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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe ancient city of Sigiriya is the ruins of the capital city that was built by King Kassapa I during 477–95 CE (who was a patricide), and it lies on the steep slopes atop the summit of the 200-meters high granite peak which is also known as the ‘Lion Rock’ by the local people living in Sri Lanka. This granite peak dominates the jungles of the Matale District from all sides.
A series of staircases and galleries that emerge from the mouth of a monstrous and gigantic lion, which is constructed out of plaster and bricks provide access to the site, is yet another World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka.
HistoryThe Lion Rock may have been inhabited even during the prehistoric times, as the rock itself is a lava plug which is a leftover from a long extinct, ancient volcano.
The complex surrounding this famous rock, which consists of the remains of an extensive network of reservoirs, gardens, and other royal structures, was built by the patricidal King Kashyapa I of Anuradhapura to seize power from the rightful heir of his father’s throne- Moggallana, who fled to South India after their father’s assassination and death.
Fearing an attack from his brother, Moggallana, King Kashapa moved his residence and this capital city from Anuradhapura to a more secured Sigiriya, which he developed as a complex city and a fortress to defend his throne.
However, after defeating King Kashapa in a short and cruel battle, where King Kashapa did cut his own throat, Moggallana moved the capital city back to Anuradhapura in 495 CE.
Thus condemning the beautiful Sigiriya royal city to progressive abandonment as a capital city, which turned into a Buddhist monastery that lasted until the 13th to 14th century AD.
Later on, deserted even by the Buddhist monks, during the 16th and 17th century Sigiriya also served as a brief outpost for the Kingdom of Kandy .
What to SeeSigiriya is famous for its fresco paintings which reminds one of the paintings found in the Ajanta Caves in India. However, these frescoes on the walls of the Sigiriya Hills exhibit a unique Sri Lankan style which is absent in its Indian counterparts.
Apart from this, the Sigiriya citadel is a place worth exploring. There are about 1,200 staircases which reaches up to the top of the summit. It takes around 2 hours to walk either way, up and down, from this 200-meters rock structure. If one is not completely exhausted, one can also spend another hour or so, exploring the various nooks and corners of the long abandon ruins of this palace and its deserted gardens, which is one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.
There are informal guides available at the bottom of the Sigiriya Hill, who often demands $ 15 USD to accompany tourists to the top of this hill.
The Sigiriya Museum is another place where one can see several artifacts excavated from this site along with reproductions of the frescoes. It generally takes no more than an hours to view this museum which costs ₨ 3,600 ($58) (as of 2013) for foreigners, apart from Indians and Pakistanis who pays ₨ 1,800 ($29).
There is also a sculpture of a lion’s legs and paws which flanks the entrance of the Sigiriya Hill, however, the head of this lion remains missing as it collapsed a long time ago.
The mirror wall in Sigiriya is another notable thing that travelers must watch out for while visiting. Originally, this wall which was made out of brick and covered with highly polished white plaster so that the King could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. Now there are several graffiti and poems which covers the wall's surface, and dates back to the 8th century. Nevertheless, it has been prohibited to write on this wall in order to protect the existing old writings present, which discusses various subjects and experiences such as love, hate, remembrances, and even irony and has been written through the different ages on this mirror wall. So far, 685 verses has been deciphered on the mirror wall, which dates back anywhere between the 8th to 10th century AD.
The Pidurangala Temple, which is located at the entrance to this rock and is situated around 1 km from the north exit of this citadel, is also not to be missed while visiting Sigiriya.
How to Get ThereThere are regular and frequent buses between Sigiriya and the Dambulla City, which operates from 6 AM until 6 PM in the evening.
One can also hire a Tuk-Tuk (auto-rickshaw) to visit this location from Dambulla City.
Dambulla City is connected by road with other big cities in Sri Lanka, like Jaffna , Kandy, and Trincomalee.
ShoppingThere are some exclusive Batik shops on the road to Dambulla and Inamaluwa, on the way back from Sigiriya. One can stop and buy Batik printed cloths which are beautiful designer clothing and is also a local handicraft of this area.
EateriesThere are a number of hotels like the Ahinsa Hotel, Chooty Hotel Restaurant, and the New Sigiriya Café, near the Lion Rock, where one can have both Western and Sri Lankan meals at a reasonable price.
AccommodationSome of the recommended places to stay in and around Sigiriya are the Flower Inn, Nilmini Lodge, Lion Lodge, The Elephant Corridor Hotel, Sigiriya Hotels, and the Lal Homestay, which is located at a few minutes’ walk from this rock.
Tips for the travelers
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Feb 07, 2015