Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sri LankaPosted on May 27 in Sigiriya, Slide, Sri Lankaby ShelynPrint
My country, Malaysia, a typical tropical country, is densely forested and mountainous. Hiking has become my leisure activity. But dreaming of hiking a Rock Fortress like this? No, it doesn’t exist in Malaysia.
Rock fortress in Sri Lanka
A fortress that was built on a rock mountain like a palace in the sky. This incredible dream could be materialized here in Sri Lanka.
The rock is called Sigiriya, which means Lion’s rock, is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin situated in the central of Sri Lanka, overlooking the luscious green jungle surroundings.
I was so excited when I found the rock online. I told Don there shouldn’t be any excuse for us not to visit it. So it has become our Sri Lanka’s trip highlight, I was curious to know how did Sri Lankan discover such a humongous rock mountain and were able to transform it into fortress.
After a scrumptious breakfast at Hilton Colombo, our driver Nana picked us up at 8 a.m.. Sigiriya is only 175km away from Colombo, but the journey took more than 4 hours. Nana is a very prudent driver, he drove no more than 60km/hour. How did I know? I was very impatient of the speed so I constantly observed the meter reading until I fell asleep.
After a long nap in the car with some short breaks in between, we finally arrived at Sigiriya. It was already 12p.m., when the ray of the sun was at its highest peak. I was ready to be grilled under the scorching sun.
The imposing rock can be seen from far. Without wasting much time, we proceeded to the ticket counter. Most of the entrance fees in Sri Lanka are not cheap, or more appropriate, very expensive, for tourists. Look, a visit to all sites in Sigiriya costs Rs 5750, which was USD50 per pax! It’s way more expensive than any entrance fees that I know off in Malaysia.
School kids having one day trip in Sigiriya
We bumped into school kids again at Sigiriya. School kids in Sri Lanka have pretty good life. They were seen at most of the places that we visited, as though traveling is part of their main subject in school.
Sigiriya fortress consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts. Nana explained to us that the fortress was built by King Kasyapa, a son of King Dhatusena, by a palace consort. King Kasyapa transferred the administrative centre from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya and ruled the island from Sigiriya. He built Sigiriya fortress with the palace, gardens and other royal buildings.
The moats that surround the lower palace – The broad moats were built with crocodiles in it as defences against enemy
The entrance to the fortress. This was where the touts started following us.
Similar to the experience we had in Independence Memorial Hall, there was a Sri Lankan man approached us to offer to take a picture of us. Don was doubtful of his intention so he stopped me from passing my camera to the man. I hate being doubtful about people around us. But it’s inevitable when traveling in 3rd world countries, we just didn’t know who to believe. The man then kept pestering us, followed us wherever we went. I don’t like it when the touts there didn’t state clearly of their intention before ‘giving’ us the service. They just followed us wherever we went, told us the stories and guided us through the place, WITHOUT our agreement. They then requested ‘service’ charge from us. It was very unethical and irritating. It was so irritating to the extent that I actually feared of them. The feeling was like “Oh my God, there come another Sri Lankan, I better move now”. Almost every 15 minutes we were pestered by a tout.
A big pond in the Water Garden
A pathway leading us towards the rock
The cows were hiding under the shades to avoid being transformed into grilled steak
Hiking Sigiriya rock is easy. Concrete staircase was built from the base to the top hill.
There are a few key attractions built in Sigiriya, The Water Garden, The Boulder Garden, Audience Hall, Cobra Hood Cave, Preaching Rock, The Terraced Garden, The Lion Platform, The Mirror Wall, Frescoes, and finally the Palace on the Summit.
The miniature water garden
This miniature garden is an elaborate network of water pavilions, pools, courtyards and water courses. There are five units in this garden, with buildings surrounded by pools. The pools have pebbled or polished marble floors which were covered by shallow, slowly moving water. This garden belongs to more than one phase of counstruction. It was laid out in the last quarter of the 5th Century, abandoned and again partially built over in the last phases of the post-Kasyapan period, probably between the 10th and 13th centures.
Cobra Hood Cave – Does it look like a cobra head?
This is thus named because of its shape. Its painted ceiling is dated back to the period of King Kasyapa (5th Century AD). It is however believed, that Buddhist monks from as early as the 3rd Century BC used this cave.
Inside the cave – here was where the monks meditated
This is regarded as the audience hall belonging to the royal city complex of King Kasyapa. This is on a flattened summit of a boulder, a naturally split section of a rock in front. This main seat at the southern end is carved out of the living rock. The small square holes on the surface of the flattened boulder suggest that there had been a roof to this hall supported by timber pillars.
Climbed up higher at the Terraced Garden
The view was spectacular before even climbing up to the summit – Saw a white Buddha statue from far?
