Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the water gardens surrounding it was once the refuge of a patricide king in ancient Sri Lanka. Today the breathtaking 2 to 3-hour climb atop the 200-meter tall rock column affords one of the breathtaking views of the Valley of the Royals in the Central North plain of Sri Lanka.
Fashioned into a complete Royal Palace and fortress surrounded by a meticulously laid out water garden measured 3 km by 1 km nearly 1500 years ago Sigiriya or the Lion Rock was the centre of administration as well as refuge of King Kashyapa who kept a watchful eye for the invading armies led by his brother, the rightful heir to the throne.
Today, 750 steps climb up the rock through a gate fashioned as a giant lion’s head leads to the top of the rock, where still lay the ruins of a palace, a fortified rock fortress, a gallery of frescoes and a system of rock cisterns, that pumped group water from the water garden in the ground level to the palace at the top.
A breakneck climb leads to the art gallery of the palace, where dwells the damsels of Sigiriya, frescoes created nearly 1500 years ago on the Western face of the rock. While ancient records refer to nearly 500 sketches of damsels today only a few have survived the test of time and nature.
Despite their waning beauty, these damsels have inspired generations of visitors to this ancient palace and water garden to scribble their admiration on the mirror wall that borders the fortress atop Sigiriya, leaving a treasure trove of poems and verse in ancient scripts of Sinhala.
In spite of its beauty and strength, Sigiriya failed to protect its creator from the wrath of his brother. According to the legends, King Kashyapa took his own life in the face of invading armies of his brother and Sigiriya was eventually turned into a monastery.
The ancient city is billed as one of the ‘Eight Wonders of the Ancient World’ and a UNESCO World Heritage mostly due to the intricate hydro engineering work carried out nearly 1500 years ago by a king who chose to create a Castle in the Sky while awaiting an imminent peril.