Ancient City of Sigiriya

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Sigiriya (Lion Rock) (Dan Lundberg/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0).
 Sri Lanka
Central Province, Matale District
N7 57 0 E80 45 0
Date of Inscription: 1982
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Ref: 202
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The garden complex as seen from the top of Sigiriya rock (Chamal N/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0).

The ruins of the capital built by the parricidal King Kassapa I (477–95) lie on the steep slopes and at the summit of a granite peak standing some 180m high (the ‘Lion’s Rock’, which dominates the jungle from all sides). A series of galleries and staircases emerging from the mouth of a gigantic lion constructed of bricks and plaster provide access to the site.

Suggested Base:

Dambulla is a city in Central province of Sri Lanka. Buses from Colombo (148 km west), Kandy (72 km south, 2-3 hours), Anuradhapura (2-3 hours), Sigiriya and other places arrive regularly at the Dambulla bus station located 1 km outside of the town on Kandy road. From Sigiriya, you can continue by direct bus to Dambulla. Buses run on this route at intervals of 30 minutes and cost 40 LKR. The last bus for Dambulla leaves at 18:00. Alternately, you can take a tuk-tuk to go back to Inamaluwa junction, from where you can take the bus to Dambulla as well, or you can go to Dambulla from Sigiriya by tuk-tuk which will cost not more than Rs. 1,000. The distance from Sigiriya to Dambulla is 20 km, and from Inamaluwa to Dambulla is 10 km. [read more]

Kandy is located at the centre of Sri Lanka 125 km away from Colombo and is generally recognised as the island nation’s cultural capital. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is the last kingdom of the country. Since it was conquered by the British only around 1815 you can still see the living traditions. Kandyans are usually proud of their heritage. Since the western elements has played a comparatively little role in the city most Kandyans uphold Buddhist values. Since it is in the cultural triangle the authorities try to retain this values as much as possible. Situation had changed recently because of many immigrants coming from other parts of the country. So don’t expect to find the honest Kandyans they describe in the colonial literature now. Be careful with your belongings and the people whom you associate with. [read more]

Colombo is the largest city and commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Former capital of the nation, Colombo is still perceived by many as the capital of the nation and is located just beyond the suburb of Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, the official capital. Due to it being on a strategic route in the Indian Ocean, Colombo hosts one of the busiest ports in South Asia, and was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. Today, the city is the central point of the country’s activities and is home to the majority of country’s restaurants and entertainment venues. Just like another typical South Asian big city, Colombo is congested, noisy, busy, and vibrant with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings. It is the financial centre of the island and a popular tourist destination. [read more]

CATEGORY:     SRI LANKA
TAG:     LK – ANCIENT CITY OF SIGIRIYA

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6 Replies to “Ancient City of Sigiriya”

  1. It was worth the effort to climb up – the view from the top is stupendous – on one side the king’s pleasure gardens stretch away to the jungle fringes, on the other side is the Sigiriya tank (a man-made lake) which once supplied the fortress and palace with its water.

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  2. Theories do not differ on when this massive 1,214-foot rock is best scaled. I learned the hard way, arriving at about, oh, 1pm or so, when the central Sri Lankan sun was at its suffocating peak. The mostly shade-less climb up was one of the most draining activities I’ve ever done; the long walk from the parking lot to the rock was almost just as oppressive.

    Lesson learned: unless you’re curious to find out what it’s probably like inside a microwave on full blast, start your day trip from Kandy at Sigiriya before moving onto the Dambulla cave temple, not the other way around.

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  3. We arrive at Sigirya just as the afternoon eases into evening. The climb to the top takes a couple of hours and two steely knees. Halfway up the rock, up a windy stairway, one comes across a rocky shelter, home to the “Maidens of the Clouds” or 21 unidentified female figures, “comparable to the most beautiful creations of Ajanta,” according to a Unesco description. As one adjusts to the cool shade of the cave, enthusiastic guides hustle up to one, whispering, “Three nipples, three nipples” and point to the obvious offender — a beautiful doe-eyed nymphet. We then make our way to the top of the 150-m rock face (the height of a 50-storey building, roughly). Here is where the true majesty of Sigiriya can be witnessed. Legend goes that King Kassapa I (477-95) came to power after killing his father, but condemned that he would never be allowed into heaven, decided to build his palace atop the hill, from where he could command a view of endless woods, landscaped gardens and elephants dipping in the river. Even with groups of triumphant visitors making it to the summit, the top still affords a moment for reflection and peace.

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  4. A five-hour drive from Colombo, my guide parks his car in a shade for me to take “a nice picture” of Sigiriya fort. The Unesco heritage site is his pride like most Sri Lankans, who feel it deserves to be named the world’s eighth wonder. From here, Sigiriya looks like a one-kilo mound of mossy weather-beaten rock, hemmed in by a vast expanse of green. It has more than a thousand steps from the ground to the bare top, which I plan to climb. Somewhere up there, there are priceless fresco paintings, a lion carved out of rock and a passage through the lion’s mouth itself.

    Steep steps carved in rock take you up for some distance. After about 700 steps, when you reach the fresco paintings and the lion’s paws, is the moment of big decision — whether to trust the rickety iron staircase and climb to the top. A raging, bellowing wind is trying to blow the climbers away — the few bravehearts who have decided to finish the last lap. A couple of steps from the top, I feel my wobbly feet would cave in any moment. And that’s when “Whoa, you’re almost there!” beamed a middle-aged American from above. Phew! The top is just a cluster of waist-high chambers but it’s a sight worth stressing my jangly nerves for. Who knew barren could be so beautiful.

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  5. On the day we visited The Rock, we joined the long line of tourists inching their way up the steel stairway to reach The Rock’s summit. Mid-way to the top, on the west wall’s rock depression, were frescoes of apsaras or celestial nymphs rendered in radiant colors and drawn in stylized, linear manner.

    Further up a base is a massive rock sculpture of a lion, its paws wide apart and its wide-open mouth serving as an entrance. This mouth has a stairwell further up the summit of the Rock, that serves as entry point to the “city palace.” At the summit, we wandered around the gardens and ruins of this former palace. Taking in fresh air 200 meters above a lovely, verdant plain, we felt ourselves relaxing completely, our consciousness wrapped momentarily in the sublime beauty of the landscape.
    Suddenly, we found ourselves landing back to earth with a thud—a monkey had quickly and effortlessly swiped our bag of two bananas! Lesson learned: Never leave bananas dangling when passing through monkey territory.

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  6. During a recent three-week tour of Sri Lanka, I visited Sigiriya. While not planning to ascend the 1200 steps to the summit of Sigiriya like my fellow travelers, I did plan to climb at least to the level of the extant cave frescoes. Depicting exotic women, sometimes referred to as “The Maidens of the Clouds,” the frescoes at one time covered much of the western face of Sigiriya. Today only a small portion remain, located in a cave said to be about half way up the rock. The climb to the cave, for me, was a challenge; I was not prepared for the narrow steps and steep paths leading to the final circular metal staircase that finally leads to the best preserved cave paintings. But I am so happy I did the climb. The paintings are beautiful. It is a miracle they have survived.

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