessible. However, a pathway on the western and northern sides of the steep rock face provides access to the nearly three acres wide summit. Shielding this pathway is a 9½ft plaster wall so highly polished that it is a wonder that even today after fifteen centuries of exposure to the sun and rain one can see one’s reflection in it! Winding one’s way to the top, one comes across these world famous charming frescoes which are an attraction by themselves keeping visitors engrossed in even their cutest details.
One needs time and slow reflection to go through this majestic site. Be prepared to spend at least one whole day, climbing the numerous steps to the summit, enjoy walking around the long stretches of the Sigiriya gardens and the newly laid out herbal garden. It is an experience of a life time.