Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sigiriya - 8th Wonder

Sigiriya, Visit Sri Lanka, UNESCO world heritage site

Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress and palace which was built by King Kashyap in the 5th century. The complex has beautiful symmetrical gardens, the lion gate and the mirror wall half way to the summit and the remains of the kings palace at the summit. The rock walls of the mountain are sheer on all sides and makes one wonder on how the construction was managed in those time. One would need to spend at least 3-4 hours to see this site. 

The story of King Kashyap who built this complex goes like this. Kashyap deposed his father, the king, through a coup and took control of the kingdom. He went on to kill his father, whom he walled-in alive and denied the claims of his brother who was the rightful heir to the throne. His brother, vowed revenge and fled to southern India to gather an army. King Kashyap, fearing a backlash, shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya. 18 years after the coup, his brother came back with and army and defeated him in battle. Kashyap committed suicide int the battle field. The complex was then handed over to the monks by his brother and the capital was moved back to Anuradhapura.

At the mid level of the mountain it the Lion gate. Huge lion paws carved into stone can still be seen. There was a sculpted lion ahead above the entrance, flanked by the paws. This fell off some time back (though not sure on how far back in history). 

As you go up through the lion gate, you come to the mirror wall. It is said that when this was built, it was polished so well that king could see himself when he walked alongside. Over time the polish deteriorated and the wall was used for graffiti by different people across the ages.

Further up, there are a number of frescoes, depicting women. These have been created in the same style as the Ajanta cave paintings. Though these are not as intricate as the Ajanta paintings, I feel they are better preserved. We were told by our guide that some of the paintings were defaced by the monks as they disturbed their monastic life.

At the top of the summit are the remains of the King's palace. The view from the top is marvelous and you can see miles and miles of green forest around the fortress. One can see the location of the king's throne here as well.

More photos below

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