Situated in the centre of Sri Lanka, the Sigiriya Rock, classified as a world heritage site, is without a doubt the most spectacular site of the country. It is also called “the Lion rock” (Simhagîri). Surrounded by moats and gardens among the worlds’ most ancient, Sigiriya symbolise simultaneously the rich cultural past of Sri Lanka and the extravagance of its landscapes.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Although the history of Sigiriya is still a mystery, we know through old chronicles that the rock, formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, was erected as a citadel at the end of the 5th century. After killing the king, his own dad, Kassapya abandoned the capital, Anuradhapura and settled in Sigiriya as the new sovereign. He chose this impregnable natural fortress as his residence and prepared himself for the revenge of his older brother who has been exiled in India.
AN INNOVATIVE IRRIGATION SYSTEM
The system designed to irrigate Sigiriya, from the gardens to the summit where the palace was built, demonstrates all the Sinhalese engineering technical skill of that period. Situated at more than 350 metres above the level of the reservoir, we could easily imagine when going through the vestiges of the palace what a mineral and plant oasis it once was: with landscaped gardens, intentionally scattered trees and water everywhere, in the king pool, tanks, fountains or in paved pools covered with lotus flowers.
Among all the particularity of Sigiriya, we can notice that the constructions naturally follow the geological shapes of the rock. This in part explains how, in only 7 years, the fortress was built. It is striking to see harmony reign over the entire complex between nature and human intelligence.
AN ASTONISHING PLACE
Sigiriyas’ secrets , like the extraordinary view at its summit, only available after climbing a series of stairs hung to the steep walls of the rock. It is best to tackle it as early as possible to avoid the crowds of visitors. We also recommend avoiding the hottest hours of the day, as the climb could become difficult for some. On the way, you will come across “the Sigiriya ladies”, paintings of courtesans or nymphs depending on opinions. They have been made on the side of the rocks. After admiring these magnificent arts, the ascend continues until reaching the status of a lion which marks the entrance of the fortress. Today, only its legs remain, framing a new flight of steps. When you reach the summit, the reward exceeds your expectations as the view is breathtaking, especially at dawn, before the waves of mists vanish through the jungle.
THE END OF THE MONARCHY
Kassapya’s reign at Sigiriya lasted 18 years, but his brothers’ returning from his exile besieged the citadel. Due to the lack of supplies, the king surrendered without fighting. He was executed and the Sigiriya rock abandoned. It will become a religious retreat, as it has been in the 3rd century BC, then abandoned again…