Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sigiriya Facts: The Story of Sigiriya

Sigiriya viewed from Western Entrance
Sigiriya Rock from Western Gardens

The Story

The Story of Sigiriya Rock Fortress is the tale of Kasyapa – a troubled but visionary king who 1,500 years ago murdered his father by plastering him up in a wall. Tormented by guilt he abandoned his capital and fled deep in the forests of Sri Lanka. There in an area dominated by a menacing black column of rock 600 feet high he builds himself a new capital resplendent with lush gardens, ponds, palaces and pavilions. He transforms the once sinister-looking rock to appear like a huge bedazzling white cloud. Around its circumference he paints an exquisite multi-colored tapestry depicting celestial nymphs. We know these today as the Sigiriya Frescoes. Halfway up this rock he built a massive gatehouse in the form of a a sphinx-like lion giving his lair its name, Sigiriya–Lion Mountain. On top this gigantic rock he built himself a gleaming white palace of unparalleled beauty. There, hidden from view, he lived in splendid isolation tormented by guilt and fear. His city thrived for less than fourteen years before it was abandoned and soon forgotten. There it lies hidden for generations until rediscovered by an adventurous young British army officer while out on an elephant hunt.

The Site Today

Sigiriya was the largest and most sophisticated single construction project ever undertaken in ancient Sri Lanka. The ruins seen today are less than twenty percent of the structures that once graced the area. Most buildings were made of wood. Consequently, there is very little evidence of these structures. Those built with stone and brick have survived the ravages of time and provide us a rare glimpse of the opulence and grandeur of an ancient era. Many ruins still lay hidden in the forest and are yet to be discovered. 

When you visit the site you need to let your imagination roam. Remember that it was meant to be a magical place; an earthly paradise with gardens, ponds, fountains, pavilions, hidden passages, beautiful works of art and a palace on top of a massive 200 meter tall rock. The complex was built in less than ten years and employed hundred of thousands of people in its construction. Having spent over six years researching and writing the book The Story of Sigiriya. I have grown to love the place.

Climbing Sigiriya Rock

Climbing Sigiriya isn't that hard but it is strenuous. It is not, however, for the unfit. There are steps all the way to the top; some of which are very narrow and steep. There are about 1200 steps. That's roughly equivalent to climbing 60 flights of steps of a 60 story building. But don't panic. It’s a lot easier than climbing sixty flights of steps in a building. When you climb Sigiriya Rock take your time, rest often and drink lots of water. Proper footwear is strongly recommenced. The best times to climb are early morning and late afternoon.