Here is where we started ascending to the summit
Few school kids posed for the photograph
I was snapping a photo of the view and coincidentally a school kid passed by thinking that I was taking photo of her. She was so excited and immediately posed for me. After taking a photo of her, she invited more friends to join the photography session. They all looked so happy when I showed them the photos from my camera. Oh by the way, do their school uniforms remind you of your primary school uniform in Malaysia?
I think the black dot in the sky was a bird flying across
There is the long path from the entrance to the rock, surrounded by gardens, pools, lakes, and caves.
Ready to ascend to the summit
Caged stairs to make the ascent easier
The caged stairs led us to another cave where the highlight of Sigiriya, sheltered gallery of frescoes painted on the sheer rock face.
Francoes, also known as Sigiriya Damsels. These figures of women are depicted as rising from clouds and are known as “the cloud damsels”. They are depicted in three quarter profile. Shown in three quarter profile, the paintings have striking diversity in mood and personality, face and body, clothes and make-up. Flowers are used in profusion in their hair, in baskets and in various forms.
Only 22 out of an estimated 500 pictures now remain. Flash photography is not allowed at this site.
Beneath the fresco pockets is a highly polished Mirror Wall
The Mirror Wall with Graffiti
This is known as the ‘Mirror wall’ because its surface has been highly polished like a mirror, according to the explanation on the board. Well, this is the only attraction (the mirror wall) here that I couldn’t fathom its beauty and fame. It looks just like a… wall… an ordinary wall.
Lion Platform – where the name of Lion’s Rock derived – saw the paws?
After passing the mirror wall, we arrived at the Northern end of the rock, where the pathway emerges to a lion platform. At one time a gigantic brick lion sat at the end of the rock, and the final ascent to the summit was between the lions paws and into it’s mouth! Today the lion has disappeared, only the paws and the first steps are visible.
Final ascent to the summit – at one point I was kinda freak out and hesitated for few minutes before venturing
The staircase was at the edge of the rock where you can see the entire area through the gaps of the stairs underneath your steps. Once you accidentally fall, you will be at the bottom of the rock. That was why I hesitated to venture up fearing that I might fall, especially when it was so high up.
Finally arrived at the Palace on the summit
The summit isn’t as big as what I expected from a rock mountain. Covering an area of around 1.6 hectares, the remains of the foundations show that the summit would have been completely covered with buildings.
Remnant of the palace
I guess the King Kasyaba really loved the pool. There was another pool/pond measuring 27m x 21m on the summit. It reminded me of ancient Greeks who craved bathing.
Don said Sigiriya Rock reminded him of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which is also a humongous fortress built and blended in nature.
To me it is a brilliant idea to transform a huge rock into your home sweet home. We heard people said “I own an island” or “Welcome to my island, enjoy yourself in my private resort and my private theme park”. But how often have you heard about people saying “I own a rock mountain. Please come and have a dip in my private pool on the summit.”? It’s cooler than saying “I own an island”, isn’t it?
Think it’s time to change my plan from buying an island to buying a mountain. *keep dreaming*
Magnificent view from the summit
It’s the best place to admire the scenic view and to ponder the meaning of life (this was how it dawned on me to decide to buy a rock than an island).
Don then told me: “Pondering the meaning of life doesn’t mean day dreaming.”
Me: “Is it? Then I have been day dreaming for my entire life!”
We didn’t realize that we have walked through such a long path before getting to the summit until we saw the whole path from top
See… I told you the King Kasyapa craved bathing – another beautiful pond
We stayed at the summit for half an hour and decided to move down before being grilled by the flaming sun. The whole journey in Sigiriya took about 4 hours. I think we spent more time there than most tourists do. Our driver, Nana, who was waiting for us at the car park, was shocked when he finally saw us. He was like “You like the rock very much huh? You spent 4 hours there. I thought you were lost!”
Anyway, Sigiriya is the best trip we have here in Sri Lanka. Simply love admiring the ruins of the ancient city, especially when it was blended into a rock.
Practical information about Sigiriya:
- 175km away from Colombo
- 4 hours drive with the speed of 60km/hour
- Entrance Fees for foreign tourists: Adult: Rs 5750 for all sites of the cultural triangle, Rs 2875 for Sigiriya only — Children (age 5 to 12) Rs 1437.50
- Avoid the touts there even though they claim that they are the legal tour guides in Sigiriya. They will request Rs 200 (about USD 2) for about 15 minutes guide. With the signboards everywhere in the Sigiriya fortress, you do not really need a guide to lead you through.
- The sun was flaming hot, as the place was directly exposed to the sun’s rays. Applying sunblock and wearing hat and sunglasses are strongly advisable.