Sigiriya – The Lion Rock
Built by King Kashyapa as a fortified citadel in the 5 th century AD, Sigiriya is definitely a must-see for anyone who visits sunny Sri Lanka. Although much of the place is in ruins, battered by the elements over hundreds of years, there is still a great deal to see at Sigiriya.
The main attraction is the Lion Rock, a 660ft rock that towers over its surroundings, believed to have been where Kashyapa built his royal court and palace. Today, the paws are all that’s left of a once glorious lion who stood guard at the rock, giving the place its name. The view from the rock summit is absolutely stunning and is well worth the climb up the somewhat rickety staircase that forms the last leg of the climb. Another key attraction of the main rock is the famed Sigiriya frescoes – delightful paintings of elegant damsels that are believed to be either the king’s daughters or his concubines. The ancient Mirror Wall too is located on the main rock. Today, this wall has lost much of its sheen and reflective surface. However, it is still significant as the poetry and prose scribbled on it by past visitors dates back to the 6 th century.
The terrace, water and boulder gardens in the surrounding landscape have been intricately designed and are architecturally fascinating. They are also great fun to explore. Interestingly, the caves in the boulder gardens were used by ancient ascetics when the site functioned as a monastery, before Kashyapa’s reign.
When King Kashyapa decided that he wanted to build his citadel in Sigiriya, he had to relocate the monks that were using the site to the nearby rock of Pidurangala. Located a short distance away from Sigiriya, the monastery at Pidurangala was refurbished and expanded under the patronage of Kashyapa, and there are still remnants of the temple and meditation spaces used long ago. The climb up Pidurangala is much tougher than Sigiriya and it is advisable to attempt it only if you are relatively fit. The view from Pidurangala is simply magnificent, with most people believing that it provides the best view of the Sigiriya rock in the region.
Dambulla Cave Temple
Located approximately 17km away from the Sigiriya rock, the Dambulla Cave Temple is one of the most historically and culturally significant sites in Sri Lanka. The Dambulla Temple complex is situated under the vast Dambulla rock, and is considered to be the best-preserved cave temple complex in the country. There is evidence that the caves were inhabited by monks since the pre Christian era. The five caves that make up the complex are filled with magnificent sculptures of Lord Buddha, statues of ancient kings and intricate wall and ceiling paintings. It is definitely a glorious place to experience the history and culture of Sri Lanka.