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Sigiriya

Sigiriya, Ancient Central, Sri Lanka.
Location : Sigiriya
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Overview

Sigiriya was a royal citadel as well as once a sophisticated castle still looms majestically amid the greenery for ages. Sigiriya: ‘lion’s mouth’ has got its name owing to its entrance is created as a lion’s mouth. Since Sigiriya is a portrayal of a brilliant architectural engineering of 5th century Ceylon, it is named as a world heritage site in Srilanka. Sigiri frescos, graffiti, architectural tradition and outstanding hydraulic mechanism are added to its brilliance.

The rock stands high rising 200 meters ,in the middle of two vast rectangular precincts on the east and the west which are surrounded  by moats and ramparts. The western precinct includes the garden complex which unveils the most prominent features of the architectural tradition used in sigiriya urban planning. The gardens are divided into three, as water garden, boulder garden, and terraced garden.

Primarily there are three major water gardens found on the western precinct. The largest is an island surrounded by water and bridged to the precinct via four causeways. This island is thought to be used as a large pavilion. The second is two long and deep pools with two serpentine streams draining to those pools. Fountains which are fed by the underground water conduits are found on this second water garden. They are made out of limestone plates and function with the aid of the gravity and pressure. Yet these fountains are not dated since they are still active during the rainy seasons. Summer palaces are believed to be built on the surface of two large islands on the both sides of the second water garden. The third garden is the octagonal pond with a raised podium that is located at a higher level than the other two water gardens .

The water gardens are planned symmetrically on the east-west axis and the pools are interlinked by the underground water conduits which connects to dui outer moat at the west end and the ‘sigiri maha weva’ ;huge artificial lake at the east end. The water carried up to the summit of the rock via horizontal and vertical drains cut into the rock and through the conduits made of cylindrical terracotta pipes which is also contributed immensely to the cooling system of the rock as well as the regular horticultural and agricultural needs.

Boulder garden is located at the higher level and asymmetrically planned. These huge natural boulders are connected to each another with winding pathways paved through them. Most of these boulders manifests that they have bore the buildings and pavilions upon them. We could see the king’s audience hall situated in the boulder garden where there is a five meter long granite throne, flattened and polished on its surface. The cistern rock on the summit is another important facet of the boulder garden. The entrance to the fortress is also made of two large boulders.

The terraced gardens are at the base of the rock and shaped out of the natural hill.  These terraces are formed by the brick walls and each terrace rising above the other, running in a concentric circle around the rock.

There is a 9 ½ ft plaster wall well polished to the extent that it could reflect one’s image as a mirror and thus called it “Mirror wall”. Although it has been exposed to all climatic changes for hundreds of years , yet its shine remains the same. Sigiri graffiti are scribbled on the mirror wall by the visitors, regardless of their social class and status. Sigiri nymphs had been the subject matter of most of the verses on the mirror wall. It is noteworthy that the scribbling on the mirror wall is no more allowed.
          
Sigiri frescos lies covering 140 m long and 40m high area of the western face of the rock with the painting of nymphs. Many verses  on the mirror wall indicate that there were 500 maidens in these paintings, but unfortunately there are very few left. It is said that many were wiped out during the time that sigiriya became a monastery, in order to avoid the disturbances for the monks in the course their meditation.
    
Sigiriya was built in the late 5th century by king kashyapa who reign from 477-495 AD. King Kashyapa, the son of  king Datusena ,but born to a non royal consort ,seized the throne after killing his father by plastering alive into a wall. His half brother Moggallana though being the rightful heir to the throne , fled away to India. Afterwards king Kashyapa shifted from the traditional capital Anuradhapura to safer sigiriya fearing of a forthcoming attack from his brother. Thus he built up sigiriya not only as his fortress with defensive strategies, but also a sophisticated pleasure place. Finally Moggallana returned with an army and the war began. Since  Kashyapa, abandoned by his army who misunderstood the movements of their king as they were told to retreat, cut his throat by himself without letting himself to be surrendered. In 495 AD Moggallana made his capital again in Anuradhapura turning the great fortress into a monastery.

But according to Prof. Senarath Paranavitharana: the most renowned historian in Srilanka, the inscriptions written by a monk named Ananda in the 15th century AD, depicts that Kashyapa made his father’s dream: a palace in the sky, a real. Therefore a confusion between these two legends has not yet been solved. Nevertheless king Kashyapa being either a parricide or not , there was a great artistic spirit left within him.

(You are kindly requested not to make noises during your visit to sigiriya as it may cause the bees who have inhabited in the surrounding to be fussed. It is vital to mention that the existence of bees contributes indirectly to the lasting of the frescos by combating the ants whose existence is a threat to the paintings. Therefore your carefulness is for your own safety and for your duty to preserve these historical sites for the generations to come.) 
 
When we consider the events of contemporary world when sigiriya was being built, we could hardly found any constructions with an architectural value other than the political and religious revolutions such as American revolt against Persian rule in 484 AD, monophysite controversy which continued to divide churches in Egypt and Syria in 482 AD, and also the establishment of Buddhism as the state religion in China by its new regent in 477 AD.    
 
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"wonderful place"

Reviewed on May 02, 2013

by Malith Perera

i hv visited sigiri only one time. it was very nice experience that i ever got