I would like to begin this new year with series of posts from my recent travel to "The pearl of indian ocean " -Srilanka. In this post lets explore the famous UNESCO world heritage site Sigiriya rock Fortress. It lies in central province of Lanka and it will take around 4 hours to reach from the capital city Colombo.
As soon as you reach the entrance with your trekking wears, local guides will storm you and they are damn good in milking money out of tourists.I won't recommend paying few more thousands for a guide here, its easy to find yourself one for free.
You can follow some other group which is being guided by keeping few paces behind and listen or befriend someone on the way. I befriended a Hungarian kid who happened to be a Manchester United Fan :)
They Charge 2175 Lankan rupees as entry ticket if you are from any of the SAARC countries else you need to pay twice that. We get a ticket for climbing and a ticket for museum for the amount paid in the counter. Everything is costlier in this island.
Its better to start the trek than spending time inside museum since whatever you going to see while trekking gonna be inside the museum as photographs. As I don't like to miss the early sun,offered my museum ticket to an aged couple and started walking. Climbing is not recommended for elderly people.There are no medical or water facilities to assist in case of emergency.
After the ticket check, first thing we can see is a long Moat which serves as entrance for the fortress. As a defense strategy filling moat with crocodiles is quite common practice in ancient times.
Next we can see ancient citadel remains like parks,assembly areas etc on the sides. We can sense the archaeological significance and understand why it is a world heritage site.
This site was a temporary capital from 477-495 CE when SriLanka was under the rule of King Kashyapa. We can see lot of ponds in various shapes like hexagon,square,circle etc.. obviously they were used for his amusements.
Like a summer and winter palace, Kashyapa built a palace on the ground and a palace above the rock for better safety. Now that we have seen the overview of ground palace lets pursue towards the palace above this 660 feet rock.
Like any other historic tale, there are multiple versions of history behind this Rock Fortress. Lets stick to bottom line and check the history while we climb the steps. Kashyapa was an illegitimate son of King Dhatusena and he couldn't digest the fact that king's legitimate son Moggallana will become next ruler tho Kashayapa was elder than Moggallana . Kashyapa determines to capture the throne and he does via military coup . He overthrew his father and killed him by walling him up while still alive. Moggallana fled to south India fearing his brother might kill him as well.
Fearing a mutiny from people for killing his father and possible invasion from Moggallana with south Indian forces he shifts his capital from Anuradhapura to a forest in central province. He constructed a palace above this huge rock since that gives strategical advantage
After a while we can see people climbing a circular steel steps. Those steps leads to a gallery in a cave where we can see ancient fresco paintings.Photography is prohibited there. Frescoes depicted ladies of royal court.
We have reached the Mirror wall entrance where they again check the ticket. This wall has graffiti written by ancient travelers. We can see graffiti written in old Sinhala,Tamil, Sanskrit scripts. Tourists are not allowed to touch this orange wall.
This was once a polished parapet wall with mirror-like sheen achieved by using a special plaster made of fine lime, egg whites, honey and beeswax for luster. Now only few hundred meters of the wall exits and had lost all its luster. We can see a better view of the wall while climbing down.
Mirror wall ends near the palace entrance. At this base we can see this gigantic Lion rock welcoming us ! We need to climb this narrow shaky steps to reach the palace in top. Sigiri means “Lion Rock ! Imagine the sight of big lion staring at enemies . Lion's head fallen off long ago and now only claw remains.
After reaching the top first thing i felt was " this kashyapa guy must be one hell of a coward ". After doing some free photography services for the couples who managed to reach, i started to explore the ruins.
The big lion was facing west, so i first checked what's in western side. Saw this breathtaking green view illuminated by golden sun . This Lion rock must have scared anyone on it's horizon.
Sigiriya complex stands as one of the earliest preserved examples of ancient urban planning. We can see ponds, assembly hall, court ,guard rooms etc. We need to climb up & down to explore.Imagine this guy built a palace with all the facilities above a huge rock in middle of a forest almost 1400 years ago ! In case of emergency he can vacate his ground palace and stay in top. Strategical place to hide & attack !
Lets roll back to history and check what happened at the end.Trusting his commander kashyapa came down to face his brother Mogallana who eventually returned with armies from south India. He used the military commander to overthrow his father now his brother used the same commander to betray him in war. After Kashyapa's death Mogallana shifted the capital back to Anuradhapura and this Fortress complex was abandoned . It was used by Buddhist Monks in 14th century for a while. Then in 18th century British found this site and initiated archaeological works. Now it remains as UNESCO world heritage site. Well maintained indeed.
We can feel the scorching sun around 9 AM itself. I would recommend you to trek Sigirya early morning and later pursue towards next destination. Dambulla town is nearby to Sigirya where you can visit the famous Golden Buddha Temple and can find lot of resorts for overnight stay.
See you soon with a next post on Mirissa
Your comments & feedback are greatly appreciated.